For the past four years, Rochester’s AIM Photonics facility has been advertised by public officials as a generational investment in the region and was supposed to create thousands of jobs. The promotional parade over the future of light technology has included performances from Gov. Cuomo and then-Vice President Joe Biden. Many others touted the inevitable boom to the region’s employment and economy as a result of the emergence of the high-tech industry.
But after pouring in hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds, the building may get its first tenant next month. Seven people currently work at the AIM facility, and company officials are guessing 50 more positions might be created in the near future. By nearly every conceivable metric, the investment has been an overwhelming failure, and the case to finally put an end to ineffective economic development initiatives has never been stronger.
BILLIONS WORTH OF BUYER’S REMORSE
Many of the state’s economic development programs have either failed, are failing, or are likely to fail. Ill-advised deals are almost always made behind closed doors, despite the fact that they involve billions in public money. For too long, they have lacked the oversight and transparency required for financial investments of such magnitude.
The expensive pattern of over-promising and under-performing on job creation has run its course. The governor’s $750 million investment in a solar panel plant in Buffalo has barely produced any jobs OR solar panels. The state spent $15 million on a film hub in Syracuse and later sold it for one dollar.
Does the public get any of its money back? We should. Job targets consistently drop, but the billions we shell out doesn’t change. How many more millions of dollars will the state give away before the fundamental mechanisms for these allocations change?
FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE IS NEEDED
Earlier this month, I congratulated Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins on her forthcoming ascension to Leader of the Senate Majority; an historic achievement. Sen. Stewart-Cousins and I have consistently called for the inclusion of all legislative leaders in critical budget and policy negotiations. She has pointed out reforming the “much maligned” three-men-in-a-room budget process as a “perfect place” to reform state government, adding:
“… I would hope all legislative conference leaders will be included, giving all New Yorkers a voice in the budget. The more diversity and light we can shine on this process the better it is for everyone.”
It is my sincere hope Sen. Stewart-Cousins maintains this vigorous insistence now that she is in a stronger position to influence the direction of state spending. Secretive backroom dealing has come at a steep price for New York State and its residents.
I am confident she understands that wasteful, ineffective economic development programs, like the ones we have endured at the governor’s hands, are bad for New Yorkers. Only through open, transparent and inclusive policy can we begin to remedy this pervasive problem.
What do you think? I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, email me at email@example.com, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.