Economic Development for the Southern Tier

I’m meeting on Wednesday with an attorney in Buffalo to help me setup a 501c3 entity whose purpose is to wed social enterprise with economic development and community empowerment in New York State’s southern tier. That’s my backyard and this idea sprang from a course that I took at St. Bonaventure University’s “Franciscan Institute” this past summer. The course taught by noted author Keith Warner, OFM inspired me to consider how we could help “at-risk” youth in the area, students at St. Bonaventure University, foster entrepreneurs, encourage sustainable business and provide an incubator for other entrepreneurs.The project which is currently called “mPath” is still in its infancy. We have one board member and some people who are interested in being involved.

As a 501c3 we will need to raise money. That’s something I know very little about. I’ve been in a partnership and now the CEO of DGW Enterprises LLC. Those businesses fit a more traditional model of providing service for a fee. This venture is much more ambitious and requires some skill sets that I have not employed yet. The southern tier of New York State which includes Cattaraugus, Allegany, Steuben, and Chautauqua counties are among the most spectacular tourist vistas in the Empire State. Nonetheless, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties are among the state’s poorest. An area that was once home to dairy farming, agriculture, oil and gas production and industrial development has been languishing for over thirty years. Communities and school systems are in decline. The area is home to Alfred University, Houghton College, State University at Alfred, Fredonia State College, Jamestown Community College and St. Bonaventure University. Graduates of these institution have not found local employment a lucrative market. Politicians continue to promise a chicken in every pot and a return to the prosperity of yesteryear. Until now the rhetoric has been hollow. How do we empower and mentor youth with realistic twenty-first century skills. How do we create a sustain an economy that keeps our youth and encourages the development of the area in a manner that respects the earth and blesses its inhabitants.

Contemporary society needs new models of engagement and practice which will result in healing the social fabric through the offer of hope to a beleaguered citizenry. Globalization is an economic reality which cannot be sidestepped or avoided. We need leaders who can embrace a world view that reflects not and either or proposition but one that is both and. The Franciscan Intellectual Tradition embodied in the writings of St. Francis of Assisi, John Duns Scotus, St. Bonaventure, and others indicate a way forward. We seek an ethic that looks for and appreciates the common good and invites fraternity among us. In recent decades a broad intermediate area has emerged between the two types of enterprise. It is made up of traditional companies which nonetheless subscribe to social aid agreements in support of underdeveloped countries, charitable foundations associated with individual companies, groups of companies oriented towards social welfare, and the diversified world of the so-called “civil economy” and the “economy of communion”.

One of the most important things is for every business to measure what matters — not just profits, but impact on our communities, employees, and the environment. I want to re-create my own LLC as a B-Corp, but more than that I see mPath as an incubator of social good that connects at risk youth, with aspiring college students and their institutions that form partnerships and provide a think tank for the creation and sustenance of vision and direction for the southern tier that is not wed to any particular politics other than empowerment for all.

Senior Trip

A few days ago the faculty advisor for this year’s senior class at Franklinville Central School approached me with a problem. He’s got some seniors who cannot attend this year’s senior trip because their parents recently lost employment. Now, I know compared to many of the world’s ills this is truly minor. But, if you’re a kid in Franklinville, New York where so many of our students come from low income families the senior trip can be an experience that provides these young people with a vision of what life could be like.  If you’re interested in helping,  the Senior Class Advisor is Ed Butler. Ed’s a very caring person and a great man for the job. He has a heart for children especially those in need. The students raise a lot of the money for the trip themselves by working at car washes, bake sales, spaghetti dinners and you know the drill.  There is a portion however that comes from in kind contribution by the student and usually that falls to the parent or parents.  You can contact Ed via email if you’d like to help. Thanks and peace.