Cuomo: Your billions for Upstate are paying off

Cuomo: Swimming in smart investments.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took to the Huffington Post on Wednesday to extol what he called “irrefutable” evidence that Buffalo, Rochester and the rest of Upstate New York are on the economic mend.

While acknowledging that his plan for an Upstate renaissance had been widely considered a fool’s errand, Cuomo said “any objective source would admit significant progress has been made. Even the skeptics are startled.”

“Just yesterday the Buffalo News Editorial Board said, “While Buffalonians have never been accused of being wildly optimistic, especially since the end of the heyday of Bethlehem Steel, even the most jaded has to admit change is in the air.”

Cuomo suggested similar change is afoot in Rochester, where “economic development officials and insiders are bordering on euphoric,” and Utica, which has added 2,500 jobs in nanotechnology and lured back General Electric, which left the city decades ago. The firm plans to add 500 jobs this time, according to Cuomo.

The governor acknowledged that progress has come at a steep price, including a controversial Billion for Buffalo package and more than $1.5 billion in economic development awards for the region, the largest investment there since the construction of the Erie Canal.

But, he added, “I firmly believe the state shortchanged Upstate New York for many years, and I believe it was shortsighted. When New York City had financial trouble in the 1970s, Upstate bailed it out because at the end of the day we are one state, one community and one balance sheet.”

Problems remain, the governor conceded, including spotty economic growth and a still-lagging Southern Tier. But he said the state’s regional economic development awards program, which will announce $500 million in new grants to the state’s 10 regions later this year, will continue to ensure that “taxpayers are getting their money’s worth and the regions have plans that are stronger with a greater chance of success.”

“One thing is certain,” Cuomo added. “We have proven that there is no reason for despair in Upstate New York. Communities that are committed, unified, and capably led can achieve remarkable progress in a relatively short period of time.”

“I believe in Upstate New York and, more importantly, Upstate New Yorkers should believe too,” he said, “because the best is yet to be.”