The Capital Region Economic Development Council held the second of five public meetings at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Thursday, adopting a vision statement that focuses on making the eight-county area it represents a destination.
The council is an advisory group formed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide regional input into economic development priorities. It is one of 10 formed in the state that will compete for $200 million in state economic development awards.
The Capital Region council has until October to develop a five-year strategic plan that will bring to reality the vision statement, said co-chairperson Shirley Ann Jackson, president of RPI.
The public meeting occurred after the council met in executive session for approximately two hours. Six people spoke, each allowed about two minutes to address the panel. State officials said the councils are not subject to the Open Meetings Law, and therefore do not have to advertise or open their meetings. Council member Jeff Stark, president of the 20,000-member Greater Capital Region Building Trades Council, said the council is meeting behind closed doors to hammer out divergent issues and views. He said he supports reporting out to the public on the council’s progress.
As approved unanimously by the council, the vision statement calls for making the Capital Region “a destination of choice for new and expanding businesses, for foreign investment and for world-class talent.”
Co-chairperson Michael J. Castellana, president and CEO of SEFCU, said the council, through its strategic plan, “wants to change the face of the Capital Region and to do that in a very, very short time.”
He said the council is on a fast track, as ordered by Cuomo, who wants the 10 councils to begin proposing projects that will generate and retain jobs, improve the state’s business climate and spur investment. For the Capital Region council to accomplish its mission, Castellana said, “we need public input to create critical mass, to allow us to open doors to businesses and make us a destination.”
The council has begun the effort by launching a website, www.capitalregionopenforbusiness.com. The website has a “public involvement” section that contains several surveys. The council is asking people to fill out the surveys so it can accumulate data with which to develop the strategic plan.
“We want to develop regionwide solutions with the support of the public,” Castellana said.
Jackson said the strategic plan will include job-creation and job-retention goals, as well as ways to measure the plan’s effectiveness. She said the plan has to be clear about its priorities and where best to put the money it obtains.
Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who chairs all 10 councils, said the top four strategic plans will receive $40 million each, with the other six sharing in the remainder of the $200 million pot. The state will determine which projects get the green light, based on regional council recommendations, state officials said.
The councils will also be eligible to tap into $800 million in economic development money administered by various state agencies. The difference this time is they will be able to apply for grants through a single form, rather than applying through each agency.
The Capital Region Economic Development Council represents Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren and Washington counties.
The council’s next meetings are tentatively scheduled for Aug. 31. Sept. 6 and Sept. 17. Locations will be announced.