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Gov. Cuomo’s jobs “Strikeforce” invades Niagara Falls

Declares Victory, then retreats back to Albany

Niagara Falls Unemployment Rate highest in New York State” blared the headline for our lead story on August 13 of this year.

As we reported, the Niagara Falls unemployment figure for June, 2017 was an appalling 7.7%, by far the highest of any city with population above 25,000 in all of New York State, according to the state Department of Labor. The next closest was the southern tier city of Elmira, coming in at 7.0%. Buffalo was at 6.7%.

To the rescue comes Governor Cuomo and his state Department of Labor, sponsoring a jobs fair at the Conference and Events Center on Falls Street last week.

Was the governor’s jobs fair a direct response to our unemployment story two months previous? You be the judge.

Sounding like something straight off the set of a Chuck Norris movie, Gov. Cuomo announced the creation of an “Unemployment Strikeforce” back in May of 2014. The inaugural Strikeforce’s focus was initially limited to Bronx and Kings Counties in New York City and two adjoining counties in the extreme north of the state, Jefferson and Lewis.

“This new initiative brings together major players from both the public and private sectors in order to assist New Yorkers in areas with the highest unemployment rates overcome barriers to finding work,” stated the governor in his press release, “This Strikeforce will go a long way toward connecting hard-working New Yorkers with job opportunities in their communities.”

In what is a recurring theme with regards to Gov. Cuomo’s Strikeforce efforts, it really didn’t have anything to do with lowering taxes, streamlining regulations, reducing the size of government or doing anything else to foster a business-friendly atmosphere here in New York State, which perennially ranks at or near the bottom nationally in all of those categories.

Instead, it’s about “working closely with local elected officials and community-based organizations to connect jobseekers with local business opportunities,” and “business-driven training that will focus on New Yorkers who need it most, providing them with the skills they need to get back to work.”

That’s the way things work here in Andrew Cuomo’s New York State: First get “trained,” then you can be “connected to” non-existent jobs.

Gov. Cuomo waited two years, until May of 2016, before unveiling his “Western New York Employment Strikeforce,” losing the “Un-” prefix in the process. At least marketing consultants have found jobs under the Cuomo administration.

It took a year for Mr. Cuomo’s Western New York Employment Strikeforce to hold its first jobs fair. In partnership with Concerned Clergy of Western New York, the event was advertised as offering access to over 60 employers with 2,200 job opportunities. Problem was, it was held at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in downtown Buffalo. Not much help to the New York State Capital of Unemployment, Niagara Falls.

Then came our August article on the grinding misery of joblessness here, and the rest is history.

Gov. Cuomo’s Strikeforce was dispatched to storm the Falls, overcome resistance and establish an employment beachhead in the Cataract City.

This time around, with 90 employers attending, more than a thousand jobseekers were expected to apply for the usual, ballpark, pull-it-out-of-your-ass figure of “over 2,000 job openings” to be filled. However, WGRZ-TV, on the scene, reported that not all of the 90 were actually hiring, or even accepting applications. In addition, only approximately 400 of the pre-registered 850 bothered to show up. Perhaps word had gotten around that the state’s Niagara Falls jobs fair was just more Cuomo-instigated public relations nonsense.

GET A REAL JOB! Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster explains to NYS Dept. of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon (left) why turn-out at the Conference Center jobs fair was less than half of that pre-registered. He told her, “It’s the same with elections, LOL!”

These so-called “jobs fairs” aren’t the only silliness emanating from Gov. Cuomo’s Western New York Employment Strikeforce. On the Dept. of Labor’s website, at the Strikeforce page, you can click on “October 2017 Current Job Openings” for the “Niagara Area,” not “Niagara Falls” or “Niagara County,” “Niagara,” whatever that is.

Two columns with headings “Vacancies” and “Companies With The Most Jobs” materialize, the first listing some 1,200 job openings in fields ranging from Architecture and Engineering to Construction to Health Care and Sales, and the second, varied employers from KeyCorp and Dollar General to Maid of the Mist.

Now say you were an Architect or Engineer and you clicked on vacancies. A box prompts you to enter your zip code, and the mile radius which you are willing to commute. We entered “14305” and “10 miles.” Only 37 job openings came up – 8 in Niagara Falls, and half of those at one firm, Olin.

Oddly, of the 21 categories, not one is remotely tourism-related. Odd, because tourism is a $100+ billion industry in New York State.

The closest category to tourism appears to be “Food preparation and serving related,” and the good news is, 31 of the 57 listed jobs are in Niagara Falls!

But, Oh No, Mr. Bill, 15 of the 31 are at the Fashion Outlet mall, Olive Garden and Longhorn’s Steakhouse, in the Town of Niagara, out on Military Road, far removed from downtown Niagara Falls. And some of the jobs have been listed since May.

One of dozens of tweets from the Labor Department promoting last week’s jobs fair at the Conference Center spotlighted Whole Foods. The problem is, only one Whole Foods exists in all of Western New York. It’s in Amherst and it opened last month.

It’s a similar story with the links under “Companies.” Maid of the Mist has 20 positions listed for 2018, all part-time, seasonal.

The top supposed employer, with the most job openings for “Niagara,” is Keycorp, with 133 openings. Problem is, those are scattered all over the state, from Tarrytown to Suffern, from Saranac Lake to Dunkirk. Most are in Amherst.

Luckily, there is an election next month, and the residents of Niagara Falls will get the chance to vote for change.

Congratulations… You’re hired! This way to your corner office on the top floor!

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