March 26, 2013

In My Opinion: New budget shows state is listening


— Gov. Andrew Cuomo and our legislative leaders have agreed to a budget that is good for the state of New York and is good for the North Country.

The 2013-14 budget includes incentives and opportunities ideally suited for New York state’s rural communities and small cities to create new family-sustaining jobs.

It also bodes well for college students and a talented workforce who want to make New York state — with all of its abundant recreational venues — their permanent home.

Steady new investments coupled with steady tax cuts, like those included for small business, promote job growth and signal a pro-business climate to attract new private investment.

Through the Regional Council process of identifying community-based priorities to promote job growth, the North Country is ready to vie again for the third round of economic-development funding included in the budget.

The North Country Regional Economic Development Council’s plan activates tourism as a driver to diversify our economies and propagates an agricultural revolution. The state’s budget launches the Market NY initiative to buoy tourism and effectively market the produce and food grown and made in New York.

The seven-county North Country plan identified workforce training as a key element to build our region’s assets in aerospace, transit equipment, defense, biotech and manufacturing industries.

The introduction of the Next Generation Job Linkage program goes beyond generic job-training programs and pairs new employees with employers to define the job, the skills and training required.

A new hiring tax credit for returning soldiers transitioning to civilian work also advances our region’s association with Fort Drum, brings the proven skills of these men and women into private enterprise and honors their service to our nation.

Leveraging the North Country’s outstanding places of higher education and entrepreneurial spirit, the plan mobilizes the creativity and capacity of the graduates and diverse institutions from across the region. In 2013-14, the State University of New York 2020 program further connects economic development from private-sector job creation with academic excellence in the public-college campuses.

The North Country is already leading the state in attracting and nurturing entrepreneurial pioneers to innovative clusters as supported in its regional plan. It was, therefore, more than coincidental when Gov. Cuomo introduced the Innovation Hot Spots program in Potsdam last month as part of his budget address.

The 2013-2014 budget launches 10 designated hot spots across the state to affiliate with higher education institutions to help incubate new high-tech innovation. Entrepreneurial leaders and young talent within and well beyond New York’s borders took notice and are eager to get started.

Job creation is important, and so is family quality of life. The people of the North Country recognize their role as stewards of the splendorous Adirondack Park and the pristine waters that sustain recreation and natural habitat from the Thousand Islands to Lake Champlain.

Important investments in the Environmental Protection Fund, Cleaner Greener Communities and emphasis on green jobs continue in this budget cycle and make New York a destination for eco-minded job seekers and visitors alike.

Finally, the agreement that has been reached in Albany represents a model for the rest of the nation to consider. Beyond our elected officials’ ability to find consensus among diverse viewpoints and to be on track to pass a budget on time for the third year in a row, the items they are funding demonstrate they are listening to the people who reside in the state.

In the last two years, I have had the distinct honor and pleasure to meet many New Yorkers in numerous public forums and review their thoughtful contributions to the issues that impede progress as well as advance new ideas.

This budget and the programs it supports reflect that we are being heard.

Anthony G. Collins is president of Clarkson University and co-chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.