Economic panel eyes funds to open doors

Elected officials and private citizens appointed to the Capital Region Regional Economic Development

Elected officials and private citizens appointed to the Capital Region Regional Economic Development Council touted the new body as a potential engine for growth in the area, while at least one observer warned New Yorkers to temper their enthusiasm.

The Capital Region council will be competing with nine other regional councils for $1 billion in state economic development funds. The awards will be announced in December after a review of each council’s development plans.

Serving on the Capital Region council on behalf of the Saratoga Board of Supervisors will be Clifton Park Supervisor Anita Daly, who said the competitive bidding process should help limit wasteful spending. “The cream will rise to the top,” she said.

Councils with ideas that don’t rise to the top could end up receiving none of the $1 billion.

Daly was optimistic that her council would not get shut out and pointed to initiatives under way in Saratoga County that the Capital Region council could utilize in making its pitch for state money. In addition to serving as a model for the council, Daly said, Saratoga County was also an area within the region that should be poised to receive funds. “We have invested millions in infrastructure that has allowed us to open the doors,” she said.

Schenectady acting Mayor Gary McCarthy, who is a council appointee, noted that the Capital Region has recently benefited from investments in nanotechnology at the University of Albany, chip manufacturing at GlobalFoundries in Malta and by General Electric in Schenectady and Niskayuna. But he contended that there are still other areas that can benefit. “Lots of strong things are happening, “he said, “but it’s about how you fine tune that.”

Having previously served on the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority and chaired economic development bodies, McCarthy was optimistic that he could be a valuable member in his role on the council. “Hopefully my background will bring some knowledge and perspective from a number of views that will represent Schenectady well,” he said.

Council appointee Judith Dagostino, chairwoman of the Schenectady County Legislature, wouldn’t identify specific projects in the county that she thought could be part of the Capital Region council’s proposal, but hinted “there are some other things in the fire … that we’re not quite ready to announce.”

Prairie Wells, a member of the Bricklayers Union and a member of Albany’s Industrial Development Agency, was concerned the list of general members lacked diversity. She said that the co-chairs are “capable” and described the general members as “great and smart and successful people,” but contended that the council would suffer without a larger involvement from labor and community organizers. “Only one community organizer and one labor voice [are] represented,” Wells said of the general members.

She hopes that in the council’s “working groups,” which are loosely defined on a state website and were not addressed during Thursday’s presentation, can have their say. “The working groups need a more diverse voice,” she said.

Wells also noted that the application process for the councils has not been formalized and appointees to the council admitted that they didn’t have a start date for their first meeting.

“I don’t know exactly what to expect at the first meeting or when it’s going to be,” said Dennis Brobston, appointee to the council and president of the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation.

Nonetheless, Brobston remained upbeat about the council as a forum to share ideas and as a chance to highlight the Capital Region’s best business assets.

As evidence of the ambiguity and promise surrounding the council, Ellis Hospital President and CEO James Connolly acknowledged that he wasn’t sure if his hospital would be considered, yet hoped it might be included in the Capital Region council’s final proposal. “If there is economic development program money that can put people to work taking care of our patients we would be more than happy to take that money,” he said.

Other local representatives on the council are: Joseph Raccuia of Finch Paper LLC.; Gary Dake of Stewart’s Shops; Victor Abate of GE; Peg Murphy of Espey Manufacturing & Electronics Corporation; and Christine Edgerly of Adirondack Mechanical Services LLC.

Categories: Business, Schenectady County

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