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Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Councils Sound Good, But Will it Work?

Is faster always better? Yes, according to Governor Cuomo. The governor recently rolled out his speedy plan to implement the regional economic development councils, the flagship statewide program for job creation.

On paper, the plan sounds good. According to the released guidebook, the competitive model will include 10 regional councils and give out $40 million out of the $200 million of incentives in capital grants and tax credits to each of the four regions with the best strategic plans, as decided by a review committee. Each regional council is to consult with public and private stakeholders to come up with a plan by November 14, 2011. However, the model fails to address the past mistakes of statewide and local economic development agencies, which gave out the $8 billion in subsidies to companies with questionable returns. Where are the “clawback” measures that will return the misused taxpayer dollars? What is assuring that good jobs are created and not merely shifted from region to region?

Furthermore, the short timeline in which the development of strategic plans is expected to take place is troubling. Much community outreach and public engagement is necessary for the councils to develop a plan that truly advances the public good, and considering the size of these regions, the time period is too short. There are still many unknowns, including the appointments to the councils, but one can only hope that the regional economic development councils will not be yet another failed attempt at economic development where local taxpayers never see the returns of their investment.

David Huang, Cornell University ’14, School of Industrial and Labor Relations

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