As Niagara County’s leading business advocacy organization with nearly 1000 members representing over 30,000 employees, the Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce would like to comment on National Grid’s proposal on electric and natural gas rates. While this is a difficult decision, we have to look at the overall business climate of Western New York before we dismiss the request for a minimal rate increase.
First it is important to note that the infrastructure in Western New York is old and in need of improvement. The transmission lines are vital to many local businesses that receive power from National Grid. Although businesses must be cautious of rising costs, they must also have a reliable and safe way to receive power or all else is a moot point. Thus, the serious need for National Grid to invest in their infrastructure. Their Capital Investment Plan for fiscal years 2013 – 2017 (see attached) highlights the tens of millions of dollars that National Grid will be investing in upgrades and improvements in Niagara County. We feel that a slight change in rates would be mitigated by the vast improvements affecting Niagara County. Upon an objective review one will see that the risk of not improving the infrastructure would have a far greater expense to ratepayers should there be a failure of the system, than slight rate increases.
National Grid has also committed millions of dollars to Niagara County through its Economic Development Grant Program. To date National Grid has invested over $3 million in various projects throughout the county, creating a long lasting positive economic impact. Through initiatives such as their Power Enhancement Program, Strategic Economic Development Outreach Program, Manufacturing Productivity Program, and Targeted Financial Assistance Program one can see the many signs of economic development spurred by National Grid. As a business advocacy organization we would be remiss to not recognize the importance of this investment in Niagara County. Businesses have been able to grow and expand, creating jobs and capital investment. Although we strive for lower costs associated with businesses, we understand the need for National Grid’s rate proposal and feel that proposal is a fair and equitable and any marginal rate increase pales in comparison to the amount they have invested in this community.
The Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce understands the difficult decisions involved in National Grid’s proposal on gas and electric rates. Balancing the needs of a large corporation, the business community, residents and the region as a whole is no easy task. We feel that this proposal strikes the best balance of those needs.