March 9, 2004
Assembly majority proposes $525 million economic-development plan
The Democratic Assembly majority has proposed an economic-development initiative that would the extend the state's Power for Jobs program, change the state's economic-development administration, impose new restrictions on the state's Empire Zone program, promote strategic industry investments, and invest in workforce education and training focused on high-tech jobs of the future.
The package, which represents an investment of nearly $525 million, would provide "comprehensive, effective and long-term blueprint for building a stronger economy and creating more jobs in New York State," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in a release.
Echoing many different studies by The Business Council and its research affiliate, The Public Policy Institute, Silver noted that New York has trailed the nation in job growth over the last nine years, and that merely keeping pace with the national growth rate would have given New York an additional 432,900 jobs.
"That translates into a staggering $20 billion in lost wages for New Yorkers due to the state's inability to keep pace with the rest of the nation. To put that into context, $20 billion is greater than the total combined wages for the state's Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and North Country regions for 2002," he said.
Economic development should have "a strategic, market-driven and accountable approach" that emphasizes unique regional industries and assets, including colleges and universities, tourism and agricultural businesses, the Assembly release said.
"We welcome the Assembly's ideas on fostering job growth in New York State," said Business Council President Daniel B. Walsh. "We have already shared with the Assembly the business community's perspectives on what issues most affect New York's job-growth prospectshigh workers' comp costs, the nation's heaviest overall tax burden, high energy costs, and high costs of health insurance, among others.
"We look forward to working with the Assembly, as well as Governor Pataki and the Senate, to address all these issues in a way that helps New York's business community regain momentum in the quest for job growth."
The Assembly proposal would:
- Extend the state's Power for Jobs program, under which employers receive reduced-rate power in exchange for a pledge to use it to create or retain jobs. The Assembly said it also plans to propose reforms to the program, but its release did not elaborate.
- Impose new restrictions on the the state's Empire Zone program. The changes would affect the administrative oversight of the program. For example, local zone administrators would be required to track all certified zone businesses, report on program performance, and verify information reported by employers that get zone benefits. The Assembly plan would also focus economic benefits on economically distressed regions.
- Establish a "Make-It-Here" manufacturing initiative that would focus on small manufacturers and niche markets, flexible manufacturing and networking, research and development, export assistance, and continuing access to reduced-rate power through Power for Jobs. The Assembly release does not mention The Business Council's top manufacturing-related priority, enactment of the single-sales factor tax reform.
- Invest in high-tech and biotechnology/biomedical research and commercialization projects provide funding to help turn scientific innovations into commercial opportunities.
- Continue capital support for high-tech research at academic institutions, and create a Technology Commercialization Capital Fund to foster investments in business incubators for start-ups and "accelerator" facilities for later-stage companies.
- Create a 12-member, private-sector Economic Policy Coordination Board to assess the effects of the state's investments in research and development and business-specific economic-development programs. The board's main responsibility would be developing a strategic plan for economic development based on regional strengths and weaknesses and best opportunities for growth. It would also establish funding priorities with a preference for small businesses and women and minority-owned businesses.
- Replace Empire State Development's current board of directors with a new control board with one member each appointed by the Governor, the Assembly speaker, and the Senate majority leader.
- Invest in programs to encourage schools to develop programs that give youths opportunities in various fields, including science, technology, and community service, and invest in vocational education and support programs that can train individuals for occupations that do not require a post-secondary education experience. Resources would be directed to high-school vocational education programs and BOCES programs that emphasize technology education and the integration of new technologies in traditional industries, and in apprenticeship programs.
- Increase the focus on internships and practicums in community colleges.
- Promote community-based development by continuing support for the Minority and Women-Owned Business Development Lending Program, the Urban and Community Development Program, the Rural Revitalization Program, the Small Business Assistance Program, tourism promotion, and a new agriculture initiative.
The Assembly release on its proposal is posted at assembly.state.ny.us/Press/20040308/.