Buffalo Niagara Partnership offering free membership to some


The Buffalo Niagara Partnership wants to bring the smallest of small businesses into the fold….

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership wants to bring the smallest of small businesses into the fold.

The region’s largest business group is offering free membership to local businesses with five employees or fewer, through a new initiative called BNP Pro Free.

The Partnership is also offering free membership to locally owned and operated restaurants of any size.

Dottie Gallagher, president and CEO of the Partnership, said this is an outgrowth of the steps the business group has taken to expand its reach, such as diversifying its board of directors and launching efforts like the Minority Business Initiative.

Dottie Gallagher

“Quite honestly, we feel strongly that we can really help small business,” says Dottie Gallagher, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership of its Pro Free initiative.

“We have been doing a lot of work, but we have not cracked the code on super-small businesses feeling they have a place at the Partnership,” she said. “And quite honestly, we feel strongly that we can really help small business.”

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Currently, 25% of the Partnership’s member employers have 50 or fewer employees. “But we didn’t do well with really small, small businesses,” Gallagher said.

Until now, businesses with five or fewer employees have had to pay $480 annually to be members. Gallagher said there’s no “time horizon” attached to the free membership offer for the eligible businesses.

Gallagher said it’s important to bring the smallest of businesses into the group, to give them a chance to take advantage of what the organization can offer them and to advocate for their interests.

“We don’t a want a membership fee to be a barrier,” Gallagher said.

The Partnership has networking opportunities those small employers can tap into, to help them make connections and identify new business opportunities, she said.

Gallagher said few restaurants are Partnership members. But they have a big impact on the region through the visitor economy and through their employment, she said.

“When it comes to our advocacy work around things that are happening in Albany, that’s a huge workforce that should be represented,” Gallagher said.

National Grid is providing the Partnership with a $25,000 grant to support the launch of BNP Pro Free. The business group will promote the free membership initiative through advertising, including in community newspapers.

Gallagher said since the pandemic hit, the Partnership has re-evaluated how it can be most effective for employers. The emphasis on including smaller businesses is one such approach.

“We want to be the voice of the employer community,” she said. “We can’t be an effective voice if you’re missing pieces and parts of that ecosystem.”

Gallagher said it’s difficult to predict what the influx of new members might be, but she’s hopeful a couple hundred employers join through the initiative.

“I think it’s going to be a hit. I do,” Gallagher said.


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