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The Dansville Online
  • Sen. Tom O'Mara: Standing out

  • In the face of dire and difficult economic challenges, regional leaders were given the chance to stand up and do something positive. Here at home, I fully expected that a region-wide team of business, community and economic development leaders would once again help the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions succeed in this...
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  • Back in the summer, in early August when New York’s 10 regional economic development councils began developing region-by-region blueprints for the future of the statewide economy, here’s what I said, “We’ll all be working closely together to do anything and everything possible to ensure that our region stands out in this competition for the state resources that can help create jobs and other economic opportunities for our employers, and our region’s workers and their families.”
    Now there’s proof that that’s exactly what occurred over the past several months in the Southern Tier, the Finger Lakes, and eight other regions across New York. In the face of dire and difficult economic challenges, regional leaders were given the chance to stand up and do something positive. Here at home, I fully expected that a region-wide team of business, community and economic development leaders would once again help the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions succeed in this new state-level competition for economic development resources. I was confident that they would fully recognize that the economic competition has never been tougher, that they’d tackle the challenge head on, and, in the end, raise the bar even higher to help our region stand out.
     
    Summarizing its plan, the Southern Tier Economic Development Council wrote, “Our Council is confident that the execution of this plan will recharge the Southern Tier into a competitive economic region. We expect the implementation process will continue to serve as a unifying force in the region, one that brings together agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector at all levels, with a shared vision for economic growth.”
    And this from the Finger Lakes council’s introduction: “Through these efforts, we seek to become a national leader in innovation and commercialization with the long-term goals of increasing job creation at a rate that exceeds national levels and enhancing the region’s quality of life to attract and retain business and our citizens.”
    So first and foremost, let’s recognize the individual achievements. Because regardless of the immediate outcome, what was put in place the very minute these councils submitted their final plans last week was the direction, goal-setting and vision that represent the necessary first steps to an economic revitalization and turnaround that, we hope, will lead the nation. Take a look at the plans that have been submitted for the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions and I believe you’ll agree that there’s a lot to be proud of – and excited about. The quality of our assets and strengths are undeniable. This overall quality is reflected in the breadth of the specific proposals being advanced. They cover agriculture, broadband development, forestry, winemaking, energy technology, next generation technology and manufacturing, health care, infrastructure redevelopment, and so much more. They incorporate and seek to bolster the strongholds we offer, for example, with rail car manufacturing in the Southern Tier and agriculture and food processing in the Finger Lakes. It demonstrates a diverse regional approach that recognizes traditional strengths and welcomes modern-day, cutting-edge, 21st-century developments. You can read these plans, and all of the others, on the New York “Open for Business” website (nyworks.ny.gov) or at www.omara.nysenate.gov.
    Page 2 of 2 - At the beginning of 2011, in an online legislative survey, I asked area residents the following question, “Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions?” Respondents were split when it came to being “optimistic” (43 percent) or “pessimistic” (44 percent), while the remaining 13 percent were undecided. Keeping that question in mind, I’d argue that the Regional Economic Development Council plans are worthwhile reading for everyone who took the time to answer optimistic, pessimistic or undecided earlier this year, but just as much for anyone who’s making a home, raising a family, earning a living or hoping to plan a future here.
    These local councils, including our own, without even including the economic potential of Marcellus Shale natural gas (largely because that future rests in the hands of the ongoing Department of Environmental Conservation regulatory process and won’t require economic incentives), have offered up concrete solutions to New York’s overburdened business climate to make it more competitive. This action alone, I believe, encourages more optimism for our future.

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