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Advocates Present Vision and Recommendations for Regional Economic Development Councils

Albany, NY– Labor, community and faith leaders from the statewide Getting Our Money’s Worth coalition gathered today at the Capitol to call on political leaders to implement better solutions to the jobs crisis. They came together to release their own recommendations in the form of a new report that details how soon-to-be-created Regional Economic Development Councils can be part of the solution.

The new report, Seizing the Moment: How Regional Economic Development Councils Can Build a Good Jobs Economy, calls on Regional Councils to help transform the state’s economic development programs from wasteful corporate giveaways into coordinated and outcome-oriented job creation programs that deliver good jobs and broad community benefits.

“With unemployment stubbornly high and inequality growing in the state, Regional Councils must improve current economic development efforts and ensure that public investments are well-spent,” said Matt Ryan, Executive Director of ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York. “We need action from our political leadership to chart a new course for economic development that creates the good jobs that New Yorkers desperately need.”

With the state legislature one week away from adjourning, Governor Cuomo and the Legislature have failed to put the issue of jobs on the state agenda. Regional Economic Development Councils, proposed as the new administration’s flagship jobs program, have yet to be created and few details have emerged about their future mission and operation.

“New York currently spends over $8 billion a year on corporate tax breaks in the name of economic development, and we don’t have nearly enough to show for it,” explained Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action. “In these tough times and with more job and service cuts on the horizon, new Regional Councils need to deliver real benefits to our communities.”

The new report discusses prior attempts to streamline New York’s myriad state, local, public and quasi-public economic development entities, noting initiatives spearheaded by both former Governor Mario Cuomo and Eliot Spitzer, and posits that New York cannot afford for the new Regional Councils to become another experiment that fails to produce results.

Seizing the Moment attempts to map the complex and balkanized economic development system in the state and pays particular attention to the failure of subsidy programs, noting a failure of such programs to measure success based on outcomes rather than on promises.

“I’m recently unemployed and can tell you the difference it makes when subsidized projects create local jobs,” said Susan Clark, a journeywoman sheet metal worker from Renssaeler. “I had a good job on the Global Foundries project in Malta eighty miles away, but I can’t find a job at the subsidized FedEx project four miles from my house because it hasn’t created many jobs for local people.”

The report features several positive and negative case studies within New York, and draws from best practices across the country, to make the case that it is possible to improve current economic development efforts. The report contains concrete recommendations that emphasize using performance standards, accountability measures and transparency reforms as baseline criteria for evaluating development projects, and also puts forward a vision for high-performance regional economic development that focuses on creating sustainable, long-term strategic plans to improve our regional economies.

Reverend Brooke Newell of the Adirondack Labor-Religion Coalition stated, “Our state’s economic development policies must shift to reflect what the majority of New Yorkers want and need—greater equity, opportunity and quality of life.”

The Getting Our Money’s Worth Coalition is a broad coalition of public policy experts, government watchdogs, labor unions, community and religious organizations, and concerned small business owners, workers and taxpayers. The statewide coalition is anchored by ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York and the Coalition for Economic Justice