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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.

Mid-Hudson gets first look at regional council members

Marie Cusick
"Mr. Chairman:" Lieutenant governor Bob Duffy will serve as chair to all 10 regional economic development councils.

The Cuomo Administration is finally naming names and revealing who will serve on its newly formed regional economic development councils.

Yesterday afternoon, lieutenant governor Bob Duffy stopped at SUNY New Paltz to announce the membership of the Mid-Hudson Council.

Changing the bureaucracy

Duffy says the Governor's plan is to empower each region to shape its own future.

"It's no longer Albany telling you what to do. It's no longer New York City telling you what to do," says Duffy,  "It's having each individual region ... develop a team that ends up identifying your priorities."

He says New York's governmental structure is more to blame for its current economic situation than the national recession.

"In many ways, it's self-inflicted wounds. It's bureaucracy, it's headaches, it's frustrations," says Duffy.

The lieutenant governor will serve as chair to all 10 councils, but he says he'd like to be a hands-off facilitator, and let the other council members run the show. The councils will compete for a $1 billion pot of state funds to help grow their economies.

Leonard Schleifer heads a bio-tech company called Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and had less than a week's notice before being named as the Mid-Hudson co-chair.

"When the Governor's office calls, I feel it's my obligation to serve," he says.

Schleifer believes his council can deliver a strategic plan by the governor's deadline of November 14th.

"There's nothing like a deadline to sharpen the pencil and get things done. So we’ll work hard at it and I think we can do it," he says.

Economic success: "You know it when you see it"

Empire State Development will be charged with tracking the success of the councils through annual progress reports.

Schleifer admits it could be difficult to measure the number of jobs created. He compared it to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's famous quote about pornography.

"It's a little bit like obscenity. You know it when you see it," says Schleifer,  "I think we'll know economic success when we see it. How the state goes about more sophisticated ways of measuring these things, we'll find out."

The council members are all volunteers, who were chosen by the administration to represent a cross-section of interests, including business, labor and academia.

Governor Cuomo will be at Schenectady County Community College to announce the Capital District council members today.

WMHT/Capital Region reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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