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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.

Deadline day for regional councils

Zack Seward
Empire State Development President and CEO Ken Adams says the ten regional blueprints will be graded "before the holidays" - and state money could begin flowing before the end of the year.

Pencils down. Time is up.

"Today's the day all the homework assignments are due," says Empire State Development President and CEO Ken Adams.

The governor's ten regional economic development councils had until 4 p.m. Monday to submit their final strategic plans.

The state's economic development arm tells the Innovation Trail that all ten councils are in the process of meeting the submission guidelines.

"People have worked really, really hard," Adams says. "This has turned out to be a Herculean effort. And, you know, a pretty tight timeframe."

The councils set out in August to create a strategic plan for their respective regions. Teams of 20 to 30 volunteer advisers cobbled together regional objectives and priority projects. The hope is that the localized approach will deliver on the governor's economic development and job creation goals.

Now that the plans are done, Adams says they become "the blueprints for economic development."

"We all are now guided by these regional plans," says ESD's Adams. "They become the guidelines for this agency, the eight other agencies in the Consolidated Funding Application and, frankly, all state agencies that somehow affect economic development at the local level."

Next steps

Adams says the governor will soon name a "top-shelf group" of economic development experts to grade the strategic plans on an "apples to apples" basis.

The four with the highest marks will each win $40 million in state incentives. The six runners up have to split the remaining $40 million.

"We hope to have decisions made before the holidays," says Adams.

After that, Adams says state resources could begin flowing "prior to the end of this calendar year."

WXXI/Finger Lakes reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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