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Sheriff Sloma To Set NTCC Right?

By Craig Tretiak

County lawmakers upped the ante in their running dispute with the Head of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., John Percy, earlier this month when they designated local businessman and powerbroker, Henry M. Sloma, to represent the county government on the NTCC Board of Directors.

Sloma's appointment means he will replace Mary Jo Tamburlin, the clerk of the Niagara County Legislature and controversial Republican political operative, who was appointed to represent county interests at the tourism promotion agency two years ago.

Sloma is joined by other new board members - Kevin C. Schuler, the senior vice president for public affairs at developer L.P. Ciminelli and Michael Fiore, owner of The Village Bake Shoppe in Lewiston. At least one more individual will be joining the board soon, as William R. Venecek, director of aviation at the Niagara Falls International Airport, handed in his resignation last week.

Sloma, whose resume includes a seven-year run as chairman of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency and as both vice chairman and acting chairman of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority-where he has served since the late 1990s-brings a wealth of knowledge and significant clout with him.

He also brings a deep commitment to developing the tourism sector of the local economy.

"The county is looking for value in [its] tourism dollars," Sloma told the Reporter late last week. "It's important that revenue generated for tourism is used in the best possible way."

Sloma, who is a virtual colossus in Niagara County's political and business scenes, is also returning to the IDA board after a one-year departure to focus on private-sector interests.

Sloma is noted for a hard-charging management style that gets measurable results. One former IDA employee, in response to Sloma's appointment to the NTCC, said the move will "increase John Percy's output, if anything will."

Those comments mesh with the comments of several individuals that have had interactions with the IDA on Sloma's watch, all of whom noted that Sloma had a knock for making the trains run on time and pushing the county agency's employees to deliver measurable results.

They also, according to the brief interview I conducted with him, mesh with Sloma's personality.

Sloma is a man of few words. When I asked him what was his proudest accomplishment as chairman of the IDA, his response was just one word: "Norampac."

That project, which includes construction a $430 million paper mill, involved deals totalling tens of millions of dollars brokered with state officials.

The plant was originally slated to be constructed in Montreal, but a package of incentives brokered by the county IDA led Norampac to locate the facility in Niagara Falls instead.

Sloma has also been seen as the driving force behind the expansion of the Niagara Falls International Airport, as well as the IDA's return of a $2 million loan to county taxpayers more than five years ahead of schedule.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster hailed the Norampac project at the time, saying, "I think it's an indication that, not only in terms of our tourism economy downtown, but in our industrial economy, we are turning the corner in the city of Niagara Falls."

If Dyster's remarks are to be proved right, Niagara County will need an able tourism promotion agency—something the NTCC has not proven itself to be thus far.

"John Percy's going to be very, very busy," the former IDA employee told us. "He's also going to have to account for his agency's revenue expenditures and the results they generate."



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Feb 04, 2014