When Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the creation of 10 regional economic councils in July, he said that they would “redesign the relationship between the state government and businesses to stimulate regional economic development and create jobs statewide.” Further, he said that the councils represented a marked shift “from a top-down development model to a community-based approach that emphasizes unique assets, harnesses local expertise and empowers each region to set plans and priorities.”
In furthering that model, members of the Mid-Hudson Regional Development Council travelled to Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on September 12 to get input from members of the community about the challenges and opportunities of doing business in Sullivan County, which is one of seven counties in the region. After some introductory remarks, the 120 or so people on hand broke up into three groups to talk specifics.
As with many similar gatherings in the past, the strengths listed included the natural beauty of the county, opportunities for tourism and recreation and the close proximity to the large New York City markets. The challenges were also familiar and included a lack of infrastructure, a lack of a skilled workforce, a lack of hotel rooms to support tourism and a lack of high-speed internet services.
The comments from business people, politicians and community leaders were recorded and will be used to help guide the process of creating a master plan for the region, which, according to Dennis Murray, co-chair of the council and president of Marist College, should be finished by November. That document will be used by the council to compete with the other nine regional councils in the state for up to $1 billion worth of economic development funds over the next several years.
Murray also said that people who attended and had more to say, and people who could not attend the meeting but would like to be heard, could leave comments at the council’s website, and those comments would be read by the council members. The website is nyworks.ny.gov/content/mid-hudson.
ly voting member on the council from Sullivan County is Terri Ward, president of the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce.
Earlier in the month, county legislator Leni Binder, who attended the meeting, indicated there is a limit to the amount of input meetings like these can garner from the community, especially those people that are unemployed or otherwise challenged. Speaking about this forum at a meeting at the government center on September 8, she said, “With all due respect to all of these forums wherever they are held, they’re sort of esoteric and they do not get down to the grassroots people ever.”