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September 21, 2006

Sanford: 'We have momentum, and I'm eager to build on progress'

Linda Sanford, senior vice president for IBM and co-chairman of The Business Council, urged the Council to maintain its focus on a long-term innovation-driven agenda for growth in New York State.

“We do not want the urgent priorities in Albany to cause us to lose sight of the very important long-term, multi-year agenda we need to pursue if we want to make New York the hub of innovation in the 21st century,” Sanford said in remarks Sept. 20 at the Council’s Annual Meeting.

She cited a National Innovation Initiative launched several years ago by the Council on Competitiveness that urged a national innovation strategy based on fostering investment, developing infrastructure, and identifying and nurturing talent.

She pledged that the Council in the year ahead “ will assemble a multi-company, multi-region task force to draft a broad, long-term plan of action built around these three pillars. We will be the first state in the country to use the NII framework to develop an innovation strategy.”

The task force will consider how the state can invest in and manage economic-development funds, and what tax incentives can best attract businesses.

The task force will also consider a range of infrastructure-related issues, including developing lower cost, more efficient energy systems, enhancing our fiberoptic infrastructure, and developing more regional economic hubs such as the Capital Region’s nanotech initiative.

And the task force will also consider a range of education issues revolving around how New York State can prepare “the next generation of innovators.”

Ms. Sanford praised state legislators for approving funding for college scholarships for prospective math and science teachers, and noted that The Business Council had met with state Education Commissioner Richard Mills and other education leaders to discuss a range of related issues.

“Making New York the innovation leader should be more than an initiative of the Business Council,” Sanford said. “It’s a noble cause for all New Yorkers to take up as we look to build a better future for our state.”

As the Council pursues this long-term innovation agenda, she noted, it will face a difficult year ahead on its conventional advocacy issues. She cited the looming state budget deficit, controversy over school funding in New York City, and the ongoing debate over the size and funding of New York’s hospital sector.

“With the budget crisis, we’re anticipating more action around cost-of-business issues than we’ve seen in the past decade,” she said. “Our legislative team will be engaged on many of these issues, working hard to see that any new policies and legislation make the state more attractive to business growth, not less.”

Also at the Council’s Annual Meeting, Robert Catell, chairman and CEO of KeySpan, accepted the Corning Award for Excellence.

Catell said he was “deeply honored to be included in the diverse group of men and women to receive this award.”

“The challenges we face are very real,” Catell said. “We need to worth together to tackle the tough issues to keep New York competitive and growing.”

Catell also urged Council members to remember that “our prized capital is people. It’s people that make an ordinary institutions into something special.”