The Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council, co-chaired by President David Skorton, presented the final version of its strategic plan to stimulate job creation and economic growth to New York State officials in Albany on Tuesday.
Calling the plan “comprehensive, competitive, collaborative and catalytic,” Tom Tranter, president and CEO of Corning Enterprises and the council’s other co-chair, said that the council had clearly embraced the charge by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) to develop a plan to foster economic growth in the Southern Tier.
According to Tranter, the plan proposes an investment of $122 million over a five year period that will result in 12,000 new jobs and will save an additional 3,000 jobs. The council estimates that 150 new businesses will be created and $650 million in private sector investment will be leveraged.
Tranter said the plan would also lead to ancillary benefits, such as energy savings for homes and small businesses and savings in Medicare costs.
The Southern Tier council is one of 10 such regional development councils that Cuomo created to use public funding to improve New York State’s troubled economy. Cuomo has set aside $200 million to be allocated to the 10 councils to implement their plans. The four councils with the best proposals will each be awarded $40 million, with the remaining $40 million divided among the remaining six councils.
The Southern Tier council began formulating the proposal in September, according to Tranter. The council held seven formal meetings as well as six community forums throughout the region during the process. The allocations decisions will be announced in December.
Skorton said that the council was important in bringing the Southern Tier community together to foster job creation and economic growth.
“We took the governor’s charge seriously in developing a true strategic plan in the region, and in our region, at least, many of these communities were not used to thinking of themselves as part of a region. This process really brought us together, and I think that we’ll be together and network in the long haul,” Skorton said.
According to Skorton, the September floods that caused massive damage to the Southern Tier region reinforced the council’s commitment to create economic growth.
“There’s a real hunger to not be viewed as sort of an underdog at all because of being upstate … There was a feeling of rolling up our sleeves and working together no matter what,” Skorton said. “My own perspective is that the flood just made people’s wills stronger to work together as a region.”
As a result of the floods, community revitalization projects — budgeted at $20 million — became the council’s top priority, Tranter said.
Skorton said that Cornell was “honored” to be part of the council, saying that while Cornell has a presence in every New York county and all five New York City boroughs through Cornell Cooperative Extension, “this is our home area.” Cornell is the largest employer in Upstate New York.
The Southern Tier is composed of eight counties near or on the New York-Pennsylvania border and includes the cities of Elmira, Corning, Binghamton and Ithaca.
At the presentation, Skorton emphasized the importance of workforce development and retention in promoting economic growth in the region. He said retaining talented workers was one of the largest problems facing New York State, and in particular rural regions.
“I think it’s going to be people, people, people that will pull the state up from where it’s at right now. Workforce development combined with connectivity [and …] with the on-the-ground, surprising level of advanced manufacturing in the region, we think this can be a way for our state to lead as a model for how to bring workforce and talent production together,” Skorton said.
Governor Cuomo said the regional strategic plans were beyond his expectations.
“This has worked, in my opinion, even better than we had hoped. The level of excitement all around the state, the level of competitiveness, has been fantastic,” Cuomo said. “The problem we’re going to have is all the applications are so good and so strong that the competition is way up there.”
Original Author: David Marten