Some Upstate Bright Spots

George Winner

May 11, 2007

We just need to keep working at it.

The past few weeks have been very positive for this region’s economic future. We need to stay focused, like never before, on turning around the upstate economy. But it’s important to celebrate successes when they come around too.

So let’s remember a few of our recent local victories:

> Corning, Inc., a worldwide leader in research and development, announces a major six-year expansion of its Sullivan Park Research and Development campus in Erwin. It’s anticipated that the move could create hundreds of new jobs. Good jobs. As well, it’s going to position Corning, Inc. for a new generation of growth and success;

> SYNTHES USA, one of the world’s premiere manufacturers of orthopaedic instruments and implants, begins a more than $8-million expansion of its manufacturing facility in Big Flats. It’s going to create approximately 100 new manufacturing jobs. Once again, good, meaningful jobs;

> The Horseheads-based General Revenue Corporation, a subsidiary of Sallie Mae, which over the past two years has brought more than 400 jobs to the region, announces another expansion that could create upwards of 125 new positions; and

> A California development firm purchases the former Toshiba/Westinghouse building in Horseheads, with plans for upgrading it in an effort to attract additional businesses. The building’s sole current tenant, Eaton Electrical Corporation, is committed to retaining a minimum of 220 employees over the next several years.

All of the above have been headlines that warrant top billing. They’re developments -- each of them, by the way, achieved through a strong public-private partnership -- that represent exactly what we’re talking about when we talk about reviving the upstate economy. This is the kind of economic development that can create a solid, secure economic foundation for the entire Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region -- and even, as success breeds more success, help to begin a ripple effect across upstate. New manufacturing jobs represent meaningful opportunities for our local workers and their families, and it simply has to be the No. 1 priority of New York government to help create an economic climate that produces more victories like these.

My Senate colleagues and I have staked out the creation of a stronger economic climate as a top priority for the remainder of the 2007 legislative session. We remain interested in restructuring New York’s economic development programs so that they better reflect the state’s economic diversity and respond more effectively to regional, targeted job growth needs. There’s been a great deal of discussion about an upstate turnaround, but very little action by comparison. Here’s a sampling of some of the actions we’d like to see:

> Upstate investments. Many of the victories that we achieve for upstate development, including our recent achievements here locally, develop and advance as the result of a partnership between private businesses and state and local governments. State capital investments often play a central role, and we need more of an emphasis on upstate capital investments;

> Small business assistance. The Senate continues to push for much more tax relief and other assistance targeted specifically to small businesses -- in my opinion, the best hope for laying a foundation that will bolster the fortunes of many upstate communities;

> Energy costs. The Senate continues to pursue the establishment of an energy tax credit to help small businesses afford rising energy costs. We must address, as well, the continuation of the all-important Power for Jobs program which provides low-cost economic development power for so many manufacturers. The program is set to expire later this year. Renewing it will be a top Senate priority in these final weeks of the 2007 session; and

> Health insurance for small businesses. The Senate also continues to explore ways to help small businesses afford the high cost of insurance coverage for their employees.

What else would we like to see on the horizon? How about tort reform? We estimate that the lawsuit industry costs New Yorkers $14 billion annually, drives up property taxes, drives up business costs and makes New York less competitive. Sensible reforms are needed to get it under control.

In short, the upstate revival agenda remains a long and substantive one. The victories that we’ve seen here locally, true bright spots on the upstate landscape, can only make us hopeful and determined to do more. We just need to keep working at it.