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Politics
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.

Finger Lakes economic council: "It makes sense to invest in a winner"

The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council released a rough draft of its strategic plan earlier this week - and then asked the public for feedback.

The last of three public forums was held at Monroe Community College on Thursday night.

The open house focused on the council's draft plan; the draft plan focused on the region's strengths.

"We think it makes sense [for the Cuomo administration] to invest in a winner," says Bob McNary, the regional council's executive director.

McNary says a key function of the strategic plan is making a strong pitch. After all, that's what determines if the Finger Lakes will get a $40 million infusion of state economic development money.

"We have the potential to grow," says McNary. "And we have the potential to grow in some very exciting sectors - research and development, a lot of technology areas, higher education, healthcare, a variety of those things."

But while the strengths and goals are listed in the draft plan, the means of getting there and the region's priority projects are not.

That's Evan Lowenstein's main complaint. He's the co-founder of Empire State Future - a statewide group that advocates for smart growth and sustainable development.

"We're happy that the strategies are there," says Lowenstein. "But like I said, the 'means to the end' is essential - and there's not much talking about that."

Executive director McNary admits that many key details are still missing. But he says more details will be released as the draft is refined over the next two weeks.

Still, he says priority projects won't be submitted for public feedback.

"A lot of people are looking at projects and saying that projects are the most important thing," says McNary. "But the strategies are more important, I think."

A final strategic plan is due November 14. McNary says it should be finalized by the November 9 regional council meeting.

As for those priority projects, McNary says they are still being vetted - behind closed doors.

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