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Sen. Jim Seward

State Sen. Jim Seward. 

A number of strides have been taken in Albany in recent years to revise and enhance our economic development programs. While there have been some success stories, we have a great deal of work in front of us. Our rural communities in particular are being threatened by a steady decrease in jobs and action is needed.

The older population is aging out of the existing work force and many are relocating or leaving New York State altogether. This pattern is leaving our communities with a gaping hole: the decrease in population accompanied by a loss of jobs will create ghost towns out of our once thriving communities in rural New York. The effect of this trend creates serious budgetary issues for local and state governments. I do have a plan of action that can help reverse this trend.

Legislation (S.4727) entitled the “New York Rural and Agricultural Jobs Act,” which I introduced earlier this year, is one solution for increasing jobs and growing small businesses in upstate and rural New York. This bill encourages private investors to raise targeted funds for agribusinesses and our state’s rural, small businesses.

My bill would establish a $100 million fund, created through private investment, to help promote and sustain the economies of New York's rural communities and protect the jobs of hardworking individuals in these areas. Certainly, the actual dollars are vital to growing businesses, but the moral boost the program provides is just as important. This legislation tells citizens in rural areas that they matter too, their businesses are worth investing in, and their communities are worth revitalizing.

It is imperative that we attract private venture and growth capital to invest in rural and upstate New York, matching state incentives with private capital. It is time we recognize all of the resources and opportunities that lay dormant. Our rural communities have so much to offer and by presenting these incentives, we will attract the private investment that can revitalize our rural areas that currently face a decline in population and labor force.

Accountability must also be part of the plan. Too often, state programs are announced, grants are handed out, and there is no follow through or real results. Incentives are only effective when combined with proper safeguards for taxpayers, including penalties for the failure to meet job targets and tax revenue goals. The penalties are a way to ensure that targeted incentives lead to results in the form of job growth and small business growth.

Reporting requirements, vital to any private-public partnership, are also included in my bill so taxpayers know the value and good coming from the investments occurring in rural New York. Along with transparency, it is important to focus on high growth investments in manufacturing, agribusiness, ag-tech, plant sciences and other high-tech, high growth sectors.

Rural New York communities are ripe with opportunity to nurse these sectors to life and have all the resources necessary to bolster a job and opportunity boom. This new and creative New York focused incentive will enable job growth and allow the people of upstate and rural New York to recognize that they are not forgotten, and that they are worth investing in. Most importantly, this will allow residents to see their town and cities in New York State as places worth staying in, places worth raising their families in, and places worth calling home.

The “New York Rural and Agricultural Jobs Act” has strong bi-partisan support and has also been introduced in the state assembly. Several key economic leaders, including the New York State Business Council and Unshackle Upstate, have also signaled their strong endorsement of the legislation.

Recent state initiatives to reduce energy taxes, invest in major economic development and transportation projects, and expand job-training programs are all having a positive effect on New York State’s economy. We need to take additional steps to foster growth, particularly in our state’s rural regions, and this legislation can play a valuable role.