Cuts Ribbon on Largest Indoor Events Space North of New York City Between Boston and Cleveland
Expo Center and Orange Parking Lot Renovation Lot Marks Completion of Phase 2 of Fairgrounds Revitalization
Investments Complement "Central New York Rising" - The Region's Comprehensive Strategy to Revitalize Communities and Grow the Economy
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo officially marked the opening of the brand-new Exposition Center at the New York State Fairgrounds with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The 136,000-square-foot Expo Center, the largest indoor events space north of New York City between Boston and Cleveland, was unveiled during the kick-off of the 2018 Great New York State Fair. The new facility, and the recently completed renovation of the Fair's Orange parking lot, complete the second phase of the Governor's plan to revitalize the State Fairgrounds. The improvements complement Central NY Rising, the region's strategy to boost the local economy.
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 below:
Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you. I am so psyched to be here. How great is this? How great is this? Wow. Wow. 136,000 square feet—largest exposition center in the northeast. This is really extraordinary. And what's really amazing is, I built this all myself. All of it was me. Steel work, painting. That's not true.
This is really an extraordinary accomplishment and every year, every year we see more progress, tangible, physical evidence of progress, but this really takes it to a new level. I want to applaud everybody who made this happen and made it happen right and made it happen fast. It's on time, it's on budget, it works, it's going to take this whole region to t anew level. OGS, the county, the County Executive. Let's give them all a round of applause.
County Executive Joanie Mahoney—I love County Executive Joanie Mahoney. My grandfather, God rest his soul, my father's father, was named Andrea. That's where I got Andrew from. And when a politician used to come on TV my grandfather used to go like this. And I said to him, what does that mean, this? He said, that means all these people do is talk, the politicians. They never do anything; all they do is talk. He would never do that when my father was around, by the way, it was a very selective mannerism. But it's true—political process—it's all talk, it's all debate, it's all politics, it's all baloney.
Government is actually supposed to be getting something done for people. What I love about County Executive Joanie Mahoney is that we have the same conversation all the time. We're talking about building an exposition center, yes we'll do it together. How long do you think it will take to build the exposition center? She says, well I think it's going to take 18 months. No, too long. 16 months, 15 months, 14 months and Joanie Mahoney never says no. she always says, can do. She's about getting it done, making progress for the people and that's what you see throughout Onondaga county—progress, progress, progress, progress.
I'm excited about your new Mayor, Ben Walsh, because he's cut from the same cloth. He is a get it done guy. I had one of the first conversations with him, I said, let's make Syracuse better, period. That's the job. One thing makes me nervous about your mayor. His father was an elected official. I know his father, Congressman, I worked with him, great man. But I'm always nervous about these sons of elected officials. I don't know what it is, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Ben Walsh, let's give him a big round of applause.
Howard Zemsky, who is a great, great economic development mind. He's been making things happen all across the state. He's a little stiff, he a little stayed. That's why he's wearing this blazer today when he wasn't supposed to, but he's doing a great job for economic development. Give him a round of applause.
Van Robinson—the legend. I'm going to have more to say about him in a minute. Let's give Van Robinson a great round of applause.
My colleagues in the legislature, who appropriate the money, that's how it works. You have the Governor, but you have the legislature, the legislature has the money. I hate that, that they have the money, but they do. That's why I'm very nice to them always. Because they have the money. Isn't that true, Bill? Bill says yes. Bill, Pam Hunter, Al Stirpe, Dave Valesky, stand up. Let's give them a round of applause. Thank you, thank you for the investment.
Jon Ledecky is an old Queens boy. You have to say Queens like that—Queens—because they have their own accent in Queens. I know because I'm a Queens boy. But, he is a New Yorker and he is owner of the Islanders and the Islanders believe in New York and the Islanders are investing in New York. and sports teams actually play a very important role for the state. Because part of the state economic development, part of this, is you want to generate and energy and a sense that this is the place to be, right? You have businesses who are shopping every day, what state do they want to be located in? you have young people trying to figure out where do I want to live? Here? Here? Here? You want to be the state where things are happening and are growing. And sports teams are a big part of that. We had the Buffalo Bills were going to leave Buffalo potentially and we worked for years to get the Buffalo Bills to sign to stay in Buffalo. Why? They leave, that is a negative for Buffalo, however you spin it. They signed on and they said we believe in Buffalo, we're staying in Buffalo and the Pegulas had that confidence in Buffalo, that's the Sabres, that's the Bills, they're betting on Buffalo. And that's how it works. Jon Ledecky and the Islanders from Long Island are investing in a $1 billion new arena complex on Long Island because the Islanders belong on Long Island and we can't thank him enough. Who does the Governor of New York root for when the Junior Islanders play the Junior Sabres? Everyone. That's who he roots for. Let's give them a round of applause, Junior Islanders and Junior Sabres. And to Pat Flatley who is an Islanders legend who I grew up with. Thank you for being here. Thank you for everything for the sport and the team and New York.
This is a metaphor for everything we've been saying about upstate New York. And I can tell the truth frankly as a person who came from Upstate New York. For too many years in upstate New York we just watched the future pass us by. And for too many years, starting in the 60s, all you saw were businesses leaving, people leaving and everything was an exit sign. Everything was on decline. And we almost got into a state of mind where people said well that's the way it is. That's the way it is. They're all politicians who came along and said I have a plan to rebuild Syracuse, I have a plan to rebuild Buffalo. And nothing happened. And this went on for 40, 50 years. And everybody's young people were leaving. Parents were telling their children you should leave; I hate to see you go but the future is somewhere else. And that was the psyche of upstate New York.
The State Fair was a metaphor. Howard told my joke about the Diet Pepsi joke. I told him not to say it but he said it but forget it. Life is long. I used to come to the State Fair with my father and I came back every year. And every year was the same, just a little older and more deteriorated. And every year I used to say to myself, why don't they do something? What a phenomenal facility. The whole state comes together. Agriculture, what an opportunity. Why aren't they doing anything? Why are they sitting here and letting it deteriorate? But that happened every year. Year after year.
I worked in the Clinton Administration and did economic development. I was secretary of Housing and Urban Development. And all along, states would come in with cities and they all had plans on how they were rebuilding. We're going to do this, we're going to do this, we're going to do this. And will the federal government invest and help? You know who never came in? Upstate New York. And I would call and I would say what's the plan for upstate New York? What are we doing? Okay, the economy of yesterday and these businesses left. How are we rebuilding and how are retooling? Nothing. Nothing. We said we have to do 180 degree turn. I understand New York State has New York City and New York City gets a lot of attention because it's New York City. I understand that New York legislature predominantly is from New York City so all they want to do is focus on New York City.
But upstate New York is the bulk of the state. Upstate New York has great potential. And it doesn't even make sense for downstate New York for upstate New York to deteriorate because we're one state, one family, one balance sheet. The better upstate New York does the better we all do. So wake up, wake up and invest in upstate New York. You have every asset imaginable. You have the best schools. The best hospitals. The best workforce. You are in a place of magnificent history, magnificent grandeur. The nature is beautiful. You can do whatever you want in upstate New York. It's all here. It's one of the greatest spots in the nation. Just do something. Invest, modernize, build. Do something.
Doing something is always the trick. Why? Because when you do something, there's risk. When you do something, then there are naysayers. We're going to build a 130,000 square foot Expo Center. Well, why don't you make it bigger? Why don't you make it smaller? Why is it white? Why does it have a cement floor? Why is it in Syracuse? Why isn't it in Rochester? There are naysayers always. And if you listen to the naysayers you know what you do in life? You do nothing in life. And at one point just say, "here's the plan and we're going to do it." And it is inarguable that if you're going to build a new economy, you have to start by building a new infrastructure to attract those businesses and jobs. You have to do that. Everybody knows it. Every president has said it; it just hasn't happened. In New York, we made it happen. Look at Syracuse, look at Central New York. A new airport that is not a plan, not a vision, not a hope, not an expectation, not if the county says yes, if the legislature, it's being built now, fast, on time, and it's going to be open.
Why is the airport important? Because the airport is the gateway to the new economy. It's where people come. They fly into the airport, they want it new, they want it modern, they want to be able to have a business meeting, they want to be able to experience, have a good customer experience, and starting with the airport. It's the Hotel Syracuse reborn finally, finally after all those years of talking, and talking, and talking. It's the amphitheater that no one could believe how could you build on Onondaga Lake, an attraction? I'll tell you how you do it: you clean up the lake, first of all, right? God didn't make the lake dirty. It's not in the Bible that the lake must be dirty. You clean up the lake, and you turn it into an asset and an attraction, which is what water is everywhere. And that amphitheater on the lake is magnificent, and it's working, and it's attracting people, and it's making the lake a source of pride.
You get with the new economy. You get with the new economy. We're investing in a drone testing airway and research center. Why? Because that is the future. They're talking about cars that are self-driving, they're talking about cars that are flying, they're talking about drones that can deliver the mail--that's where it's going to go. Don't focus on the economy of yesterday. The economy of yesterday is gone, that's why they call it yesterday. You want to build for the economy of tomorrow, and get Syracuse University as an engine for the economy of tomorrow; train the workers for the economy of tomorrow. Attract that new workforce, the Millennials. You know where they want to live? They don't want to live out in suburbia, that's not their dream. I'm going to get a little ranch with a two car garage, and a backyard, and a patio. They're not going to, that's not their dream. They want to be in downtown, they want to be able to walk to the cafe, they want to be able to walk to the restaurant, they want to be able to walk to work. That's why the Mayor's exactly right. Downtown development reversed that development pattern and developed downtown. It's better for the environment, it's better on every level, and that's where people want to live, and Ben Walsh is doing that finally. Amen.
For these are the building blocks of the new economy. That's what these are. What is this Expo Center? How do you take an asset like the State Fair, which is great for thirteen days a year, but how do you make that facility a year round facility where you can actually get people coming in, doing business, going to restaurants, going to hotels? And that's what this Expo Center is. And the old expression "it takes money to make money." Yes. You want to do more business in the restaurant? You have to expand the restaurant. You want to attract people to Syracuse, more shows, more exhibitions? You have to build an exposition center. That's the logic and brilliance that is here. A concept isn't brilliant, the doing it is brilliant, and it's working. Welch Allyn in Syracuse, working on the economy of tomorrow, defense systems in Syracuse, working on the economy of tomorrow.
Tourism going up, up, up, off the charts all across the state--you want to talk about a great investment. $257 million to advertise "I Love New York," $8 billion in tourism revenue. You know why? Because nobody knew what we had in Upstate New York. It was like a little secret. The beauty, the history, the grandeur, what you could do here. Why we kept it a secret I don't know. Maybe we have a secretive personality. But as soon as we started to advertise the opportunities in Upstate New York, people started to come. And you know what people are now saying? I went, I visited, I'm going back, and I'm going back, and I'm going back. And the numbers are growing exponentially. We've had a bout a 20 percent increase in visitors. About a 20 percent increase in revenue. It is a moneymaker for us and we have to keep going.
Central New York, 13 million tourists. It's a $1.2 billion business now. And when the cynics say, well you know what nothing's going to work, nothing's going to work, because there are cynics, especially in politics. There are cynics especially today with the crazy partisan politics. There are cynics. And there are cynics in Upstate New York. You know why? Because of part of them says, "I've seen the decline for 50 years. I've given up hope. I've given up hope. I don't even believe that anything can work." And you say, "well the new Expo Center, the new State Fair, the new Amphitheater, Hotel Syracuse, new jobs.
Here's the one fact that a cynic cannot deny. When we started, the unemployment rate in Central New York was 8.4 percent. Today the unemployment rate is 4.5. 8.4 to 4.5. 8.4 to 4.5. 8.4 to 4.5. Don't tell me it's not working. Don't tell me Syracuse isn't coming back. Don't tell me Central New York isn't coming back. We are on our way. And we're not talking about what used to be any more in the good old days when this was here and when this was here, now the focus is on the future and what we are going to be, and central New York and Syracuse are going to be better than they have ever been before. Thank you and God bless you.
One special note. Have a seat for one moment please. There has been a personal hero of mine in Syracuse of many, many years. For my father, for me, good times, bad times. Politics is an ugly, nasty business. The upside is you have a chance to do good things. You can build an Expo Center. But day to day it can grind you down. And there's been a voice of inspiration to me and a voice of grace and a voice of focus who always brought it back to, this is about public service, this is about doing good, this is the price we pay for the opportunity to do good. He's been a leader not just for Syracuse but for the entire state. And he's taken on one of the toughest issues in our society. It was tough 20 years ago when he started, it's just as tough today. And that issue is race relations and how our diversity as a society is used as a strength and not as a weakness. He has been a public servant to Syracuse. He's been a civil rights leader for the State of New York. He is unassuming. He's always there, but he never bangs his own drum and he never asks for credit and applause. He is one of the most genteel, sincere public servants with the highest level of integrity. The best thing I can say about a person is that he is a public servant in the model of my father, Mario Matthew Cuomo, 52nd Governor of the State of New York. And as a token of our appreciation we're going to name the [Pan-African Village] for Van Robinson. Van Robinson, come up here.