POTSDAM -- When the North Country Regional Economic Development Council has its next meeting at SUNY Potsdam Feb. 21, one certain topic of conversation will be Gov. Andrew Cuomo's presentation at Clarkson University last Tuesday.
Cuomo has gathered support in the business community since his inauguration two years ago for his “New York is Open for Business” campaign across the state, and he promoted some of those efforts in his speech in Potsdam Tuesday.
Some of the reasons for the support he is getting were evident in the introductions of the governor by Clarkson University Pres. Tony Collins and by a young local entrepreneur.
Matt Turcotte of Clayton, founder four years ago of a rapidly growing web development company, North Shore Solutions Group, LLC, is a junior in Clarkson’s innovation and entrepreneurship program. In his introduction of the governor, Turcotte noted that Clarkson’s efforts and the governor's aims are aligned in “technology transfer” -- bringing to market some of the fruits of successful research -- and in fostering entrepreneurship through true business experience for undergraduates. That’s a good fit with the governor’s design for business development “hot spots” around the state with the same aims.
Cuomo’s high degree of popularity, though suffering a bit of a setback especially upstate over the NY SAFE Act of gun control measures, has no doubt been boosted in the North Country by the success of the region in two rounds of statewide competition for multi-million dollar development grants from the state.
In his introduction, Pres. Collins, co-chairman of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council, said the governor’s idea of the regional councils, introduced in his first year as governor, made more sense than previous local development schemes. The North Country council’s success in attracting competitive state grants over the first two years of the program is raising expectations for the program's potential, which,Collins said to the governor, “allows us to take hold of our own future, and we can¹t thank you enough.”
In December, the second round of competitive awards was announced, and the North Country council came up a winner for the second time with a list of projects that will be getting $90.2 million in state funding, for things like half a million dollars to improve Canton's industrial park, $175,000 to aid implementation of the Raquette River Blueway Trail Corridor, and support for the North Country Regional Food Hub¹s plan for a 9,000 sq. ft. facility to improve the region¹s “local food” environment.
All that is on top of the $103 million the North Country council scored in the competition the year before.
The North Country application for 2011 earned the NCREDC a “Best Plan” award and a higher level of funding than other regional competitors.
The North Country Council was given a “Top Performer Award” for its progress in implementing the 2011 plan, earning another enhanced award in 2012.
Cuomo said that “the simple concepts ¬ most of the most intelligent concepts are simple” -- such as the regional development plans, were often most effective. In this case, he was talking about the idea that a regional approach to development offered better prospects for success than trying to sort out competing ideas from neighboring municipalities, sometimes aimed at the same issues. He also noted that a regional approach builds common support for common interests, lending a sense of local ownership that can be vital to achieving the objectives of a plan.
The overarching goal, the governor said, was “jobs, education, fiscal integrity and discipline, and progress,” each a complement to the other. Another source of his support among businesspeople in the state is “the lowest middle-class tax rate in 58 years,” he said, a property tax cap, and an emphasis on the state helping to find practical ways of dealing with business problems.
And considering the relatively civil way in which the state Senate and Assembly have managed their affairs in the last couple of years, the governor could claim, as he did, that “the obstructionist culture is gone.”