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Meet the New Bosses

We found ourselves at the bar of a progressive little restaurant on Delaware Avenue Tuesday evening, chatting with a small circle of the sort of young progressives you’d expect to find there. That day, Governor Andrew Cuomo had come to speak at Roswell Park about his new regional economic development councils, which will compete for as much as $1 billion in state funding based on comprehenisive economic development plans submitted by each council, and to name the members of Western New York’s councils.

Most of the young activists at the bar reserved judgment on the efficacy of Cuomo’s plan, which seems to be to flank (instead of to reform) the local IDAs and other business development entities that seem so often to compete against one another, to the detriment of the region as a whole. But they were disillusioned by many of the names on Cuomo’s list of regional leaders. They seemed okay with developer Howard Zemsky and UB President Satish Tripathi as co-chairs, but the rest? With a few exceptions—Jeff Belt of the former New Millennium Group and PUSH Buffalo’s Aaron Bartley (“…obviously there to shut us up,” said one woman)—the names read like an all-star roster of the usual suspects, of whom the most discouraging were Robert Gioia of the Oishei Foundation, Andrew Rudnick of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, and Tom Kucharski and Buffalo Niagara Enterprise. Add in the obligatory county and city chiefs, and you’ve got a roster of status quo experts charged with doing something new: creating regional planning goals and identifying projects that meet those goals.

There will be a 10 regional economic development councils across the state, which the governor is unrolling all this week.

-geoff kelly

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