State to Collaborate with North Country Regional Economic Development Council to Revitalize Saranac Lake's Downtown
Part of Governor's Comprehensive Approach to Transform Communities into Vibrant Neighborhoods and Boost Local Economies
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that Downtown Saranac Lake will receive $10 million in funding as the North Country winner of the third round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. As in the first two rounds of the DRI, one municipality from each of the state's 10 regional economic development regions is selected as a $10 million winner, marking another overall state goal to target $100 million in funding and investments to help communities boost their economies by transforming downtowns into vibrant neighborhoods where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise a family. More information is available here.
AUDIO of the Governor's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on Governor Cuomo's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Thank you, thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You really didn't have to give Howard such a tough time on that. Poor Howard. He is never going to live this down, I want you to know. He is a genius when it comes to economic development. He's a self-made business man. I can't terminate him because I don't pay him. He does this for a dollar a year. But he's done a fantastic job all across the state, let's give him a round of applause, Howard Zemsky. And to Garry Douglas and to Clyde Rabideau and Billy Jones and Bill Farber and everyone who's doing such a great job because the North Country is coming back in a way that nobody could imagine and we are hitting new heights and the leadership is making it happen, so let's give them a round of applause.
How amazing is it to be in this hotel, right? After so many years. It is such a metaphor of what can be, right? So many years, so many dreams, so many what if, what if, why can't? If we only had some help we could do this, and this is just a manifestation of what can be. Hot Sara up and running and hotter than ever before, isn't she? You know, it goes without saying but I hope you never forget what a special place you've been given the privilege of living. You know, there is a reason why presidents and governors and all sorts of international personalities come to the North Country and visit the Adirondacks. There is a magic here that I hope you never take for granted. No matter how long you live with it.
For me, it's been a special place all my life. Since I was a young boy, my father was Governor of New York and he was in Albany. And my younger brother named Chris is 13 years younger than I am. So there was a big age gap. And my father was always working and he was in Albany so I would grab Chris and I would bring him up whenever I could just to spend some time together. We spent a lot of time at Saranac Lake. I put a lot of time into nurturing him. I don't know what happened. He went to the dark side, he became a journalist. But we're hoping for redemption. No, he's doing very well. Chris Cuomo, CNN, 9:00, tune in. Shameless plug for Chris Cuomo.
But first with my brother and then my three girls. And really, you know, life comes down to a series of moments that you think back on and with my girls, we had such moments all through the North Country but especially at Saranac Lake. My youngest is turning 21 and we were together this weekend and she was talking to one of her friends and telling them about things that we did. And one of the highlight moments was on Saranac Lake when we were in a canoe and we were taking a canoe trip and out of nowhere, from one of the islands, an eagle came out and like swooped down right next to us with this beautiful, graceful glide. And when the eagle was just about at front of the canoe, one feather fell out. And we picked up that feather and I have it on my fireplace to this day.
But it's moments like that, that are just gifts forever. And there are so many for me from the North Country and Saranac Lake. So, it's great to be back. And it's great to be back and see so much progress being made. I'm 60 years old, I've been coming up here since I've been twenty—so, 40 years of history. And 40 years of understanding the plight of the north country, and the feeling of the north country. That sense of abandonment from Albany and state government—the disconnect with state government. You know, the feeling that, in some ways, you were closer to Canada then to New York. And the feeling that not enough effort was being made. And by the way, not enough effort was being made.
But the problem is bigger than just the North Country. State government attitude was off. We were hemorrhaging jobs, we were hemorrhaging businesses and young people for decades. There was this myopic fix in Albany that they stared it down state New York. Most of the legislators come from down state New York. So, everything was about downstate New York. And New York City, god bless is a marvel unto itself and the economy goes up and down a little bit, but it's been a strong economy in New York City. But upstate New York was dying. Dying. For Decades. And there was no attention whatsoever. And I said that New York had a hangover arrogance. You Know, New York just thought that they could keep increasing spending, keep raising taxes, and nothing would happen. Well, maybe nothing happens serious to downstate. But Upstate New York took a terrible toll. We lost businesses for generations.
One of the lines Howard uses, he'll use fewer lines after today—stick to the script, Howard. He will talk about it's been a bad 40 years in upstate New York. And people laugh, and he says it's not a joke. It's been a bad 40 years in upstate New York. And New York had to right its ways, because we were on a bad track. And that's what we did. We came in and we did a 180- degree turn. We said the state has to stop spending the way it's spending, because you're taxing people into oblivion. And you're taxing people right out of the State of New York. The arrogance was we had this attitude that, we're New York, were king, where can you go? You can leave the state of New York. It is physically possible. You look at a map you see other shapes, to the west of New York, those are called other states. You push people hard enough and they will go to one of those other shapes. And that's what was happening for a lot of years.
And we had a say, you have to get the state spending in line. We have to get taxes down. We have to start investing in businesses. And we have to start investing in the places that were left behind. And Upstate New York and the north country were left behind. And we did it. We brought the state spending rate down to record lows. Year to year our increase in spending is under 2%. There has been no administration in history that we can find that has as low a spending increase as our increase. Well, how can that be, you think? You're a democrat. You congenitally must spend money. That was a bad thought that you had. It was unkind. Wipe it out of your mind. Our spread of spending, to give you an idea, under two percent year to year. Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Republican, 11 percent year to year. Hugh Carey, about seven, eight percent year to year. My father, God rest his soul, about six percent year to year. George Pataki, Republican Conservative, five, six percent year to year. We're two percent - two percent! When you keep spending down, good things happen. When you reduce your caloric intake, good things happen. It's just hard to do.
We kept the spending down, allowed us to reduce taxes, we reduced taxes all across the board. Tax rates on every level are lower today than when I took office. Tax rates for the middle class up to 300 thousand dollars in income - lowest level since 1947. Lowest corporate rate since 1968, lowest manufacturing rate since 1917. So we send a different signal to business, and we have money to invest in businesses. Arguments against why you shouldn't do economic development, businesses don't need investment - yes they do!
Hotel Saranac does not rebuild without government assistance, it does not happen! Businesses don't come to New York State without government incentives, why? Because they can get them from any other state! It is a competition today. Businesses literally shop states. We get calls from existing businesses who say, 'Well I just got a call from North Carolina, they said if I come there I don't pay any taxes for ten years.' Or we'll have companies that call up and say, 'Look, I'm going to bring 500 jobs, but I can go to New York, I can go to Connecticut, I can go to California, I can go anywhere. What package will you put together for us?' So it literally takes money to make money. And that's why Howard's job, invest in businesses, create the jobs and make sure they're in New York, and invest in the places that have been left behind.
There was 40 years of decline. Make it right. And we were myopically focused on Downstate New York, and I can say that, I'm from downstate New York! You can't say, 'Oh you're biased against Downstate, you discriminate.' No, I'm from Downstate New York. But, the need is in Upstate New York. And by the way, if you invest in Upstate New York, it's better for Downstate New York because we're one state at the end of the day, and when Upstate does better, everybody does better! So I'm proud.
I am proud to be able to stand before you and say my administration has invested more in Upstate New York than any administration in the history of the State of New York, over 36 billion dollars. 3.4 billion dollars invested in the North Country, never before has the North Country seen that investment. And why do I say investment? Because it is an investment. We're growing tourism, we're growing businesses, we're growing jobs. People are working, they're paying taxes, they pay taxes for the mayor, they pay taxes to the county, and they have opportunity here. And that's what makes this state run, and the proof is in the pudding. Today New York State has 8 million private sector jobs, more private sector jobs than have ever existed in the history of the State of New York. And that's our success. When we started, before Howard Zemsky told all those bad jokes, unemployment in the North Country was 8.9 percent. Today, unemployment is 4.9 percent. That's why it's an investment.
We're getting complaints from businesses now that are saying unemployment is so low I can't find workers. This is like, a total flip from where we started, now we can't find workers. I'll take that problem. And Howard's going to work on it, as soon as he works on his routine, he's going to go back and he's going to start working on it (inaudible). Look Howard, don't worry about it. It's just between us. Nobody else will ever know what you did today. And for the right amount of money, I can buy every tape from those cameras. No, happens to all of us. Never happened to me, but. And Howard is exactly right. You look at what we did in the North Country, it is a comprehensive. We're investing in businesses, investing in universities, investing in tourism, investing in the entire economy, the infrastructure, et cetera. Broadband is the single best thing we can do, it is the infrastructure system for the next generation. You cannot compete without broadband. You can't fully educate yourself without broadband. Either you cannot live a full life without high speed broadband, and that we will are committed to be the first state in the United States that 100 percent broadband, period. So.
We are doing everything we need to do on the state level. The arrows are all pointed in the right direction. We are doing regional development, that's the Regional Economic Development Council. Your regional council has come together, we formed one region in the North Country, rather than different counties and different cities, that's working very well. And the local level is also very important. Why? Because the economy doesn't work in a region or in a state. It works locality by locality. And the best economic development plan is top down and bottom up, where you have a local plan, regional plan, and a state plan all going in the same direction. So to spur the local economy, we came up with a program called Downtown Revitalization Initiative, DRI. The concept of the DRI is offering a competition to localities, you come up with a downtown revitalization plan. If it makes sense, we will invest in it. It then compliments the regional plan, and the state plan. Ok.
So we announce the Downtown Revitalization Initiative program. Ten million dollars, for a winner. And we expected ten winners each winner winning ten million dollars. We expected that we would have a number of applicants but we were way over subscribed for the number of plans. These plants are very hard to put together, it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of expertise. When the applications came back, we got many more than we thought we would get back. So we got over 100 applications back for ten spots. Ok? Actually we had 105 applications for ten spots. So Howard's idea was rather than just have first place winners, at ten million dollars, we'll have second place winners, at 8 million dollars. Third place winners at $6 million, fourth-place winners at $4 million, and then a fifth-place winner and that winner gets dinner with Howard Zemsky, so you really don't want to come in fifth! And, look Everybody wants to come in first, I understand that. That's sort of the psyche of our society. I have to be first, I have to be first, I have to be first. To come in second means, you're in the top 20%. To come in third means you're in the top third. Top third is great! To be in the top third of 100 applications. To be in second place, which means you're in the top 20%. That's great!
So, you don't have to be first place to win, right? That's just our hyper-aggressive society. And these plans were all great plans. So, to come in third or second, given this competition, is an amazing achievement because the competition is that high, and a lot of these applicants have come in a number of times. And each time they come in, the plan gets a little bit better. And many of the applicants have applied more times than you have applied, so they actually have more experience in presenting a plan, not being successful going back and working on it, coming back, right? So, I just want to give you the context for this situation and for this decision. Do you understand the context that I'm laying out?
So, with that in mind, I'm here to say congratulations. You are first place winners of $10 million. So, congratulations to you. You did it! You did it, no one else did it! And this is just going to keep the momentum going. It's going to keep the growth, it's going to keep the energy. The force is with you, and this is going to keep it going. And by the way, it's not just going to be about Saranac Lake, because this is like dropping a pebble in a pond and there's concentric circles that go out from it, of energy and of synergy. And [Lake] Placid is synergizing Saranac Lake, is synergizing North Elba, is synergizing Keene, and that's what we're feeling. So, it's not just about Saranac Lake. It's just another big boost for the north Country and everything that's going on and it's just another victory in what has been a steady, steady climb towards progress. So, congratulations and give Mayor Clyde Rabideau a big round of applause.