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Creating More Jobs in the Finger Lakes Region is Job One

posted by Brian Kolb on Friday February 15th 4:22pm

The facts in Gannett’s Joseph Spector article recently featured in the Democrat and Chronicle, “More Progress on State's Economy Needed” are stark. He says, “no area of New York state saw its unemployment rate drop between 2011 and 2012, and the rate outpaces the national average.” Spector’s conclusion? “New York may still be in an economic malaise, particularly upstate.” 


Those are the facts, but I have great hope for the future. Finger Lakes families have overcome hard times before. Upstate New York has a proud history as the home of innovation, and our hardworking men and women certainly have the motivation and dedication to succeed. If we can get the right tools in the hands of our working families and job creators, I am optimistic that our economy will grow and stay strong for generations to come. In this week’s column, I will share three ways that Albany can help kick-start the economic engine in upstate New York.

Albany must get to work and do its part to create new jobs by focusing on three key components: developing the ‘Innovation Economy,’ supporting GrowNY second-stage businesses and fostering our growing agribusiness industry. In addition to reducing unfunded mandates and regulatory reform, these smart solutions to our struggling economy will provide new jobs and stop the tide of families moving away from their hometowns for more business-friendly states.



It is time for New York to focus on giving our students and workers the skills they need to succeed in their chosen careers. New York’s “Innovation Economy” starts with education and involves new approaches to thinking about what we learn, and most importantly, how we learn and how we apply that learning.


New York’s job creators have spoken loud and clear - employers have a constant need for highly-skilled and highly-motivated team members. What are the talents needed to succeed in the Innovation Economy? Creative thinking, the willingness to learn, the ability to write effectively and work well both independently and as part of a team, math and problem-solving skills. According to career consultant, columnist and author Andrea Kay, these are the skills that companies large and small most desire in their employees.


The Innovation Economy:


·        Is pro-growth, pro-entrepreneur and rewards risk takers;

·        Is focused on growing small businesses and entrepreneurial start-ups;

·        Values vocational training, places a premium on continued skills development;

·        Emphasizes lifetime learning; and

·        Seeks to transform government from a bureaucratic obstacle into a productive partner that actually helps job creators achieve their goals.



Simply put, an Innovation Economy will empower New Yorkers to start businesses, grow businesses, and develop the real-world skill sets they need to succeed in their chosen careers. But it is not enough to talk about the economy of the future when more than 786,800 New Yorkers are still out of work. The Innovation Economy will also empower families struggling with unemployment to not only find jobs, but also develop rewarding careers.


My smart solutions for creating the Innovation Economy? Albany must emphasize vocational skills development and education, especially in low-wealth, high-need districts, so New York continues to have the highly-skilled workforce the jobs of tomorrow will demand. Strengthening the spirit of entrepreneurship and free enterprise, along with breaking down government and regulatory barriers, are critical to rebuilding our economy. Supporting New York's emerging high-tech, nanotech and biotech industries will enable upstate New York job creators to increase the number of well-paying jobs in our communities and lead the innovation economy.




Our current state economic development system often focuses on attracting companies from other states instead of helping the ones already here in the Empire State. Instead of moving existing jobs around like musical chairs, we must invest in creating new opportunities by supporting local job creators who already call our communities home.


How can Albany invest limited economic development dollars into helping Finger Lakes businesses create new jobs? Studies show that companies with the largest potential for job growth are second-stage businesses.  My GrowNY plan (Assembly Bill A. 1567) will help New York’s second-stage businesses create quality jobs.


A GrowNY second-stage business is a private business that has as few as five and as many as 99 employees, has maintained its principal place of business in New York for at least two years and generates at least $750,000 but not more than $50 million in annual revenue.


Specific assistance provided through GrowNY will include the following services:


·        Access to affordable information and consulting;

·        Development of business connections;

·        Assistance with developing a listing of shovel-ready sites;

·        Guidance in understanding New York’s laws and regulations; and

·        Any other form of technical assistance with business and marketing needs.


My GrowNY plan would put a stop to the old, outdated economic development playbook and concentrate on the job creators that have the best chances to add quality jobs to our communities.



Agriculture is the cornerstone of many local economies in upstate New York. The growing yogurt businesses and wine industry are two examples of family farmers and New York agribusinesses capitalizing on our state’s strong agricultural heritage to create jobs.

With 29 yogurt processing plants calling New York home, yogurt is big business in the Empire State.  Ask the folks in the Mohawk Valley and Western New York, the yogurt industry can be a great catalyst for improving local economies. Dairy farming and processing combined brings $8.9 billion to our state’s economy annually. Every time a farm adds 40 – 50 cows to its herd, an additional on-farm job is created. Even better, that new job spurs the creation of an additional 1.24 jobs in the local area.

I am proud to join Senator Mike Nozzolio in supporting the creation of the future Finger Lakes Viticulture Center in Geneva. The Center offers students access to a world-class winemaking lab, a grape-crushing pad, rooms for storing and aging wine, classroom space and a teaching vineyard. This new, permanent home for Finger Lakes Community College’s Viticulture and Wine Technology Program will create new jobs and keep the Finger Lakes on the cutting edge of agricultural research and development.

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Assemblyman Kolb represents the 131st Assembly District, which includes Ontario County and parts of Seneca County. Brian Kolb was first elected to the New York State Assembly in a special election held in February 2000 and has been overwhelmingly re-elected ever since.
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