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LaFalce to Chair ECIDA in Board Shakeup
March 2, 2012

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has tapped former congressman John LaFalce to serve as chairman of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency and replaced a total of three board appointees.

LaFalce, a Democrat, will replace Phil Ackerman, National Fuel Gas Corp. past chairman and current board member, when ECIDA directors meet later this month. Ackerman was named ECIDA chairman by then-Erie County Executive Chris Collins, who lost in November to Poloncarz.

Poloncarz is also replacing Phil Corwin, another Collins appointee, with Brenda McDuffie. Corwin was the agency’s vice chairman. McDuffie, the Buffalo Urban League president and chief executive officer, will assume the vice chairman’s slot on the board.

A third Collins appointee, local attorney and Indian rights specialist Barry Brandon, is being replaced on the ECIDA board by Chris Johnston, World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara president.

All three new appointments were supported by Betty Jean Grant, Erie County Legislature chairperson. The trio will mark their first IDA meeting this month.

“I am honored to appoint these three outstanding individuals to serve on the Board of the ECIDA,” Poloncarz said in a prepared statement. “As County Executive, one of my top priorities is to promote job creation and economic development in Erie County. They bring a wealth of business, governmental and international trade experience to the table, and share my vision of strengthening local business and bringing new jobs to Erie County by leveraging our strategic international border with Canada. I look forward to working with them and the other board members to create a more streamlined, sustainable and efficient approach to economic development in Erie County.”

Grant agrees.

“With these appointments there is a new feeling of diversity and energy at the ECIDA,” she said. “With their extensive business and governmental experience, I am sure they will be valuable additions to the board.”

LaFalce served in Congress from 1975 to 2002 and before that was in the New York state Senate and Assembly.

During his Congressional tenure, LaFalce served as chairman of the House Small Business Committee and as Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, which had jurisdiction over all financial issues, including banks, housing and community development, and international financial institutions.

After his retirement from Congress, LaFalce became a member the senior advisory board to the Canadian-American Business Council and is an Honorary Chair of the Canadian American Border Trade Alliance.

LaFalce is currently the special counsel to HoganWillig .

McDuffie has been leading Buffalo Urban League since 1998.

Prior to her work with the league, McDuffie served as the executive director for the Buffalo and Erie County Private Industry Council. She has also served as the president of the NYS Association of Employment and Training Professionals, and was a member of the steering committee that produced the recommendations for New York State’s future Workforce Development System.

Additionally, she is currently serving as secretary for the Independent Health Association.

Johnston has been World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara president since 2007. Other professional experience includes work with the City of Buffalo to streamline the Department of Economic Development; development of import and export compliance programs for corporations in numerous industries while with Thompson Hine LLP; and work as an International Trade Specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington.

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