11 Downtown Revitalization Projects Drive Advanced Manufacturing Job Growth, Transform Public Spaces and Improve Walkability and Transportation Access
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced 11 transformational projects for Rome as part of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award. The strategic investments in downtown Rome will drive advanced manufacturing job growth, transform public spaces, improve walkability and transportation access. The investments are part of the Governor's ongoing efforts to revitalize the upstate economy and create more opportunities for the Mohawk Valley. Find more information here.
AUDIO of the Governor's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available on Governor Cuomo's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It's a pleasure to be back in Rome. Pleasure to be back with all of you. Pleasure to be inside on such a scorching day. First to RoAnn Destito who, she's been a fantastic commissioner as you all knew that she would be. But RoAnn never forgot where she came from. It's always about home. It's always about Rome, Utica, Mohawk Valley, whatever it is. RoAnn says we have to do that in the Mohawk Valley, doesn't matter what it is. We could be talking about a new housing program, Mohawk Valley. Department of health program, Mohawk Valley. Then you have Senator Griffo comes in and Assemblyman Brindisi comes in and say "RoAnn says we should put this in the Mohawk Valley." They have a little three-way tag team. Let's give a big round of applause to RoAnn.
Howard Zemsky, who has done a phenomenal job, he did a phenomenal job in Buffalo which was a really difficult situation to turn around just on the numbers. In Buffalo, they say we had a bad 50 years. And at first I thought it was a joke but it was literally a bad 50 years. It is now a new town with a new mentality. The numbers are different. And Howard Zemsky was the architect of that. He then came in to become head of Empire State Development Corporation, transition to commissionership. He keeps mentioning that RoAnn is the most popular and best commissioner as voted by the cabinet. Because this is something that annoys him, Howard. And he keeps highlighting it because what happens is we annually sit down as a cabinet and we vote. And it's fifteen people. For three years, the vote has been fourteen to one. And it's always Howard voting for Howard. And they do it by a show of hands. So it's very embarrassing after a while. You know how the vote is going to turn out. Just vote with RoAnn rather than voting for yourself which is a little tacky to begin with. I haven't seen anybody vote for themselves but he's trying. Look he's only been in the job for three years. He makes it sound like I've been there for 27 years. You've only been here for three years; hope springs eternal. I think there's going to be a turnaround I think next year you may come in second. Howard Zemsky. Let's hear a big round of applause.
But you have a great team of elected officials and we work very, very well together. And I want to thank Senator Griffo, Assemblyman Brindisi, County Executive Picente and Rob Palmieri, and Mayor Izzo and the whole team. You really come together and focus on the whole and really do a good job. Let's give them a round of applause.
You know I'm really excited about today, and it brings back a lot of memories for me. I was in the federal government for eight years, and before I went to the federal government, I did community development. And I went I went first to the federal government to Housing and Urban Development I was Assistant Secretary to an area called Community Planning and Development and both Bill Clinton who was President at the time and Al Gore were interested in community development and how do you take an area that's been struggling economically and turn it around. And we spent literally years studying all the past federal programs, why didn't they work, why didn't model cities work, why didn't the federal programs, UDAG work, what were the problems of the past program, and what is the new, better way to do it? And then, we literally had hundreds of communities across the country compete for what we called "empowerment zones" and enterprise communities which are much like the DRI - the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The same lessons of what we carry forward.
And community development in some ways is a science, and in some ways is an art form. It's a science because there are macro-economic factors that know community is going to be able to defeat themselves. And upstate New York, that was where the problem first arose. If you are in a state that is fundamentally non-competitive when it comes to businesses and young people, you are not going to withstand that situation. And New York, for many, many years, I call it the "hangover New York arrogance effect," we thought we were New York, where else could somebody go? How could you leave New York? Maybe that was true 100 years ago. But there are alternative places to live in the United States of America. And that's a fact. They're not as nice as New York, but you look at a map and you see all these shapes to the west of New York - those are called other states, and if you force people, they will go live in one of those other shapes.
And if you continually raise taxes, and if you're an anti-business environment, and if you are difficult to do business with, they will leave. They're more mobile than ever before. They'll pick up their laptop, they'll get on a plane, and they'll go. We saw it in upstate New York first with the young people. They were chasing the jobs, the jobs left, the young people left with the jobs. Why? Because we were a very, very expensive state to do business with. We had an anti-business reputation, which stemmed from an anti-business climate. And we had to face facts. And we had to turn that around.
And it starts with lowering taxes. We were taxing people right out of the state of New York, literally. They just couldn't afford to be here. And then you had so many other states with a much better tax environment, it was a killer. What did we have to do? We had to lower taxes. Oh, government can never lower taxes. Actually, it can. It's not easy, it's painful, but it can, and we did. And I want to point out Assemblyman Brindisi and Senator Griffo, who took a lot of tough votes. Because when you go to reduce spending, you get a lot of special interests knocking on your door. We reduced spending record amounts, and that allowed us to cut taxes.
And listen to this. Middle class tax rate now, up to $300,000, is the lowest rate since 1947 in the state of New York. Just think about that. Lowest rate since 1947. And that's no fuzzy math, no inflators. Just reduce the rate. Corporate tax rate down to 1968 levels. Manufacturing tax rate down to 1917 levels. I was having this conversation at a family gathering, and they said, oh that can't be true. I said, no I'm telling you, it's true. I'm the Governor, I know, I did it. You're my brother, you're supposed to believe me. It is possible, and we did it.
And then we passed a property tax cap, which is the largest tax in the state of New York. It's not the state income tax. It's the property tax. And the property tax was a killer. And it was going up six, seven, eight percent a year in some places. And nothing was going up that amount. Your income wasn't going up, your home value wasn't going up, we passed the property tax cap at 2 percent, and local officials all got mad at me, but it actually aligned the increase in taxes with inflation. If I'm not making 6 percent more money every year, how do you expect me to pay, 6 percent more in property taxes. If my home value is not going up, 6 percent more every year, how can I afford to pay these property taxes? You had people where property taxes, were higher than their mortgage payment. And we had to get it under control. And we did. So between the state income tax cuts, and the property tax cap, this is a totally different tax environment than it was before. And now you don't have that negative when you're trying to attract a business, or you're trying to attract a family to come back.
The second reason it's a science is because it takes money to make money. Someone has to provide seed capital to start the turnaround. Because these are communities that by definition don't have the funding themselves to do it. And somebody had to invest in upstate New York. And for many years the truth is the state government in Albany didn't even see upstate New York. They were blind to it. They were myopically focused on downstate New York. Now, I'm from Queens, I love downstate New York. But if you want to help the whole state, invest in upstate New York, grow upstate New York, and that's the way you lift all both. It's one state. It's one set of books. Why it's great New York City is doing well. But why don't you invest in upstate New York, so that's doing well also. Which will even help New York City. But Albany, the state government, just saw, New York City. Why? It's the bulk of the people, most of the legislators come from New York City, so we have a legislative body and they raise their hands, most of the interest is driven to New York City, when Senator Griffo and Assemblyman Brindisi have to argue for the Mohawk Valley, it's two of them, and 50 who come from a different geographic area primarily downstate. So it was a very hard sell. We've reversed that dynamic, 180 degrees. We put our thumb on the scale, and we said, 'You've been wrong. I understand you represent New York City. I understand you represent New York City. I understand you think New York City is where the economic growth is going to happen. But if you actually take a long view, you've been disinvesting in Upstate New York. The economy turned away from Upstate New York. You did nothing to counter it, and now New York City is actually paying the price and the rest of the state is paying the price for the lack of growth in Upstate New York.
So, let's invest, and I use the word invest because I mean invest. If we are creating jobs in Upstate New York and people are working, they're paying income taxes. They're supporting local government; they're supporting local industry. Let's invest. And we've invested more in Upstate New York than any administration in the history of State government - over 36 billion dollars.
So, that structural impediment of lack of investment capital has been changed. Mohawk Valley, you also had some particular circumstances. The 1994 Pentagon says we're going to move out of Griffiss. They then say we're going to turn it into a technology park. By the way it takes ten years before the Federal Government really turned it into a technology park. But now, it went from a negative to a positive - 58 hundred employees at Griffiss. More employees than when it was a Military Base - think about that. So, the jobs are coming back. Seventy-six companies, all in the high-tech area - defense, analytics, drone research and development, which is very exciting. We invested 30 million dollars in a drone testing area. The businesses are coming back.
What is the first question the businesses ask when they're talking about coming back? They'll ask Mr. Zemsky or myself, talk to me about taxes, because we understand you have a high tax state. And then we talk through the taxes. And then they want an accountant's letter certifying that those are the actual taxes, and we give them that. And they say, okay, second question is can I get the workforce I need. I need a young, trained workforce. That is the question that has to be answered. It's a young, trained workforce. And this is where the art force comes in. How do you build a community, where the young, the millennials, whatever you want to call them, they're not me, they're not Howard. That they want to live there and Howard's right, this is a different group than we've tried to attract before. The whole development patterns as you started in downtown and the one thing you wanted to do when you made a little money was move out. Move out to the suburbs, get a single family home, get a backyard, get a patio, get a barbeque grill, two car garage, you're a success. My grandfather used to stay; I didn't know what he was talking about my first 20 years of life, Italian immigrant, he retired and bought an unattached house. Used to say an unattached house and that's how we would describe this house, I have an unattached house, with his Italian accent. And one day I went to my father and said what is he talking about an unattached house? It has a foundation, it's in the ground. He said because your grandfather always lived in a detached house. Detached house. They shared a comment driveway, it was always a row house. So success was you'll live in a multifamily home. You don't live in an attached home; you have an unattached. He just meant a single family home that wasn't attached to any other houses. But that was the dream; to have that single family without an attachment. You're not sharing a driveway, you're not shearing a hallway, you're not sharing a bathroom, and you're living large.
The development patterns all changed. These millennials, that's not their goal. They are not a car driven society. They want to be in a downtown area; walkable communities. I'm going to be able to walk to the restaurant and they want to be able to walk to the café and they want to be able to walk to work and they want more diversity. They're not going to sit at home and watch TV, they want to go to the theatre they want to go to the cool restaurant. They want to have a number of different food to try. They want to have internet cafés. That is the art form. How do you design that downtown area that attracts those young people who can go anywhere, right? How do you attract those young people because the jobs won't come unless you have that young vibrant workforce? We have the workforce. We train them in this state. We have the best universities in this state. Our problem for 40 years has been we trained them and they leave. The exit from this state has been the problem.
Now, we're turning that around. Number of young people coming back to upstate New York, has actually reversed for the first time in decades, where young people are staying, young people are coming back, because we're getting it, and Rome, you are getting it. You look at the downtown that you're putting together? That's the artform. That is the artform. How do you take these different pieces, and put them together so there's a positive synergy among these situations? So the person who goes to the theater, has a restaurant down the block, has a mixed-use development, multi-family, where my grandfather would never live, but they want to be in a multi-family, density, less damage to the environment, less time commuting, more mass transit. That's where the investment in Centro is so smart. That's who they are, that's what they want. They are here, the businesses are coming, the businesses will come. Griffiss is now a net positive, after 20 years of hardship. We have to now have the community that is the magnet that attracts the youth and the talent. All the pieces are lined up. The State is no longer an impediment, the taxes are down, the State is your partner, we are there. DRI is one of the programs we invest in, we're going to be investing in more. You have the formula, because, when Howard says 100 applicants, only 10 winners, that means 100 communities that did the same thing you guys did, where the mayor put together community after community, and the REDC sat down with groups. 100 communities went through that process, and you were one of the 10 winners, which says, 'congratulations to you,' because that was stiff competition, and you have a formula that is working. All we have to do now is just keep going.
For many years, the economic tide was against you. People were leaving, businesses were leaving, the State was in trouble. You can't swim against that economic tide. You can't. I don't care how hard you stroke. You can't swim against a state exodus tide. The tide is turned, and the tide is now going with us. This State today, 8 million private sector jobs, more jobs than have ever existed in the history of the state of New York. Mohawk Valley, the unemployment rate is cut by about half. So, the jobs are coming, the young people are coming. Create the space, where they want to live, they want to work, they want to play. That's what you're doing. That's what you've proven you can do. Now, we just have to do more of it, and together we will. Thank you and congratulations.