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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.

Duffy says NYS "isn't perfect" but is getting "better"

Locals Jim Fayle (left) and Rob Simpson (center right) present to the regional council, with Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy (center left) and Irene Baker (right).
Emma Jacobs
Locals Jim Fayle (left) and Rob Simpson (center right) present to the regional council, with Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy (center left) and Irene Baker (right).

New Yorkers think government causes more problems than it solves. That's the word from the pollsters at Siena who take the state's temperature on a regular basis.

This time around, they found that 64 percent of New Yorkers think government isn't helping the state's economy.

This news comes as the regional councils - the latest state government effort to do right by New York's economy - meet again across the state. 

"We're not pefect. But we get better"

Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy says that "region by region, people are starting to tell us what needs to change."

State policy's not explicitly on the agenda for the regional councils, as they try and come up with proposals for their regional economies. But Duffy says he's getting lots of feedback during his round-the-state tour to attend regional economic council meetings.

About the regional councils, Duffy says: "I always ... say we don't try and sell this as the answer to all our problems. It's not. But it's a start. It's a process ... One thing we can do as a government is ... each year we get a little better and better at what we do. We're not perfect. But we get better, and we listen. And we respond to issues."

Duffy was in Syracuse on Wednesday to confer with the public and private officials making plans for central New York.  The co-chair of the central New York Council, Rob Simpson, who heads the business organization, CenterState CEO, says he's reaching out to businesses with a survey.

"One of the biggest questions we have out on the street right now is for businesses and individuals in this community to tell us what those impediments are. Tell us the specific regulations that are holding your business back. Tell us the specific taxes that are the most inhibitive of your growth."

Simpson will present the feedback he gets about government obstacles to business directly to the governor's office.

Fine-tuning a local vision

The regional council kicked off Wednesday's meeting by approving a vision statement for the central New York economy. But by November, the group will have to endorse a list of specific projects that it finds worthy of state funds.

Simpson says it's too early to know how many projects will fit the mold, but he says some ideas are rising to the top.

"We have a growing base of high-technology companies, entrepreneurs that are looking to grow here, but we don't have the capital to help them take that next step," says Simpson.

He says the council is looking to support a venture capital fund that would provide new companies with the "seed capital" they need to get off the ground.

But the region is racing against the clock to complete a full application for state funding - those documents are due on November 14.

Former WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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