State to Collaborate With Regional Economic Development Council to Revitalize Downtown Geneva
Finger Lakes Project Will Transform Downtown Geneva, Create Jobs and Boost Local Economy
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that Downtown Geneva was selected as the winner of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative in the Finger Lakes region. The Downtown Revitalization Initiative, first laid out in the Governor’s 2016 State of the State address, marks a comprehensive plan to transform local neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live and work.
The winner was selected as part of a competitive process by the state’s Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council and will receive $10 million in state funding to revitalize the local neighborhood and generate new opportunities for long-term growth and prosperity. The award will include up to $300,000 in planning funds for private sector experts to work with a local planning committee to draft a Strategic Investment Plan that will identify specific economic development, transportation, and housing and community projects. The grant is part of a $100 million effort to improve the urban vitality of city centers across the state. Plans will be completed by early 2017.
VIDEO of the Governor’s remarks is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h264, mp4) format here.
AUDIO of the Governor’s remarks 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 below:
Thank you, thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be back I am sorry for keeping you up late and bringing you out late but I had bad news and wanted to deliver it myself, okay just kidding. Let’s give a round of applause to Matt Horn and thank him for all his good work. To Jack Marron and let’s thank him for his great leadership as chairman, we do a lot together so it is a pleasure to be with you. Charlie Evangelista who has been a good friend for many years, even when I was back in the federal service let’s give him a round of applause to Charlie Evangelista. You have one of my colleagues from Albany here who is a truly extraordinary public servant, when they talk about why you go into public service and why you go into public service for the right reasons, because you want to make a difference. This is the man who should be the icon for the highest principles and the highest integrity, Senator Mike Nozzolio it is a pleasure to be with you.
First you know, you have such a beautiful spot here. I hope you remember it every day and you don’t take it for granted. Every time I come back I am just amazed at just how perfect and beautiful it is, you couldn’t design a better place you couldn’t paint a more beautiful picture of Mother Nature. It really is a great, great asset and it is an asset that for many years was not developed properly and was not maximized. That is true for all across Upstate New York. The truth is that Upstate New York has had a bad period economically. I was with a fellow in Buffalo one day and he said that, “You know when it comes to the economy we have had a bad forty years,” and I laughed but he said he wasn’t kidding, it had been a bad forty years. It sounds like it should be a joke but it is not a joke. Upstate New York has suffered, the manufacturing economy turned, we were all about manufacturing, the Erie Canal etc. and then Upstate New York had to re tool to find out what was the economy of tomorrow. They looked to the state to be a partner and frankly the state government was absent. I have said this publicly and it is painful but the state government was too focused on downstate New York and not focused enough on Upstate New York. I say that as a person who is originally from downstate New York, but the community has to go through and economic transformation and someone has to help. It takes money to make money. If you are going to retool, you need a partner to help you finance and the state government wasn’t there.
It was very short sighted of the state government because we are one state at the end of the day and it is even short sighted for downstate New York because it is one state, one set of books. If Upstate doesn’t make money, downstate pays the bills anyhow. So it really was short sighted. We came in and we turned that philosophy all around, 180 degrees and we have focused on Upstate economic development like a laser beam. I am very proud to say that my administration has invested more in Upstate New York, $25 billion more than any other administration in the history of the state of New York and I am proud of it because it is an investment and because it is smart.
You know, there is potential where ever you look in Upstate New York. There was so much potential economic activity we have maximized just a few of them in the past few years. We took the tourism industry, which was a gold mine for New York State. We brought back the I Love NY campaign – remember I love NY? It had gone away, we brought back the I Love New York campaign. Thanks to the legislature and the wisdom of good senators like Senator Nozzolio — we invested $130 Million in the I Love NY campaign, primarily to advertise Upstate New York. $130 Million is a lot of money right? Tourism revenue increased $8 Billion, believe it or not, with that investment. So those kind of investments I’ll make all day long.
We have 50 million tourists coming to New York City internationally, 50 million every year. All we have to say is, “You like New York City? We have a lot more to show you! There’s a whole state behind New York City.” So tourism – and once they come to New York State and see what we have they come back, and they come back, and they come back. What we’ve done with the wine industry and the investment we’ve made in the wine industry – now you were there first, with Seneca Lake – but the wine industry has been a goldmine. The dairy industry, the yogurt industry. We make more Greek yogurt than Greece. How do you like that? So, so many potential avenues, as well as advanced manufacturing, we’re now doing Photonics, we’re doing Nano-technology, it’s just amazing. So the potential was the, you needed a partner, and the state of New York is proud to be your partner and I’m proud we’re doing it.
Two big economic engines, places to invest, nationwide as well as across this state: First, connections with institutions of higher learning. You look at where the jobs are coming from, Silicon Valley, it’s the institutions of higher education where come up with the next idea for technology and biotech or whatever it is, and then the commercialization of that idea into a new business. We have the best universities in the country. We were just not focused on the economic connection to the universities. A university today is not just a university. It’s an incubator for businesses. That’s how you have to think of it. We’ve changed the orientation of our SUNY system, which is one of the best in the country. To say you’re not just SUNY, you’re now SUNY and you’re also a business generator and business incubator, that’s engine number one.
The second engine are downtown areas. Why? Because people like people. People like most people. Or some people like people. But downtown areas where we come together, there’s a sense of energy, sense of culture, there’s recreation – that’s what people want. Especially more and more now-a-days. Especially young people – millennials, they don’t like to be called young people – millennials. Also retirees who are moving back to downtown areas, because they don’t want the suburban community, they don’t want the commute, they’re not there for the schools anymore so investing in these downtown areas is vital. We have been doing both all across the state.
Because the taxpayer dollars are very important and we want to invest in the best plans and I believe in competition to get the best plans. Because if you just said, “I am going to give you a check.” Well, okay, relax and wait and I will get my check. So we say it is a competition. Now you have to work. Now you have to think. Now you have to be creative. 100 plans were submitted for downtown revitalizations. Of the 100, we were only going to pick 10. Actually, 122 if you want to be safe. We were only going to pick 10. So it was less than a 1 in 10 chance. So the competition was very stiff and everybody knew that going in. But it made their game come up.
You put in an application that I think was tremendously smart. You are looking at your main asset, right? That is a magnet, that lake. Mother Nature only made one of them, and you happen to have it. How do you connect the downtown area with that lake? How do you make that marriage? How do you get the energy and the attraction from that lake to the downtown area? How do you handle Route 20? Now, I have been around so long. I went through this in the late 90s. I was HUD Secretary and financed the Ramada Inn that is next door. We were so excited about that, because that was actually on the lake, and it was actually maximizing the resource. So how do you maximize the proximity and the connection with the lake? How do you maximize the educational institutions, the partnership with Hobart? How do you remove some of the blighted commercial areas and residential areas that are in that community, that are now detracting from the growth? How do you bring more commercial activity, banking activity lines, banks? You hit all the right keys. How do you bring the community together and the partnership together in a regional context so you are all working together and pushing in the same direction? That is exactly the formula for success. It is easy to say. It is very hard to do. You did it. Congratulations, you won $10 million to revitalize downtown Geneva.
You know, I know it has been a long haul Upstate and I know we have seen a lot of young people move away over the years and it was a lot of hardship. But it really is a different day in New York. You see it all across New York. All the arrows are pointed in the right direction. We finally read the gospel and we brought taxes down in the state of New York because we understand you cannot keep raising taxes and expect people to pay. We just finished a budget. I am not going to say whose idea it was, me or Mike’s, but we reduced taxes for the middle class up to $300,000. The tax rate is at the lowest rate in 70 years, believe it or not. So we are bringing taxes down. Jobs are coming up. We now have 7.9 million private sector jobs in the state. More private sector jobs than have ever existed in the state of New York. That is something to be happy about and something to be proud of. Unemployment is coming down, almost by half, all across the state. Unemployment is coming down as fast in Upstate New York as it is in Downstate New York, which has not happened before. So the economic success is a shared success Upstate and Downstate. Now with this revitalization grant, I think Geneva is going to be stronger than it has ever been. Congratulations. You deserve it. Use it well.