In the land of milk and Cuomo, opportunity flows

Take a bow: The Ronkonkoma Hub project (Phase 2 model shown) is among the many (many, many) statewide projects noted in Empire State Development's first-ever annual report.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Unemployment’s down, personal income’s up and private-sector jobs across New York State have never been more plentiful.

These statistical truths and more color Empire State Development Corp.’s 2017 Annual Report, a 128-page economic-development bouquet wherein the Fortune 500 flock to Cuomoland and a river of golden opportunity flows from the gleaming capital – more specifically, $1.8 billion in ED grants, loans and tax credits, dispersed by Albany over the 12 months ended March 31, 2017.

That makes the report, upon its release, nearly a year out of date. But even these latest-available-numbers showcase some handsome socioeconomic progress – the reality of doing business in New York State may be slightly less whiz-bang, but ESD’s numbers don’t lie.

The annual report breaks down that chunky $1.8 billion total in numerous ways, highlighting programs like the annual Regional Economic Development Council competition, the Buffalo Billion (billed as “Buffalo Niagara’s Strategic Plan for Prosperity”) and various other statewide and regional initiatives.

It also notes one-off state investments in specific projects: Another $212 million allocated through the New NY Broadband Program, $38 million for Plattsburgh International Airport through the Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization Competition, $4.5 million in “I Love New York” marketing funds divvied among 62 counties.

Everything from a Genesee River waterfront-reclamation project to the redevelopment of downtown Westbury to a Monroe Community College workforce-development workshop gets a mention, giving ESD’s first-ever comprehensive annual review a strongly self-congratulatory tone (and plenty of length – learn about the Glens Falls Farmers’ Market Association and much, much more).

Among the Long Island-focused state investments of the past 12 months earning nods in the report were the ESD-led Belmont Park redevelopment plan; the Ronkonkoma Hub project, which has benefitted from $55 million in direct ESD funding (so far); a new Hospitality and Tourism Management program at St. Joseph’s College, backed by a $611,000 ESD capital grant; and $27.5 million in performance-based Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits for Lake Success-based investor-communications ace Broadridge Financial Solutions, among many others.

But the blaring trumpets are occasionally drowned out by some rock-solid economic-development statistics, including several positive statewide job trends highlighted in the report. For instance: New York’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate hit 4.5 percent in November 2017, down from 9 percent in 2010, with a record-high 8.18 million private-sector jobs recorded.

Statewide workers’ $1.21 trillion in 2017 personal income (estimated at the end of the third quarter of the year) also set a new record, according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis numbers crunched for the report.

Other cool factoids from Empire State Development’s 2017 Annual report:

·       There are now 8,500-plus Minority- and Women-Owned Business Entities in the certified NYS directory
·       New York State still ranks No. 1 nationally for number of Fortune 500 corporate headquarters
·       From 2012-2017, ESD’s Division of Small Business and Technology Development facilitated more than $1 billion in loans, helped create/retain more than 95,000 jobs and helped launch 3,834 business, generating more than $8 billion in economic activity
·       Seventy-two television series applied to the NYS Film Tax Credit Program in 2017, projecting an estimated spend of $2.9 billion and 160,000-plus hires
·       New York State welcomed more than 239 million visitors in 2016, up more than 18 percent from 2011
·       Visitor spending increased 20 percent between those same years
·       Between 2010 and 2016, the average annual wage in New York increased 3.1 percent to $67,941

Howard Zemsky: Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.

Even Empire State Development’s much-maligned Start-Up NY Program got some positive ink, with the report showing that as of 2016 (the most recent completed dataset for the program), 141 Start-Up NY businesses had created a total of 1,135 jobs and invested in the neighborhood of $31 million, in exchange for just $3.9 million in tax benefits.

Start-Up NY added 67 new businesses in 2017, but their job-creation and regional-investment tallies have not yet been calculated, according to the report.

Howard Zemsky, ESD’s president and CEO, said his corporation’s first-ever annual report proves Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s economic-development strategies are not only providing short-term boosts, but “planting seeds for sustainable economic prosperity over the long term.”

“There are no quick fixes for regions that have suffered decades of decline,” Zemsky said. “However, by implementing Gov. Cuomo’s plan to revitalize downtowns, grow innovation, train the workforce and invest with businesses that grow jobs, we have created a robust recipe for success.

“The results of that success are being felt every day, throughout the state.”