Governor’s upstate plan skirts Albany area

The Capital Region is not the focus of Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s upstate initiative, according to his ups
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The Capital Region is not the focus of Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s upstate initiative, according to his upstate economic development director, Dan Gundersen.

In a conference call with reporters following Spitzer’s speech in Buffalo, Gundersen said the governor’s main target is “those areas truly in need of major effort and assistance,” which does not include the vicinity of Albany.

Gundersen said, however, that the governor would address one concern of Schenectady County leaders by modifying his brownfields reform plan. Last year, Spitzer proposed scaling back development incentives, which local leaders said could make it harder to clean up and build on underutilized sites such as the former Alco plant in Schenectady. Gundersen said some scaling back of the state’s brownfields program is needed to reduce huge windfalls being earned by developers downstate, but that the administration would be modifying its proposal to retain incentives for worthy upstate projects.

“I thought it was a great speech,” said Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton, noting that the governor did mention the city, and that Schenectady fits in with the other old industrial cities of upstate in needing state action. Spitzer already has been helpful, the mayor said, in boosting state aid and helping with specific economic development projects such as those involving Bechtel and General Electric Co.

As for brownfields, Stratton said, the Spitzer administration now recognizes that a “one-size-fits-all approach may not be the best fit.”

What the rest of upstate New York needs is what has worked in the Capital Region, according to a statement from Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick.

Responding to Spitzer’s speech, Bruno touted the Senate’s Upstate Now package of one-house bills it passed last year. He said Upstate Now, if enacted, would foster partnerships among business, government and higher education, spurring research and development. And previous initiatives supported by the Senate already have borne fruit, he said.

“These partnerships,” Bruno’s statement said, “which began as a result of the Senate Majority’s Gen*NY*sis [Generating Employment in New York Science] program almost 10 years ago, have resulted in billions of dollars in economic investments and thousands of new jobs, particularly in the Capital Region.

“What we did to strengthen the economy and create jobs in the Capital Region is not a secret. This successful blueprint will work in other areas of upstate New York and I welcome the governor’s support to move it forward.”

Assembly Minority leader James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, praised Spitzer for recognizing the seriousness of upstate’s problems, and proposed a series of tax cuts that he said would help accomplish the governor’s goals. Asked where the state could find the money for that, Tedisco said stimulating the economy would itself generate revenue.

But Tedisco said the state does need to control spending. He said he was waiting for Spitzer’s budget proposal next week to comment on spending, but added that the governor should be asking agency heads to set priorities and trim costs.

Gundersen also was vague about where the money would come from, but said the Empire State Development Corp., of which he is co-chairman, has in the past put too much emphasis on grants, and he aims to do more loans instead.

Chris Koetzle, vice president of the Support Services Alliance, a small business advocacy group, said “We were encouraged by what we saw” in the governor’s speech. The proposed Regional Blueprint Fund could help small businesses get access to the capital they need to compete in the modern economy, Koetzle said, and SSA also has long advocated a focus on the upstate economy.

Categories: Schenectady County

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