Members of a citizens group called Buffalo First rallied outside of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation Thursday. The protesters were from a group called Buffalo First and they stood in the rain singing songs and holding picket signs in support of small local businesses.
Executive Director of Buffalo First Sarah Bishop said they were calling on the ECHDC to sign a community benefits agreement that would ensure the agency hire local businesses for 50% of their projects on the waterfront.
"What we have heard from community over and over and our small business owners is they want local independent businesses. They do not want big box subsidized retail," said Bishop.
Bishop said shopping at small businesses would boost the local economy and ensure revenues stay in Buffalo. The group said they are also urging the agency to bring local businesses to canalside. Owner of West Side Stories Bookstore Jeanenne Petri said spending your money locally keeps jobs here in the city.
"Locally owned businesses will keep 3 times more dollars in the area. We hire locally, we source locally and we spend our profits locally and when you shop at a local retailer you're supporting your neighbors in this city," said Petri.
Owner of Talking Leaves Bookstore Jonathan Welch said having the ECHDC sign an agreement would ensure that Buffalo businesses would be apart of any job the agency takes on for Canalside.
"I support Buffalo First because I believe strongly that the local economy is the key to success in any community. The local economy is where everything begins," said Welch.
The Harbor Development Corporation issued a statement in response to the protest. It said they already support local businesses and have interviewed roughly 200 local restaurateurs, vendors and small businesses.
They said they are also calling on the community to help select what businesses they would like to see at Canalside.