In what could be interpreted as a slap against government economic development initiatives, the Westchester County Association has rolled out an idea long overdue to help companies struggling to find a business climate that is inviting and nurturing...
|Announcing The Blueprint Accelerator Network|
Robert Weisz, chairman and CEO of RPW Group Inc. in Rye Brook and a WCA board member, may have summed it up best.
“This initiative is an initiative that is sponsored 100 percent by the business community. We are here to help businesses, not asking for help from the government. We are not putting any taxpayers’ money to work – we are doing it sponsored exclusively by the business community.”
He called the accelerator a “turning point in the history of Westchester County.”
We certainly hope so.
While those wearing the political stripe continue to puff out their chests and thumb their lapels in pride when pointing to growth in the biotech sector by such companies as Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Acorda Therapeutics, the growth of those companies has been largely organic.
Before we turn this into a finger-pointing exercise as to whether government does too little or too much, let us re-engage a debate that we’ve written about before on these pages. That is, why do Westchester and the rest of the Hudson Valley continue to be no-man’s land when it comes to state economic initiatives?
From a geographic, if not historical perspective, downstate has a hazy demarcation that starts somewhere south of the Albany County line on the west side of the Hudson River and south of the Rensselaer County line on the east side of the Hudson. Politically, though, downstate starts south of the Westchester County line.
Upstate has largely become the tricities – Albany, Schenectady and Troy. Reaping the largesse of state and federal funds is Albany. The nanoscale project at SUNY Albany is growing immensely. A large building that will house the nanoscale fabrication extension is rising quickly on Washington Avenue Extension across from the glass-encased College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. An oversized walkway connects the two. The new building will be home to Global 450, which is made up of IBM, Intel, Global Foundries, Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp.
The College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering is a magnet for investment – $14 billion to date. It has more than 300 international corporate partners.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has crowed about this economic machine.
“We created the center of the universe for nanotechnology right here in Albany. Companies are coming in, and now they’re flocking here … It’s just a win-win.”
To say the least.
However, the trickledown effect is yet to be seen in our region.
In September, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state had entered into agreements providing for investments worth a total of $4.4 billion over the next five years from the five Global 450 companies to create the next generation of computer chip technology.
The press release at the time stated that the investment would result in the “creation and retention of approximately 6,900 jobs.” That number included 2,500 additional high-technology positions comprising: 800 at the Albany complex; 450 at SUNY Institute of Technology in Utica; 300 at the College of Nanoscale’s Smart System Technology & Commercialization Center in Canandaigua, and 950 split among IBM’s Yorktown Heights and East Fishkill locations.
As with many announcements, timelines and means of funding for the state’s portion of the deal were for the most part absent.
That is what’s so refreshing about the WCA’s Blueprint Accelerator Network – there are real money and services available and a timeline has been established.
If this region between Albany and New York City is to remain a no-man’s land in attracting and garnering the kind of economic incentives that the nanoscale complex is receiving, then let the private sector show the way.
At a time when Westchester and the Hudson Valley are losing young people to regions of the nation that are cost-of-living friendlier, this plan looks better than the gossamer-spun promises from the government.
We will remain watchful of its progress and hope that it exceeds expectations.