State to Collaborate with Capital Region Economic Development Council to Revitalize Schenectady's Downtown
Part of Governor's Comprehensive Approach to Transform Communities into Vibrant Neighborhoods and Boost Local Economies
Downtown Revitalization Investments Are Crucial Part of Capital Region's Comprehensive Strategy to Revitalize Communities and Grow the Economy
Governor Cuomo: "Schenectady put in a great application. You took your waterfront, which is always the starting point and a major asset for any downtown that has it, you had the waterfront revitalization going on. Connect that with the other revitalized areas with the Proctor block, if you will, and the development that's working here, lower State Street, you have the Mohawk Harbor Development. Connect those pieces. Connect that energy. And that's just what your downtown application did."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that Schenectady will receive $10 million in funding as the Capital Region winner of the fourth round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. As in the first three 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 event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good morning. Good morning. Thank you very much for that very kind welcome. It's my pleasure to be back in Schenectady in my official capacity. I come often in my unofficial capacity when I escape the mansion incognito, leave the Troopers behind. I can leave the Troopers behind, I'm not in state custody, you know. I am a free man, I tell them, I am a free man. But it's great to see how Schenectady is doing and the growth and the energy that is here, and we're celebrating that today. Couldn't be at a better place than Proctors, how great is this? I'm so proud that the state is part of this and let's give Philip Morris and Proctors a big round of applause.
Let's thank Mayor McCarthy for his great leadership. And Schenectady Metroplex Chair Ray Gillen, let's thank him. We have State Representative Angelo Santabarbara with us, let's give him a round of applause. I'm a big fan of Angelo, my father used to say, "You have to judge a person by what they have in their and what they have in their heart." Angelo has a beautiful mind and a beautiful heart. Let's give him another round of applause. We have Eric Gertler, who is the new head of Empire State Development, let's give him a round of applause. He is following big shoes of Howard Zemsky, who you know very well. Big shoes literally, Howard had a size 12 shoe, and Eric is going to fill those shoes. So let's give him a big round of applause.
These are crazy political times as you know. It's like we're watching a bad political movie over and over and over. So, my strategy has been to focus on what we need to do, focus on getting the job done, focus on making progress. And that starts with making sure the economy in the state is growing all across the state. There's a reason why Empire State Development offices are co-located with the Governor's office because job one is about the economy, that's what it's about. People need to have jobs. We want to keep young people, they have to believe that there's opportunity here and that there's a future here. If the economy is working, the Mayor gets a tax base, he can take care of the city. If the economy is working, the state has a tax base, everybody wants the state to do great things - free college tuition, affordable healthcare, et cetera. Yeah, but somebody has to pay the bill, that economy has to work, you have to be generating jobs, you have to be generating revenue. And that's what we have been working on.
The truth is the state has different economies. They try to talk to me about the state economy, there is no one economy in the State. We have ten regional economies. The economy in Western New York is different than the economy in the North County with Tony Collins. It's different than the Capital District. And then we have the upstate economy and the downstate economy, and they're two very different dynamics, if you look at the economic history of this state. The downstate economy, New York City, has done well, can get a little better or a little worse, but the trajectory is up. Upstate is where we've had the issue on the economy. Why? Well, part of it was just economic changes, economic transformations, which are global in nature, move out of manufacturing economy, American locomotives move, GE makes different decisions - they were just economic forces outside our control.
Part of it is the state did not react appropriately in the past, I believe that. You can't solve a problem if you're not willing to admit it. And many years the state was just increasing taxes. You keep increasing taxes and taxes and taxes, people will find a more competitive location. They will. People are more mobile now than ever before. Businesses are can pick up their laptop and leave. Young people making a decision about where to live, they can shop different states, different regions. And for many years, we just kept raising taxes. Why did we raise taxes? Because the state spending was going up so high. It's a very simple calculus. "Why am I putting on weight?" "Because you're eating too much. That's why." My grandfather - my father's father Andrea - used to watch these diet commercials on TV and he'd say, "I don't understand why it's so complicated. You want to lose weight? Shut your mouth." He used to say. We had a state spending rate that was going up at twice the rate of inflation. You keep spending that much money, you have to raise taxes at that rate, and that's what we were doing. And that hurt especially Upstate New York. New York City, a little different. Companies were vested in New York City, and they were a little slower to relocate. But upstate they could just pick up and move so we paid that price.
Now, we fixed that. We have gotten state spending under control in a way we have not done in modern history in New York State. We now have a 2 percent spending limit - we won't go up more than 2 percent year-to-year. Hard to maintain - fiscal discipline, everybody's for it - it's just hard to do on a day-to-day basis. But we have done it - we've done it every year that I've been Governor. And because we've spent less, you take in fewer calories, you will lose weight. We have spent less and we've been able to reduce taxes. Every New Yorker pays a lower state tax rate today than the day I was elected Governor - every New Yorker. Yeah, people find it hard to believe that government could actually reduce tax rates - it's true. Every tax rate, from the top to the bottom. We have the lowest manufacturing tax rate since 1917; lowest corporate tax rate since 1968; lowest middle-class tax rate since 1948. It's really amazing. And we capped property taxes at 2 percent. Property taxes - property taxes are actually the most onerous tax in the state. Property taxes are about double what the state income tax is. Franklin Delano Roosevelt used to go on a rant about this when people would complain about taxes in New York. Talk about thin skin - he did not want to hear complaints about taxes and he was very emphatic to make it clear it was not the state income tax, it was the local real estate tax, the property taxes that were going up. So the property tax cap made a major difference. So that was one mistake I believe the state made.
The second mistake was you see the old economy leaving, you see GE leaving, you see American Locomotive leaving. How do you think you were going to transition to the new economy? A new economy doesn't just evolve. You had to come up with a plan and then somebody had to invest in that plan. Right? Everyone is competing for the new businesses, the new growth. You can't just sit there and wait for something to spring up on the old GE plan. You have to figure it out. What's your vision? What's your plan? And then somebody had to go first and invest in that plan, provide that startup capital to make the transformation and that should have been the state government.
The state did not do that - didn't plan and it didn't invest. Why? Well, because the State Legislature, predominantly from New York City, and Legislators are there to provide for their home district, right? When Angelo was in the Legislature - he loves the Bronx and he loves Brooklyn, I'm sure - but he's worried about protecting his district and bringing home funds for his district. You have a majority of the Legislators from New York City, don't be surprised when for years you had New York City getting the bulk of the funding.
We reversed that 180 degrees and I said, "Look, let's just look at the facts. Upstate New York is what needs the investment. That's where the economy is slow and we're one state at the end of the day. If you do better with the upstate economy it also helps downstate, so we're not really picking one versus the other. There is no one versus the other. We're one state, one family, one balance sheet. We raise the entire state." And I'm so proud to be able to say my administration has invested more in Upstate New York than any administration ever.
We have invested over $44 billion in Upstate New York. To find who's the next closest Governor, you'd go to DeWitt Clinton who did the Erie Canal - $7 million, which was a lot of money at that time, about $112 million in today's dollars. But, even compared to DeWitt Clinton, we have invested more in Upstate New York and the economic development of Upstate New York.
So, such as what? Such as the casino resort destinations that we did just in Upstate New York, not downstate New York, so people from downstate would actually come to upstate to see the casinos and the destinations, et cetera: Rivers Casino here, which is creating jobs. More in transportation funding, infrastructure funding - you see it in the Schenectady train station. You see it in a new Albany Airport that's coming to life that is a regional airport for the entire Capital District region. You see it in the Kindl Workforce Development and Communications Test Design and BelGioioso Cheese - only I can pronounce that word by the way - in the Electric City Robinson Block, in the REDC work, and Global Foundries, and Regeneron, and Floor Marine, and the RPI Digital Gaming Hub which is doing great and we are excited about. Mohawk Harbor, Mill Artisan District, the Schenectady Innovation Project, these are all investments in the new economy and it is working.
How do you know it is working? Because the numbers. It's working. You can measure progress. The number of jobs are up. Tourism is up 20 percent. The unemployment rate in the Capital District when we started, 7 percent, today it is 3.5 percent. And what I consider one of the most important statistics, the number of you people, because that is the future. And what was frightening about upstate is we were losing our young people for many, many years. Families were literally saying to their children, maybe you should think about leaving to find a better future. Two decades ago, we lost 4 percent of our young people. This past decade, 8 percent growth in the number of young people coming to New York and the Capital District.
So, what's the next level of opportunity? Invest in our downtown areas. Why? Because when you are building, plan and build for the future. And the future for millennials is in downtown areas. They are different than previous generations. This is not a generation that said I grew up in the city and I want to get out of the city. I want to go out to the suburbs. I want to get a little house with a backyard, with a barbeque. I am going to cut the grass on Saturdays. That is not their dream. That is not their dream. In many ways, they are smarter than that. They do not want to contribute to sprawl. They do not want to spend time driving in the car. They do not want to burn gasoline. They want to be in downtown areas. They want to be able to live and walk to work and walk to the restaurant and walk to entertainment. And have a sense of relaxation and waterfront and they want it all there. They are moving back into downtown areas and it is all across the country and all across the world.
But it is a new phenomenon with these millennials. And there is an opportunity in that because nobody has the downtown areas that we have. Now, we have to reinvest in them. But you look at what we have in terms of history and the architecture, and all the combination of assets they are looking for - it is there if you invest in those downtown areas.
So we started a new program called the DRI. Why? Because everything has to be an acronym in government otherwise nobody knows what you are talking about. Downtown Revitalization Initiative. We are doing regional growth through the Regional Economic Development Councils and then we started a downtown fund to come up with Downtown Revitalization Initiatives focusing on just bringing back our downtowns. In many ways, it worked out too well. We had $100 million. We said we would have a competition and we would pick the ten best applications. The ten best, that was the plan. We always have a plan. Sometimes it doesn't work, but we always have a plan.
Now, Schenectady put in a great application. You took your waterfront, which is always the starting point and a major asset for any downtown that has it, you had the waterfront revitalization going on. Connect that with the other revitalized areas with the Proctor block, if you will, and the development that's working here, lower State Street, you have the Mohawk Harbor Development. Connect those pieces. Connect that energy. And that's just what your downtown application did. It was very smart, it was very wise, let's give the mayor and Ray a round of applause for their good work.
But here was the problem: we're expecting ten winners for the competition. We got close to 100 applications for the ten slots, okay? So I want to talk to you a little bit about expectations. The competition was ferocious. Everybody wants to win, everybody wants to win. I know. New York City marathon - everybody wants to win, I know. But, there are thousands of runners. Everybody wants to come in first, but to come in second or third or even 100th is not bad in the marathon, right? Everybody wants to win ten million dollars, I understand, but if you win five or six or seven million dollars, that's still great, right? It's not the ten million dollars, but it's multiple millions of dollars to start doing what you were planning to do and then you can compete next year and get even more funding. Do you understand what I'm trying to say?
Okay, so with that backdrop, I'm pleased to inform you today that you have won ten million dollars, the highest award for your DRI. Congratulations, it's well deserved.