Governor Andrew Cuomo has been traveling the state this week, announcing regional economic development councils to help boost the local economies — but he made clear that he'll be awarding the $200 million in job creation grants strictly on merit.
Cuomo told the invite-only crowd in Schenectady that the second phase of his term as governor will be all about creating jobs by giving regions more autonomy to create economic development plans.
"You shape your destiny," Cuomo said.
But the governor told his new regional council appointees the plans they ultimately come up with will have to be "sustainable and comprehensive" in order to attract part of the $200 million allotted for the program. Afterward, he said the regional councils will have to work to earn the grants.
"We want plans that work. This is tax payers money," said Cuomo. "We want plans that actually produce jobs and keep people here."
Cuomo said "saying we’re going to give money to every plan" is the "old way," and that competition among the regions of the state is healthy — something that he said he experienced during his tenure as HUD Secretary in the 1990s as a common practice the by the federal government.
Cuomo said he knows he's asking a lot of business leaders, university presidents and others he's appointed to the boards to put parochial reasons aside and come up with plans. He conceded some regions may not get any money.
"Do I believe there can be plans that lose? Sure." Cuomo said. "But, by the way, that's the way it should be."
He said regions that may not win enough money in the first year may have another chance next year, if he can convince the legislature to continue to fund the economic development councils.
The councils have three months to come up with plans, the money will be awarded early next year.