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Governor Andrew Cuomo announced early in his term that he'd be creating a set of "regional economic councils" to build plans for funding economic development across New York, from the ground up.In the summer of 2011 he finally announced some of the details of the program, to be led by Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy. The ten councils each have dozens of members, and are charged with gathering input from the public and business leaders, and creating a plan by November 14. Those plans will be pitted against each other for a pot of $1 billion in grants, incentives, and tax relief from various state agencies. The winners will get more funding, the losers will get less.But other details - like whether funding will be available past the initial term, and who will serve on the board that decides who wins and who loses - have not been released.The Innovation Trail is looking for your feedback about what your regional economic priorities are, and what you want your community to look like once the councils have completed their task.

All aboard: Cuomo takes bus tour of CNY regional council sites

Ryan Delaney

On a chilly, drizzly Tuesday morning in Syracuse, Gov. Andrew Cuomo took a bus tour of development projects his administration has helped to fund.

Along for the ride were local economic development officials, State cabinet members and the press.

It was the first of 10 such "assessment tours" by Cuomo to take stock of his $785.5 billion investment in the Regional Economic Development Councils.

Last month the councils released projects they're hoping will be awarded funding in a second round. The governor says surveying how the first round of projects are turning out is important in deciding where to put money this year.

"Are there shovels in the ground; are we making progress?" he commented to reporters after the tour. "Theory being whether or not they’ve made progress on last year is an important component to understand [on] the likelihood of progress going forward."

Central New York was one of the big winners in the first competitive round of funding for the councils, taking home $103.7 million.

Cuomo kicked off the morning at the CNY Biotech Accelerator, a research venture being constructed on the site of a former federal housing project and due for completion in early 2013.

The "Connective Corridor" (another project that won state money) bus also made stops at St. Joseph's Hospital, which is in the midst of a $250 million expansion, and the Inner Harbor where a $350 million development project is set to begin.

Central New York council co-chair Rob Simpson narrated the bus portions of the event, pointing out a handful of other projects as the six-vehicle caravan wound its way through Syracuse.

The governor continued to praise this new method of distributing state funding during the morning. While the thought of development on a regional level is different, it's better than the old state-wide model, he said.

"There is no one New York State economy," Cuomo said. "There is a central New York economy, which is different than a North Country economy, which is different than a New York City economy. So there is no ‘one-size-fits-all.’"

Cuomo is tentatively scheduled to tour projects on Long Island on Friday. He will visit all 10 economic development council regions over the next month.

After the tour, the council pitched the 34 ideas it's putting forward this year to the state selection committee, but Cuomo was on his way back to Albany by then.

You can follow reporter Ryan Delaney on Twitter @RyanWRVO

WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail
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