By GREGORY ZELLER //
The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council is back on top, once again ranked as a “Top Performer” in Albany’s annual REDC sweepstakes with a hefty $84.3 million haul.
That’s terrific news for the “priority” and “regionally significant” projects on the LIREDC’s 2017 wish list, which included funding for a waterfront revitalization effort in Greenport, a new technology-focused Digital Ballpark business incubator in the Wyandanch Village development and 31 other projects that, according to the regional council, will collectively create 270-plus jobs and help retain more than 500 existing ones.
It’s also another feather in the cap shared by the LIREDC’s co-chairmen, Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz and Long Island Association President Kevin Law, who’ve now led the regional council – one of 10 across the state that compete annually in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s economic-development Olympics – to “Top Performer” finishes in five of seven yearly rounds.
All told, some $800 million in grants and state tax credits will be distributed through the 2017 REDC awards by the Empire State Development Corp., the state’s main economic-development engine. Since the annual competition kicked off in 2011, including this year’s haul, the LIREDC has won a total of $570.8 million to support more than 600 distinct business-building projects.
Delivering the good news from the Albany Capital Center – “one of the Capital Region’s economic-development successes,” according to Empire State Development Corp. President and CEO Howard Zemsky – Cuomo noted the REDC strategy was designed to reverse decades of Albany’s “ad-hoc approach” to statewide economic development.
“We said to every region, ‘You need a business plan,’” the governor noted “‘You don’t need a government plan. You don’t need a political plan. What is your business plan? What can you make? What can you sell? What will make you economically competitive?’
“And the answer is different all around the state.”
Referencing an “economic civil war,” Cuomo devoted the bulk of his address Wednesday to railing against the GOP federal tax overhaul – particularly in light of Albany’s constant efforts to improve statewide economic-development prospects by countering New York’s stratospheric tax rates.
Those efforts, including the seven years of progress funded through the REDC competition, are endangered by the proposed federal plan, which among other things includes a provision that would eliminate New York State tax deductions from federal returns – akin to raising NYS property taxes by 20 percent or more, according to the governor.
Cuomo also defended the REDC competition itself against critics who say it’s part of a spend-first agenda that’s running up an enormous tab.
“New York spends less money than it has in recorded history, period,” the governor said. “Our budget goes up 2 percent per year, period.
“Democrats can count too, you know.”
Touting statistics like the lowest statewide manufacturing tax rate since 1917 and 8 million-plus private-sector jobs – most ever in state history – Cuomo said the REDC competition, as part of a larger business-development strategy, is one of the primary reasons “New York is more business-friendly than ever before.”
Long Island’s strong performance – which bounces back from 2016’s disappointing, non-“Top Performer,” $62 million haul – is a true vindication of the LIREDC’s efforts, according to Law.
“I want to thank Gov. Cuomo for recognizing Long Island as one of the best places to invest state resources again,” the co-chairman told Innovate LI. “These monies will support project from Montauk to Manhasset and will leverage hundreds of millions of private dollars in our region.”
Other projects on the LIREDC’s 2017 list – which was part of “A Region in Motion,” the 2017 progress report the regional council delivered in October to Zemsky – include new research facilities for Stony Brook University, Garden City’s Adelphi University and Manhasset’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, as well as funding for a potential Wyandanch YMCA.
Downtown-redevelopment efforts in Lindenhurst, Kings Park, Huntington, Port Jefferson and Riverhead were also prioritized by the LIREDC, along with a terminal-modernization project at the Town of Islip’s Long Island MacArthur Airport and a revitalization of the fire-damaged Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center.
Other Top Performers in the 2017 competition include the REDCs representing Central New York ($86.4 million), the Mohawk Valley ($85.5 million), the Capital Region ($85 million) and the Mid-Hudson Valley ($84.8 million)
Rounding out the 2017 stipends were awards for the Western New York ($68.8 million), Southern Tier ($67.3 million), North Country ($64.9 million), New York City ($64.8 million) and Finger Lakes ($63.9 million) regional councils.
Zemsky, who likened the REDC competition to pulling different communities “off the bench and into the game of economic development,” said the annual funding program has “made a bigger difference than anything we could have imagined.”
“The way Uber has disrupted the transportation business, the way the Internet disrupted the publishing business, the way Amazon is disrupting retail, the governor disrupted decades-long failed policies,” Zemsky told the Albany Capital Center audience. “He replaced the one-size-fits-all Albany-centric model with this strategic regional approach we call the REDC.
“Our investments in innovation, in workforce, in downtown revitalization and all the different sectors of the economy … have brought us record employment and the lowest unemployment we have had for a very long time,” the ESD chairman added. “All while planting seeds for real and continued and transformational and sustainable economic change in this state.”