Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo created 10 Regional Economic Development Councils to spur private-sector investment and job creation and to better coordinate existing economic-development efforts.
The North Country’s Regional Council generated a lot of excitement and valuable discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of our region and the direction development should take in the North Country.
The largest of New York’s 10 regions, the North Country has some definite challenges, including the lowest incomes in the state. Our unemployment and underemployment are also high — official unemployment in the North Country is 9.8 percent versus 8.2 percent in New York state.
The Regional Council’s strategic plan identified that one of our critical issues was attracting and retaining young workers and that a major strategy would be developing a strong workforce development system. Our region was one of four that was selected as a “best strategic plan” region, and we were awarded more than $100 million for 70 funding requests.
Bombardier is the recipient of one of the largest grants — $2.5 million — to help with the expansion of their transportation manufacturing facility in Plattsburgh. On the surface, this seems like a win-win: the Regional Council uses our tax dollars to help a company in the hard-hit manufacturing sector expand, and in return, we get good local jobs.
But, as is often the case with big publicly subsidized development deals, scratch the surface and you find some big flaws. Bombardier is projected to create 150 jobs and an additional 30 to 40 construction jobs on its initial expansion. But it was recently revealed that the company is using an contractor from Vermont for the construction jobs, and many of the permanent jobs will be temporary, hourly jobs through an employment agency.
To be sure, our region needs the jobs. But we aren’t getting what we paid for if out-of-state workers are getting the jobs.