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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"A new NY approach: entrepreneurial government"

ALBANY, Aug. 27 -- The Business Council of New York State, in its recent review of this year’s legislative session, identified a “commitment to a pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda” as the bottom line for judging the performance of the State Legislature in 2012 (you can read the full review on For the leading upstate New York advocacy group Unshackle Upstate, which released its own rundown (, the bottom line is a commitment to fiscal responsibility, pro-taxpayer initiatives and private-sector economic growth.

I think that pretty well sums up how we’re defining ourselves in New York State government nearly two years into the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo. From the day he took office, this governor’s mantra has been “jobs, jobs, jobs” as the overriding focus for turning around the fortunes
and the future of New York. And believe me, it’s been music to the ears of many state legislators, particularly upstate legislators, who spent so many of the pre-Cuomo years railing against a prevailing tax-and-spend mindset in Albany.

But enough said on that old divide. Because what’s most important today -- and moving forward into the 2013 legislative session -- is staying focused on this newfound momentum to keep rebuilding our economy and restoring fiscal responsibility to our government.

The key point is this one: it’s beginning to work. We’re not just talking about a new approach to turning around key state industries; we’re backing it up with actions.

Take just two examples from 2012.

Exhibit #1: New York’s first-ever “Yogurt Summit” earlier this month brought together leaders from the burgeoning yogurt industry, farmers and other agricultural industry leaders and state officials to share ideas and suggestions for solidifying and strengthening the state’s position as a national leader in this growing economic sector. To call it a “growing” industry is a bit of an understatement. The number of yogurt processing plants in New York has increased from 14 to 29 since 2000, while the plants’ production doubled in the six years from 2005 to 2011. At the same time, the amount of milk used to make yogurt in New York increased dramatically from 158 million pounds to approximately 1.2 billion pounds due to the exploding popularity of Greek-style yogurt, which requires three times more milk to produce than traditional yogurt.

That’s impressive enough in and of itself, but the key point is that we’re focusing on the spin-off benefit, the so-called multiplier effect on other industries – especially the dairy industry, the backbone of New York’s No. 1 agricultural industry.

The thrust of the recent Yogurt Summit, then, sought to capture the real prize: how New York can take every step to encourage and grow the yogurt industry, and in ways that will work in partnership to strengthen our dairy farmers and other manufacturers. The yogurt industry is growing by leaps and bounds and because of it, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen the backbone of New York’s agricultural industry, dairy, and boost farming communities across upstate New York. The summit made it clear that we’re not about to let this opportunity pass us by. That’s a welcome change for New York government. It’s a move and a direction that’s going to be embraced by many small farmers locally and statewide.

As Governor Cuomo said, “As an entrepreneurial government, we brought all the stakeholders to the table to help the dairy industry and yogurt producers enhance their relationship so it is both beneficial to the companies and to the state. New York will do everything it can to facilitate a strong, prosperous partnership.”

I like that phrase, entrepreneurial government. I like the idea of governing it holds. It signals a commitment to recognizing economic opportunities and then harnessing the cooperation, the energy and all of the available resources to seize the opportunity.

Exhibit #2: A new law enacted earlier this year implements regulatory reforms and tax incentives to encourage the expansion of New York State's growing craft beer industry. Like yogurt, New York's craft brewing industry is growing by leaps and bounds. It already consists of more than 90 breweries, accounts for thousands of jobs and generates more than $200 million of annual economic activity.

So this year’s new law focused on how we can keep this single industry growing, as well as how we can do it in ways that enhance and strengthen the foundations of agriculture and tourism at the same time. Consequently one of the new law’s key provisions requires that in order to receive the new Farm Brewery license and its accompanying benefits, the beer must be made primarily from local, New York grown farm products in order to achieve the desired boost to agriculture as a whole.

We’ve long recognized that keeping New York’s number one industry, agriculture, strong is going to require creativity, diversity and innovation.

This year’s actions show that that’s happening now like never before.

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