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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.

Regional councils start to review applications for state money

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Courtesy photo
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Empire State Development
Flush with hundreds of Consolidated Funding Applications from businesses seeking state money, New York's 10 regional councils are in a rush to include some of those ideas in their five-year economic plans due Nov. 14.

Since launching in late July, the Western New York Regional Economic Council has been drawing up a comprehensive plan for revitalizing the local economy. Down to its final two weeks to revise its draft, the council is striving to separate itself from nine others it will compete with from around the state.

But while the council is bumping up against its deadline, the deadline for businesses seeking state money from the councils has passed.  Monday was the last day for businesses to submit Consolidated Funding Applications.

Now council members must review the hundreds of submissions – but won’t have long to do so.

The WNY council alone now has thousands of pages of applications to analyze before choosing just a few to include with its five-year economic plan for the region.

And time is short, says council co-chair Howard Zemsky.

“Real analysis of them will begin imminently and be wrapped up by November 14th,” he says.

That’s when final plan is due – and it needs to be crafted carefully, as it will compete with nine other cash-hungry councils from around the state.

“We started with a blank sheet of paper and we’re into draft 3.0,” Zemsky says. “So we’ve got some more work to do. Of course we knew we would. But we’ve got great raw material. We’re in the red zone and we’ve got a week’s worth of work to get it across the goal line.”

Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy was in Buffalo for the meeting. He stressed the council’s ethics policy strongly Tuesday, which asks members to recuse themselves from official business that could involve conflicts of interest.

“We want to make sure we are fair and equitable but there is no insider trading, so to speak, where someone is getting an advantage with undue influence,” Duffy says.

Western New York’s council will meet again in a week to finalize its five-year plan and craft a discussion about which projects gleaned from the CFA process will be most beneficial to the region’s economic future.

“[I’m] really excited to be into November here, so it’s kind of the final push, as it will be with every [regional] council across the state,” Zemsky says. “We’re looking forward to getting across the finish line successfully.”

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