Daniel Gundersen, the governor’s new chief in charge of repairing the ailing upstate economy, thinks the state and its upstate regions should work internationally, seize on the economic ideas and potential of local colleges and universities and bolster small, successful businesses instead of focusing on the big ones that may go.
“We need a road map . . . The world has changed, but the programs basically did not,” said Gundersen, the new chairman of the Upstate Empire State Development Corp., speaking for live radio broadcast at WNED’s downtown offices. “We need to incubate and support many smaller companies.”
Gundersen’s strategy revolves around promoting local business opportunities connected with international trade; help existing businesses thrive; encourage the economic potential of university and college research; find ways to reduce costs, such as taxes, regulations and utilities.
“Economic development is more than just deals . . .We need to understand that sustained economic development is integrated,” he said. “Upstate New York can’t turn the corner on this journey if we are not globally engaged.”
He mentioned Ireland as a good example of fostering economic health by forging profitable connections between rural and urban areas.
And, he offered a glimpse of the future by linking the profusion of energy- generating windmills in Denmark to the potential expansion here – beyond a beginning crop of windmills being set up at the old Bethlehem Steel plant. “I think you’re going to see wind energy as a huge market,” he said.
He also said he was reviewing proposals for a new advertising campaign promoting the state with its classic “I love New York” motto. Outdoor features and cultural sites upstate, such as the Darwin Martin house, should be featured prominently, he said. “We’re going to have to find those gems and lift them up,” said Gundersen.
During the question and answer period of the talk Tuesday afternoon, Gundersen gave a cautious and vague reply when moderator Jim Ranney asked about the future of the long-delayed Bass Pro sporting goods store, once slated to open in the former Memorial Auditorium downtown.
The crowd tittered as Ranney, the WNED-AM news director, pressed his point: “Is Bass Pro coming?” Gundersen replied carefully, “Bass Pro has a very sincere desire and commitment and I think you will soon hear.”
The talk was part of a new speaker series, the Buffalo City Forum. Hiring someone to focus on the upstate economy – from an office in Buffalo – is a new idea from Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who appointed Gundersen to the Empire State Development Corp. and nominated him to be commissioner of the state Department of Economic Development.
Gundersen started work in February and has since moved into an office at the Liberty Building, a base for the economic development work he will do throughout upstate. He previously served in a similar role in Pennsylvania: He was Executive Deputy Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development.
When Gundersen finished speaking, people said they were pleased that Buffalo was getting the new economic development attention from the state.
“It’s about time,” said Clotilde Dedecker, vice president of the Community Foundation.
29 march 2007
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