NY-BEST Executive Director, Dr. William Acker meets with Governor Cuomo to discuss the Commercialization Center

November 27, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gets glimpse of region's future

Bus tour includes Eastman Business Park, Midtown

Tom Tobin
Staff writer

Bunched like commuters on a city bus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy rode around, past and through some of the capital projects local leaders are hoping will win state approval — and dollars.

The 45-minute tour included a winding run through Eastman Business Park, which the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council has identified as the nine-county region’s top business asset.

The council proposes that the state help fund ongoing projects at the park, formerly the centerpiece of Eastman Kodak Co.’s global film manufacturing enterprise.

Cuomo reiterated the state’s support for the park and its tenants, no matter what happens with the funding proposals.

As a key asset of the bankrupt Kodak, the business park is part of the company’s ongoing financial reorganization under Chapter 11 of federal bankruptcy law. State officials recently sought to reassure worried tenants that the state will be a rescuer of last resort if Kodak doesn’t survive.

“We’re 100 percent behind this park and we understand its importance to the future of this region,” Cuomo said. He said the court process will have to unfold before the state will know what action, if any, to take.

Cuomo’s visit to Rochester was part of the state’s assessment of the http://regionalcouncils.ny.gov/content/finger-lakes" alt="" title="" target="_blank">regional council’s 2012 plan. The visit had been delayed four weeks because of the impact of Hurricane Sandy. Though the state has promised to make funding awards by the end of the year, there are four more of the 10 assessment tours to complete before the reviews are done.

“We’re still committed to making a decision by the end of the year,” Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said.

At stake for the Rochester/Finger Lakes region is an award of $25 million for having one of the top plans.

Separate from the funding competition is a process by which Rochester-area projects are awarded state grants and low-interest loans through a streamlined review process called Consolidated Funding Application. Last year, the first for the regional councils, the Finger Lakes took home $68.8 million in CFA awards, though it failed to be chosen as one of the four top plans.

Tuesday’s tour began at the Port of Rochester, where the city has embarked on a $19 million project to create a public marina and related infrastructure. As the bus moved south on Lake Avenue, Mayor Thomas Richards, microphone in hand, served as guide and emcee.

When the bus turned into Eastman Business Park, park executive director Michael Alt took the microphone and went briefly through Kodak’s history at the site. Alt said later it is important that Cuomo sees for himself the 1,200-acre park’s depth and breadth.

Among the projects the council is seeking to fund at the park is a commercialization center for the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium (NY-BEST), a research-and-development project seeking to create and manufacture the next generation of storage batteries.

“I think we saw in Hurricane Sandy the vulnerability of our electrical grid,” NY-BEST executive director William Acker said. “Because we can’t store electricity ... the system depends entirely on our ability to deliver.” That has required the development of an overbuilt grid, only half of which is used ordinarily.

Acker said the governor’s interest in battery storage has increased significantly since the storm ripped through New York and New Jersey on Oct. 29, causing massive power outages.

Tuesday’s tour included a quick stop at the Midtown redevelopment project downtown and at PharmaSmart International, a health care company that would benefit from state funding for a proposed business development project aimed at small- and mid-sized businesses.

Following the bus tour, Cuomo’s Strategic Implementation Assessment Team heard council co-chairs Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester, and Danny Wegman, CEO of Wegmans Food Markets Inc., and other council members defend the group’s 2012 plan.

“We’re helping to build a new New York,” Seligman said. “We urge you to back a winner.”

Seligman and Wegman said the council’s plan, which includes 10 priority projects with Eastman Business Park at the top of the list, is comprehensive. The council has said that, if state funding comes through for favored projects, it can create 50,000 new jobs across the region by 2016.

“We’ve included projects that are at the highest technological level and others in workforce development that serve many who have not graduated from high school,” Seligman said.

The reviewers said they were impressed with the council’s emphasis on worker training, health care and food processing.

No decisions about funding were made at Tuesday’s meeting.

Cuomo and Duffy’s next stop is Wednesday in Oneida County to review the Mohawk Valley’s economic plan.


Source:  Democrat and Chronicle