Local officials were excited by President Barack Obama’s vision of exporting the Capital Region’s economic model to the rest of the country to spur job creation.
“Now I want what’s happening in Albany to happen all over the country,” Obama said Tuesday at the University at Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, which embodies the type of growth he was highlighting.
State Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, beamed as he talked about how the president’s appearance would highlight the fact that the state is more than just New York City. “I love it when people recognize upstate New York,” he said.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said he felt Obama’s appearance reinforced the positive developments being made in high-tech manufacturing in the Capital Region. He was heartened by the theme of the event, which focused on retaining jobs in America through targeted tax credits and discouraging companies from outsourcing work.
“Clearly, the concept of manufacturing moving out of this country is changing. Hopefully it will continue,” McCarthy said.
The symbolic presence was also very meaningful for the area, according to Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus. He said the exposure from the visit was the most important economic benefit.
“You get a national spotlight for 30 seconds,” he said. “That is 30 seconds of advertising on the national level that we wouldn’t get otherwise.”
Like previous appearances by Obama to the Capital Region, Shimkus predicted this one would also be featured in marketing efforts by regional chambers of commerce.
As for the change in venue, from GlobalFoundries’ Fab 8 in Malta to the nanocollege in Albany, Shimkus said it made sense considering the accommodations available at the final choice. “You look around this room and there isn’t a place in [Fab 8] that is big enough to host this,” he said. “I get it. It’s about the region.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, echoed the sentiments about the regional focus. He added that in a private conversation with Obama on Air Force One on the way to the event, he had pushed for a return to Saratoga County in the future.
“I told him I want him back to the district for a fourth time if it is possible,” said Tonko, whose district will include part of Saratoga County if he wins re-election this fall.
In response to the message of the speech, which included a “To-Do List” Obama wants to accomplish this summer, Tonko said it was filled with practical job-creating measures. He said these ideas would “prime the pump” of private investment and likely generate a groundswell of support that could break congressional roadblocks stalling the president’s agenda.
U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, was hesitant to embrace Obama’s message in its entirety, but aligned himself with parts of the president’s plan that involved cutting red tape for businesses and putting veterans to work.
Regarding the idea of re-creating the success of the nano college, Gibson emphasized the fact that it would take time, as this example was born out of decades of work. He contended that level of committment is what the president needs to be prepared for.
He refused to get too swept away in the region’s hype, though, saying, “We know that we’ve still got a long way to go.”
This might have been the final presidential visit for Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, D-Cohoes, who is retiring at the end of the year. He joked that he might have to crash a trip in the future.
“It’s exciting,” he said of the visit, which signaled to him that the Capital Region is becoming a “superstar” in the high-tech field.
Canestrari predicted that achievements like the nanocollege would likely be repeated in New York, based on the idea that success builds on itself. McDonald voiced a similar belief.
“We’re bringing all these people together and there are going to be all types of jobs,” he said.