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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.

Regional councils hold first "public" gatherings

Daniel Robison
Nearly all 30 members of the Western New York Regional Economic Council attended Tuesday's meeting, yet only a handful of citizens watched the proceedings.


The western New York Regional Council held its first public meeting in Buffalo Tuesday, but portions of the gathering were still conducted behind closed doors.

Fewer than half a dozen citizens attended.

In the "public" portion of the meeting, the council unveiled details regarding how the new economic development creation by the Cuomo administration will distribute one billion dollars in public funds.

Each county in each of the 10 regional councils across the state will have its own public input meeting where citizens can propose where their tax dollars can go.

Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy says these summits will help citizens navigate the thickly bureaucratic world of New York economic development.

"As opposed to having a thousand different lobbying points from different areas for projects, it's going to be focused on looking at the regional councils," he said.

The fast track

With each of the 10 regional councils consisting of 30 or so people, work groups were also announced that divide this large group into small concentrations, like tourism and agribusiness. Their task: hunt for worthy projects that won't prove to be a waste of the state's money.

"We're going to fast track these requests to try and address them so we don't lose jobs, we don't lose people, we don't have added frustration," Duffy says.

The first work group sessions will take place in the next few weeks. Each one has been asked to:

Develop a baseline of existing conditions, description of critical issues that must be overcome and the principal regional economic drivers that will advance the region's economic growth.

That packet of information is due August 31, 2011. Additional deadlines follow in two and three week increments.

Duffy says these initial work group meetings are meant to quickly establish a roadmap for how the group will make its eventual decisions.

"Say three or four months down the road a big mega project was submitted for consideration for state funding. The first question Governor Cuomo is going to ask is, 'What is the recommendation of the regional council?'" Duffy says.

Duffy says anyone can show up and provide suggestions at these meetings for where public money can best be invested, such as a specific business or construction project.

Western New York Public Input Sessions:

All meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. to allow the public the chance to attend.  Locations have not yet been announced.
Allegany - September 8

Cattataugus - September 12

Chautauqua - September 13

Erie - September 14

Niagara - September 15

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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