March 26, 2008

Negotiations for a new contract between the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau and New York State's Erie County have become contentious, thanks to pressure put on the bureau by newly elected county executive Chris Collins. Last week, Collins proposed a number of changes to the contract, including three additional county executive-appointed board members. Also, he wanted money generated from hotel bed taxes to go into a general government fund, and a special panel to be formed to judge the performance of bureau president and CEO Richard Geiger. However, according to Keith Belanger, chairman of the CVB board and senior vice president of Buffalo-based M&T Bank, "there will be no drastic changes." Belanger claims that since Collins suggested the changes last week, "cooler heads have prevailed, and the board and the county executive are close to reaching an agreement." The new contract likely will include just a few more county executive appointees, a measure that is welcomed by the board. "Neither party wants to see an implosion at the CVB," Belanger said. "We expect an agreement to be reached within the next couple of days."