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Central NY leaders get to work on entry for economic development competition

It's only been a little over a week since the state legislature approved an upstate economic development competition in the budget, but central New York community leaders are already beginning to try to figure out their entry. At stake is $500 million from the state to help revitalize the economy in the manner of the Buffalo Billion in western New York.

The Central New York Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) has started the process of deciding what to include in its proposal. The council's launch event Thursday invited ideas from the community about what to include in this region's entry. The competition pits seven upstate regions against each other to split up $1.5 billion.

Rob Simpson, the president of Centerstate CEO, says they are still waiting to hear more details from the governor's office about the parameters for the contest. But Simpson says they know that they need to come up with ideas that will create jobs and attract private investment.

"We also understand that what we're not being asked for is a $500 million list of projects. That's been very clearly articulated to us. There will be opportunity throughout this to get those projects that fit with our strategy funded, but at this point we believe we are being tasked with articulating a long-term vision for this region," said Simpson.

But the Central New York REDC is not starting from scratch. The group has long worked together to submit proposals for yearly economic development grants from the state. Simpson called the CNY REDC the most successful of any of the councils, and that's why they're ready to get started on this proposal.

"We're not waiting," said Simpson. "We have a shared vision in this community that we've clearly articulated. We've been working together for years to build that vision, around rebuilding our main streets, around building an innovation economy, about supporting our manufacturers and our agricultural community. We want to pursue that vision."

Simpson says the three goals for that vision are to create jobs, leverage private sector investment and engage the public and community in a meaningful way.

And, the council has identified 10 areas, including economic sectors, they could, or should be included in the competition proposal.

-- urban cores and main streets
-- information & cyber security
-- unmanned aerial vehicles
-- financial services
-- agriculture
-- health & environment
-- tourism
-- innovation ecosystem
-- transportation & logistics infrastructure
-- jobs for all including under served communities

When asked what the difference is between this competition and other economic development awards from the state, Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud said the competition and the award are at a magnitude unseen before.

"This is a remarkable opportunity for this region, one that many of us have not seen in our lifetime. We know that the fundamental issue facing the central New York region is our economy, and the need to invest in that economy and get it moving again, so we can improve the quality of life for this region's residents," said Simpson.

The other regions competing are Mid-Hudson, the Capital Region, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.

"If we're going to win this competition, and it is a competition, our region needs to work together," said Syverud.

The money for the competition comes from the more than $5 billion the state collected in settlements from banks regarding the housing crisis.

The deadline for the entry in the competition has not been set yet, but Simpson says it will likely be the end of the summer.

The competition has been controversial among some lawmakers who believe economic development money should be distributed fairly among the state's regions. But, those who support the competition say all regions will still get annual funds for development.