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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.

Buffalo council continues march toward Nov. 14 deadline

Meeting for the third time in public, the WNY Regional Council's work groups presented to each other in an attempt to draw connections between positive areas of the local economy.
Daniel Robison
Meeting for the third time in public, the WNY Regional Council's work groups presented to each other in an attempt to draw connections between positive areas of the local economy.


With a deadline just two months away to submit a plan to the governor’s office, the western New York regional economic council continued its discussion about the local economy’s strengths and weaknesses on Tuesday. 

The council has been subdivided into ten work groups, focused on economic areas like tourism, higher education and manufacturing.

Tuesday, those groups took turns presenting on why western New York’s economy succeeds and fails in these areas.

About a half an hour into the meeting, First Niagara Bank president John Koelmel spoke up, saying that the council has just two months to complete a five-year economic plan that will compete for tens of millions of dollars in state funding. So far, he said, the council had been short on ideas and tangible plans.

“How do we better align and come up with programs in the next 60 days that are innovative and can incrementally move the needle? I’m a little concerned listening to the [deliberations of the regional council] that it is more self-fulfilling than focused on the targeted objective,” Koelmel mused out loud.

Ongoing public input

The council is just one of ten statewide that are competing for state money that will fund promising businesses and projects.

Part of that process is collecting suggestions from the public, which each council will do in each county this month. Tuesday’s meeting saw only a handful of citizens attend. Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy says he’d like to see that change.

“I think the excuse of being too busy is one I don’t want to hear. Look at people in this room. Nobody is busier than some of the people around that table today and they still find time to be a part of this,” Duffy says. “It’s one thing to complain and throw your hands up in the air. It’s another thing to roll your sleeves up and get involved.”

Consolidated funding application

This week will also see the release of what’s being called a “consolidated funding application,” which will be available at nyworks.ny.gov.

Businesses looking for state cash will be able to apply to New York’s 17 economic development agencies with the new form. The regional councils will review the applications and make recommendations about which projects deserve money.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are up for grabs this year, but Duffy says the administration can’t comment on what funding will be available beyond the initial year of the program. He also says the state’s deficit and events like Hurricane Irene could compromise New York’s ability to be aggressive with economic development.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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