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Cuomo: Grants change perception of business environment in NY

Governor Cuomo awarded over three quarters of a billion dollars for economic development projects at a ceremony at the State Capitol. While every region in the state got something to go towards key projects, some regions got more than others.

The award ceremony, hosted by CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo, featured slick videos from each region and plenty of praise for Governor Cuomo and congratulations to the Regional economic development councils.

“You are a living, breathing part of history right now, “Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy told the crowd. “Decades down the road they’ll look at what this governor has done, especially with the economic development process in this state, and what he will achieve.”

The pomp and circumstance led Senate representative, Senate Finance Committee  Chair John DeFrancisco, of Syracuse  to joke-

“And the nominees for best supporting actress in a short foreign film..,” DeFrancisco began.  

The mood was clearly exuberant as each region of the state got at least $50 million dollars for projects ranging from technological partnerships with area colleges and universities to boosting tourism to infrastructure projects .   

The four regions that received top awards are Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the North Country and the Mid- Hudson Valley, with each receiving at least $90 million dollars.

The common theme among the top winners is that they rapidly invested the millions they received during the first round of awards last December.  Senator Betty Little represents the North Country.

“One big things did they did right, is the money they won last year, over 90% has already been activated,” said Little. “They’ve worked hard to see that those projects have been put into fruition, not just talked about.”

Rochester Mayor Tom Richards says the money can’t make up for the loss of major manufacturers like Eastman Kodak, but it’s the start of new kind of economy.

“We’re not trying to have another Kodak here,” said Richards. “I don’t want to invest in that idea. I want to invest in a new idea and much more diverse idea.”  

Western New York, Long Island, New York City, the Mohawk Valley and the Capital Region were all on a lower tier. They each got between $50 and $60 million dollars, with the Capital Region receiving the least at $50.3 million dollars.   

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is from the Western New York region, which got $52.8 million. But he says the Buffalo area received $1 billion additional dollars in the state budget this year, so the region is ahead of the game.

“I look at it, in the grand scheme of things, we still are coming out ahead compared to most regions,” said Poloncarz.  

The regional economic development competition and awards has essentially replaced the old member item system, where lawmakers were given sums of money to award to pet projects in their districts.  Rob Simpson, is co-chair of the Central New York Regional Council, which received the top award of $93.8 million dollars. He says the new method forces leaders in the region to be more focused and to work together.

“Any time our region has an ability to have a public conversation about prioritizing state investments, I think do think that’s a very good thing,” said Simpson.

When it’s all added up, the $738 million dollars given out for projects will not instantly turn around the long troubled upstate, or help  storm ravaged Long Island. But Governor Cuomo says it does help change the perception that the state is unfriendly to business.

“People believe in the State of New York again, they believe in their future in the State of New York again,” Cuomo said. “And that becomes a positive in and of itself.”

And the governor says if they believe in New York, then they stay in New York. 

Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio.
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