Residents who often feel like they go unheard were given a microphone on Wednesday night at a public forum hosted by the Capital Region Economic Development Council.
At a theater on the campus of SUNY Adirondack, a four-person panel and people from the Capital Region spoke about the obstacles facing economic development and their solutions.
The open meeting was one of a handful the council has already had, part of a process laid out by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an attempt to transform how the state does business. The entire program consists of 10 regional councils proposing plans that are competing for an initial $200 million in funds and tax incentives, which could be followed by another $800 million.
SUNY Adirondack President Ronald Heacock cited a common theme that state and local governments get in the way of companies that want to do business in New York. “My barrier would be regulation, regulation, regulation,” he stressed, while acknowledging that some regulations play an important role.
Bob Joy, of the Glens Falls based JMZ Architects and Planning, said it is the unpredictability of regulations that scare businesses. He added that the regional council should focus on the strengths in the eight counties it represents, like its quality education and health care systems.
Joy stressed infrastructure. This point was endorsed by town of Moreau Deputy Supervisor Gina LeClair, who noted that her town needs a sewer system. She said that businesses wouldn’t invest in a sewer system and they wouldn’t invest in her town without a sewer system. LeClair said she hoped someone would be looking out for their interests as the council went forward.
This sentiment was echoed by Mary Meade, of the Moreau Conservation Advisory Council, as she seized on a reference made earlier about driving from Glens Falls to Saratoga. “We’re kind of in between,” she said, explaining how her town could be forgotten. We’re being “stepped over,” Meade said.
Panelist Vicki Gerbino, president of the Warren County Economic Development Corporation, talked about the weight the council places on certain proposals and reminded people that “ten jobs in an Adirondack hamlet is a big deal.”
Michael Parwana, a small business owner who lives in Lake Luzerne, was the lone pessimistic voice. “I’ve seen too many times … where the economic development corporations keep giving money to these people that promise all these jobs and the jobs go away. It’s just a racket for people in ties.”
Parwana said the councils aren’t even addressing the biggest deterrent to new businesses, which is the cost of obtaining health care. “There are millions of people in this country, who would go out, if they had health insurance available to them … and they would go out and start a business themselves.”
The Capital Region Economic Development Council represents Warren, Washington, Saratoga, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Albany, Columbia and Greene counties.
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