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September 22, 2005

Linda Sanford, new Council chair, outlines 'innovation agenda'

New York State can address its business-climate challenges and position itself to be a leader in future technology-based growth by embracing a comprehensive "innovation agenda," The Council’s chairman told business and government leaders at The Council’s Annual meeting.

"It’s urgent and necessary that we begin moving aggressively – and immediately — to restore New York as a leader in innovation, entrepreneurship and economic progress," Linda Sanford, a senior vice president at IBM, said September 21 after being elected Council chairman for the next 12 months.

"And I believe as business leaders, it’s our responsibility to do our part to make this happen."

Part of New York’s challenge lies in familiar business climate issues, she said. "Excessive regulations and taxes and health care and energy costs are a huge burden and make us uncompetitive versus many other states," she said.

Besides addressing these issues, she said, New York must help its businesses take advantage of globalization, do more to revitalize the Upstate economy, and foster more partnerships among universities and businesses "to better leverage the vast intellectual capital residing in New York."

And the state should let regional private-sector boards, rather than political decisions in Albany, guide its economic-development investment policies, she added.

Innovation, she said, is "the right capstone" for these priorities.

"The Business Council has the ability to develop and drive a strategic agenda for innovation in New York State," she said. "One that can be very effective and improve the climate for business across the state – and put us ahead of the curve in the emerging innovation economy."

Today the basis of innovation is focused less on things, and more on ideas, collaboration and expertise, Sanford said. With the Internet, open trade agreements, and vastly improved education systems in many developing nations, the United State no longer has a corner on innovation.

"We have been the leading economy for more than a century," Sanford said. "But no country has a divine right to economic prosperity. If we remain complacent and content with past glories we will soon be falling behind."

New York should build the investment climate and the institutional infrastructure needed to ensure that its workforce, companies, and research institutions are focused on the challenge of innovation, she said. The state must also continue pursuing education reform and try to double the percentage of math, science, and engineering graduates from New York universities by 2010, she said.

New Yorkers may not know exactly which industry or industries will create "the next boom of job creation," Sanford said, but she’s "confident in predicting that innovation will be the engine. Innovation will be what creates high-paying, high-skill jobs for New York and provides all of New York with rising standards of living.