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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Staying the course for Upstate"

ALBANY, Jan. 28 -- When New York’s current Governor Cuomo, Governor Andrew Cuomo, first unveiled his plan for 10 regional economic development councils back in 2011, his first year in office, it led one long-time western New York reporter back into the archives to recall when he covered a previous governor who tried something similar back in his first year in office in 1984.

“If all that sounds familiar,” the reporter wrote referring to the present-day Governor Cuomo, “it’s probably because the governor’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, made that same announcement 27 years ago.”

That’s right, a regionally targeted approach to economic development, especially targeted to Upstate, has been tried in various ways by most governors throughout the past generation.

But not like this. All that was then, this is now, and while the Upstate New York economy has largely been a story of steady decline over the past 30 years (at best, in some places, a story of highs and lows, starts and stops), and while governor after governor since Governor Mario Cuomo has pledged to turn around Upstate’s future and fortunes, hopefully this current effort takes a permanent hold. So I’ll say again what I’ve said repeatedly for the past two years: We need to stay this course for Upstate.

Now it’s Year No. 3 and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recently released 2013-14 state budget proposal stays focused on Upstate in several ways, including plans for:

-- Innovation Hotspots and Tech Transfer, which the administration pegs as a “multi-faceted plan to foster the commercialization of innovative ideas from our academic institutions” via the designation of 10 “high-tech innovation incubators at locations affiliated with higher education institutions to encourage private-sector growth”;

-- a new Innovation Venture Capital Fund to provide incentives for the creation of new businesses and to facilitate the critical transition from "ideas and research to marketable products”;

-- the NY Works Economic Development Fund for capital grants “that support job creation and retention and fund investments that facilitate business expansion and the attraction of new businesses”;

-- the Next Generation Job Linkage Program to distribute performance grants to encourage community colleges to place students in high-demand jobs;

-- Market NY, a largely Upstate-oriented effort to boost the promotion of growing upstate agriculture- and tourism-related industries like Greek yogurt, craft brewing, and distilling, as well as anchors like the wine-and-grape industry; and

-- a third round of funding to support the work of the 10 Regional Economic Development Councils created in 2011.

On this last point, the regional councils, including those covering the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes, have directed dollars-and-cents investments to key economic development projects and infrastructure improvements. But equally important is that they’ve established the public-private partnerships and the sense of collective achievement that promises long-term commitment and energy.

Take a look at the comprehensive blueprints each of the councils have advanced, which you can find on, and you’ll read strategies that summon the resources of the public sector, the private sector, higher education, manufacturers, small business owners, researchers, innovators and so many others. You’ll find plans that pinpoint our strengths and recognize the importance of addressing issues from agriculture to transportation, broadband development to telemedicine, energy to workforce training, and so much more in between.

You’ll find, above all, testaments to staying the course for Upstate.

As a result, we all keep on winning because this ongoing effort in and of itself can only keep producing positive results. It means that on a regional basis we keep meeting, working, fine tuning, sharing resources, developing ideas, rallying support and moving forward. The bottom line of this effort is that it promises to keep regional leaders focused and cooperating on the creativity, vision and nuts-and-bolts planning that produces jobs and creates stronger economies built for the long run. There’s a powerful argument being made that that’s exactly the point: this unprecedented (in many regions) cooperation and desire to succeed is worth more than anything money could buy. Ten distinct routes have been mapped, each one pointing toward a revitalized economy, growing communities, exciting opportunities, a better business climate and more opportunities for workers.

But we can and should be even bolder. Last year, for example, I co-sponsored a “New Jobs-NY” plan. Among numerous provisions, New Jobs-NY called for an unprecedented phase-out of the state corporate franchise tax and personal income tax paid by manufacturers; providing small businesses with a significant corporate tax rate cut; a Hire Now-NY tax credit for each new job a business creates; and a Hire-A-Vet tax credit for any business hiring a returning veteran. It was bold, and we’re going to push for its approval again this year. I think it’s especially important to target a manufacturing resurgence as the foundation of future private-sector Upstate job growth and economic security for Upstate communities and workers.

So we’ve taken important steps over the past two years to stay the course for Upstate. Still, we’ve seen too many similar efforts go up in smoke too many times before. This time, the commitment can’t lose steam.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869