State appointee confident director post will be secure

Peter Wohl, newly appointed Empire State Development Corp. regional director for the Capital Region,

Peter Wohl, newly appointed Empire State Development Corp. regional director for the Capital Region, said Tuesday it is his understanding that his appointment will not be affected by a possible resignation of Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Wohl replaces David Rooney, the former vice president of programs for the Center for Economic Growth, who has vacated the ESD post.

Wohl said he expects to begin work as ESD Capital Region director April 17 and he expects Spitzer’s commitment to upstate economic development, as separate and distinct from downstate economic development, would survive into a Gov. David Paterson administration.

“It’s my understanding that there is general ‘buy in’ to supporting and identifying the unique needs of both upstate and downstate,” Wohl said.

Spitzer changed New York state economic development strategy when he appointed Dan Gunderson to be the upstate New York economic czar and Patrick Foye to be downstate czar. Prior to the split, economic development had been more homogeneous throughout the state.

Wohl is currently the vice president of the Warren County Economic Development Corp. and previously held the position of executive director of the Adirondack Regional Business Incubator.

He was jointly appointed ESD Capital Region director last week by Gundersen and Foye. The reason for the joint appointment is that the ESD defines the Capital Region as half upstate New York and half downstate.

“The eight counties [in the Capital Region] are Columbia, Greene, Schenectady, Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren and Washington. ” Wohl said.

“No other region has both commissioners involved, this is the only one that does because the four southern counties fall under the downstate commissioner,” he said.

Although local economic leaders in Fulton and Montgomery County have expressed a closer link to the Capital Region the ESD places them in the Syracuse, Utica economic development region. Wohl said he plans to include Fulton and Montgomery County in some of his activities as Capital Region director.

“I think that obviously in any type of plan moving forward you’d have to consider Fulton County and others who have influences both coming into the Capital Region and out of it,” Wohl said.

“Formally [Fulton and Montgomery counties aren’t] defined as part of the Capital Region, but anyone serving as Capital Region ESD director would have to recognize what’s going on with them,” he said.

According to ESD officials Wohl will manage the operations of ESD’s Albany-based Capital Region office on a day-to-day basis “   in concert with long-term strategic goals.”

Wohl said he could not give any specifics about upcoming economic development programs but said the Capital Region’s economic development blueprint, developed by ESD officials working with local stakeholers over the last few months, will dictate the agenda.

“What fell out of that process was a focus on things like infrastructure,” Wohl said.

Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Shimkus said when he worked with Wohl on economic development projects, like the Adirondack Regional Business Incubator in Glens Falls, he found him to be personable and a skilled professional.

“In the process of rebuilding and renovating that building the number of hoops and hurdles that he had to overcome to get that building cleaned up were astronomical,” Shimkus said.

“If you knew what the building looked like and you walked through it now you’d say ‘oh my God, how the heck did he make that happen.’”

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