|In Continuing Fight, Higgins to Bring Witness to House Small Business Committee to Testify on Dramatic Toll Passport Requirement Will Have on US-Canada Commerce and Life Quality|
|November 16, 2005|
Washington, DC—In his continuing fight opposing the new passport requirement at the US-Canada border, tomorrow Congressman Brian Higgins will bring Howard Zemsky, managing partner at Taurus Partners, LLC in Buffalo, to testify at the House Small Business Committee hearing on “Building a Wall Between Friends: Passports to and from Canada?” Zemsky, who is testifying at Higgins’ request, is the only invited witness for the committee’s Democratic members.
In April 2005, the Departments of Homeland Security and State announced a new requirement for individuals to have a passport or alternative documentation when re-entering the United States from anywhere in the western hemisphere—the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). That same month, President Bush spoke out against the proposal. On September 1, 2005, the Departments of Homeland Security and State announced that they were moving forward with an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the passport initiative with delayed implementation until 2008. This means that every individual must have a passport – or a yet to be decided alternative documentation – to re-enter the United States from Canada by January 1, 2008.
“I am pleased that Howard will be joining me in Washington tomorrow to testify on the critical effect the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will have on US-Canada commerce and life quality,” said Higgins. “Canadians directly support the Buffalo economy and are our friends and neighbors; they come to Buffalo to support the Buffalo Sabres; Canadians make up a large portion of the Buffalo Bills fan base and Canadian students make up almost half, in certain cases, of the student body at some of our 17 local colleges and universities. Many of my constituents travel back and forth across the border for work, church or to visit family each day and local governments have already seen a downturn in passage, tourism and spending as citizens of both countries stay home because they presume the passport requirement is already in place. This bipartisan hearing will show that Democrats and Republicans alike believe that the proposed WHTI will have a huge impact on border communities, and we must now move to create and enact real solutions to diminish the impact on our neighborhoods.”
The Peace Bridge and the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge already experience delays which account for 30% of total border costs which totaled $4.4 billion (USD) in 2001. Enacting the passport requirement will diminish tourism on both sides of the border, and will mean up to $598 (USD) in fees for a family of four to get passports at the last minute, if necessary, and will directly translate into job loss for the already fragile local economy.
Last month, Higgins called on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to waive the new proposal for passport requirement at the Peace Bride and at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, due to the devastating impact it would have on commerce and life quality between the U.S. and Canada. Higgins wrote of the US and Canada’s unique beneficial relationship for hundreds of years, and that the proposed passport requirement “will stifle the Western New York economy and place an undue burden on its communities… the most efficient and effective flow of traffic between the U.S. and Canada is of paramount importance for the security, economic development and life quality of my district.”
Howard Zemsky is managing partner at Taurus Partners, LLC in Buffalo, a private equity and real estate investment firm based in Buffalo that has developed approximately 800,000 sq ft of commercial office space in during the past five years; including adaptive reuse of the historic Larkin Company Terminal Warehouse. Zemsky is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Medical Recovery Management, LLC, a Buffalo, NY based subrogation firm servicing the health insurance industry nationally. He is Director of ABC Companies, Inc., a locally based business to business commercial collection firm servicing companies nationally and internationally, the Director of MOD-PAC Inc., a Buffalo based specialty printing firm servicing customers nationally, and the Director to Appraisal.com, a Buffalo based technology firm servicing the appraisal industry throughout the country. Zemsky is General Partner, Upper Canada Hotels, which owns and operates a group of four hotels and restaurants in Niagara-On-the-Lake, Ontario. He was also president of Russer Foods, a national processor of delicatessen meats with annual sales of $150 million and has been a division of IBP Inc. and Tyson Foods since 1999. Zemsky is Director and Treasurer, Bi-National Tourism Alliance, a not for profit entity incorporated in both New York State and the Canadian Province of Ontario, which seeks to eliminate the barriers to cross border tourism development in the bi-national area served by the Niagara River Bridge Crossings. He is President of the Board, Martin House Restoration Corporation, a not for profit entity charged with the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Darwin D. Martin Residential Complex” in Buffalo, NY. Zemsky is the Director of Buffalo Place, a not for profit entity to improve the economic health and quality of life in downtown Buffalo, NY. He is also a trustee of Buffalo State College, and Director of the Greater Buffalo Niagara Partnership, which represents more than 3,000 businesses with nearly a quarter million employees covering eight Western New York counties and the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario.