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Following exchange in Albany, others take sides on New York economic development policies

Debate over New York State's economic development policies, and their impact on Western New York, has spread beyond an exchange between a local state lawmaker and the head of a key development agency.  A statewide government watchdog agency and the Lieutenant Governor have also offered differing points of view.

Earlier in the week, local State Assemblyman Ray Walter raised concerns about the Cuomo Administration's policies during a legislative session in which Empire State Development president and chief executive officer Howard Zemsky was offering testimony.

The organization Reclaim New York Initiative, following that session, released a written statement blasting the administration for what it calls seven years of wasteful programs and suggests the governor get away from "failed gameshow economic policies."

"New Yorkers deserve answers as to what results we're getting for all this money," said Reclaim New York spokesman Doug Kellogg. "A report in the last year from the Upjohn Institute shows that New York's economic development programs are the most expensive and least effective in the entire country. And the spending is outpacing any other state by multiple of what other states spend."

Kellogg listed 43North, STARTUP NY and the state's role in attempting to lure Amazon's second continental headquarters to the region as examples of spending that outweighs results. The 43North competition, he suggested, has provided millions of dollars and tax breaks for startups that, once the tax-free period expires, leave the region.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, during a Buffalo-area visit this week, defended 43North as a program that lured young people to Buffalo, reversing a long trend of youth exodus. She called it unfair to judge the program based on a one- or two-year analysis.

She also took exception to suggestions that the administration's economic programs is failing to create an adequate number of jobs for the money invested.

"The story back when I was growing up was 'last person here, turn out the lights," she said. "I don't know where people would have been to not conclude today that Buffalo is in a far better place. All this armchair quarterbacking does not recognize the fact that we are winning this game. It is a long-term strategy and we are already seeing the benefits."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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