ALBANY Gov. Elliot Spitzer visited Buffalo last week to outline his priorities for Upstate New York. On Jan. 16, Spitzer presented his first ever State of the Upstate. In it, he cited the need to foster economic growth, improve the education system, aid in creating affordable health care and lower taxes for the Upstate region. We are here today because we recognize that the economic challenges facing Upstate are so numerous, significant, particular and urgent that the traditional State of the State Address is not sufficient to hold us accountable for meeting them, said Spitzer. Economic Development
One of the highlights of the speech was Spitzers proposal for a $1 Billion Upstate Revitalization Fund. The fund would include $350 million for a Regional Blueprint Fund, $100 million for Upstate Housing and Community Development, $50 million for an Agribusiness Fund, $15 million for Universal broadband, $100 million in transportation funding, $80 million in parks funding and funding for City by City revitalization. Essex County Industrial Development Agency Co-Director Jody Olcott said she was excited about Spitzers proposal to create funding for blueprints, which the IDA has been working on for several years. Universal broadband was also important to help business development. Olcott said she was disappointed Spitzer didnt mention the Empire Zone Program, which provides incentives and breaks for businesses located within designated areas. During the early 2000s, the program was an effective tool for the IDA, but changes made two years ago have made the program ineffective, Olcott said. While 42 businesses applied last year, only one was certified. Spitzer worked with several regional groups for input on what was needed, including the Essex County IDA. Overall, Olcott felt the State of the Upstate was on the right track. I'm glad to see he's actually listening, and could potentially implement a plan that could address some issues, said Olcott. Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce Director Sylvie Nelson said the State of the Upstates focus on fostering economic growth was welcome, but there was a more immediate issue that needed to be addressed. On one hand, those proposals are positive however, we now, in the Tri-Lakes area, have to deal with the announcement of the closing of Camp Gabriel, said Nelson. The state has announced the closure of Camp Gabriel, a minimum security prison facility that employs 135 people. Those represent high-paying, benefit-including jobs and the reality of our area is that that type of employment is not easy to come by. Moreover, the closing of the facility also translates into the loss of volunteer hours that the inmates are contributing to our communities, said Nelson. Nelson said the inmate population was an integral part of Winter Carnival as they dedicate their time and energy to helping build the ice palace. The inmates also help keep public parks clean and safe in summer and winter. Controlling costs
Spitzer also stated that controlling New Yorks high costs was another priority. To return growth and prosperity to New York to make our state the best place to live, work, raise and family and start a business we must hold the line on costs for both families and businesses, said Spitzer. Spitzer pledged to hold the line against taxes, reduce property taxes and reduce energy costs. That was welcome news to Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R- Willsboro). In order to keep the lights burning brightly in the North Country, we must cut property taxes and provide the resources necessary to make our communities more attractive to residents and businesses. I remain optimistic that we will be able to reverse the economic downturn that we have seen if we are able to come together cooperatively in Albany this session, said Sayward.