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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
“Putting the pieces together”
ALBANY, June 6 -- We opened this year’s legislative session back in January intent on setting in motion, as far as Albany’s recent track record goes, a never-before-seen emphasis on revitalizing the New York State economy. Six months later, it’s starting to take shape. There’s one heck of a long way to go; we know that, and the daily economic news still bears it out far too often. But the pieces are coming together.
There’s an undeniable consensus forming around the old idea that a strong economy will be the engine that drives so many other changes and improvements. This year’s state budget included a few important steps in the areas of fiscal reform, tax relief, and a better business climate. On that last note, the early reviews from the statewide business community have been largely positive. We’re on the right track. Very soon a series of regional economic development councils, first proposed by Governor Cuomo and included as part of the budget, will get to work on identifying locally based targets for additional investment.
So there’s movement in the right direction. There have been some big-ticket actions. But it’s equally important to note that the kind of sustained economic turnaround many of us are hoping for is a complicated puzzle, one that demands a steady, long-term effort to complete. If there’s one thing that probably won’t change anytime soon about the legislative process is that you never get it all done, all at once. On some good ideas, it’s still about rolling up your sleeves and keeping at it.
Take, for example, a little-noticed piece of legislation recently approved by the state Senate. It’s called the “Academic Research Information and Access Act” or ARIA, and it’s been kicking around the Legislature for several years. It would enable public and private academic and research libraries statewide, including those across our region, to create an information infrastructure that would be unrivalled anywhere in the world. While you probably haven’t read or heard anything about it, don’t underestimate its importance. Here’s what Cornell University Librarian Anne Kenney had to say recently: “As New York strives to build an information age economy, New York needs ARIA.”
It’s worth noting here again that one of New York’s greatest overall strengths is what many consider the nation’s largest and most diverse collection of public and private colleges and universities. A recent report pegged the State University of New York’s statewide economic impact at at least $20 billion, while it’s been shown that the state’s 100 or more independent colleges and universities generate upwards of $55 billion. So these institutions are undeniably economic engines and our region is blessed with quality in this regard.
But back to ARIA. The goal is to establish a mechanism whereby college- and university-based academic and research libraries can pool their resources to establish an information infrastructure that will expand access to cutting-edge research and other information. While to some it might sound as mundane as watching the grass grow, it would be big news and make New York an absolute leader in the world of access to cutting-edge research and information in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“It makes fiscal sense in these challenging times and making cutting-edge information available to those outside of campus communities will support regional economic development,” said Laura Anglin, president of the state Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities.
In other words, it would be a building block and a true competitive edge for New York in the high-tech, information-based economy of the future. So it’s no surprise that ARIA has gained support across the spectrum of business and industry, higher education, health care, and high technology interests in New York.
“The importance of university research in expanding New York’s innovation economy cannot be overstated…This legislation is an important building block for the state’s future tech-based economy,” said Brian McMahon, executive director of the New York State Economic Development Council.
So the next time you read or hear about a splashy achievement for the New York State economy, remember that there are a hundred other pieces of this complicated puzzle, like ARIA, making their way through the process with a lot less fanfare, but no less importance.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
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
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869