MY TURN By Mike Oates and Maureen Halahan

| 23 Feb 2012 | 03:39

A much-needed new approach to economic development in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his first “State of the State” message was clear about the serious issues we face. “We have the worst business tax climate in the nation, period,” he said. What is even more encouraging is that he appears genuine in seeking to change how this state does - and doesn’t - do business. We already know the results of past years of inattention to our business climate. We have Example No. 1 in front of us: New York’s Orange County was in the running for a Macy’s warehouse that would have employed more than 1,000 people, and potentially nearly 2,000 people. This Macy’s warehouse would have been significantly geared to fulfilling online, e-commerce orders - a perfect example of the support needed for the new economy. But we lost out to West Virginia, despite Herculean efforts by Sen. Charles Schumer, Orange County Executive Edward Diana and others to bring it here to the town of Hamptonburgh. Today, our hope is that Gov. Cuomo’s efforts, with the assistance of lawmakers, state agencies and others, can prevent similar losses. Was there more that could have been done in the Macy’s case? Absolutely. And a large part of that is changing our “default” answer to yes instead of no when business comes calling. How can we spur jobs? How can state agencies help, not hinder, business growth? How can agencies work together with local communities to make a deal happen? What kinds of commitments do businesses expect, and how can we meet those? Our new governor is right that the stakes are huge. Our state is bleeding population. Young people, especially, are leaving for other states. It is extremely difficult not just to land new businesses, but to hang on to the ones we have. In fact, for too often and for too many years, it has seemed as if our state’s government has been divorced from the serious economic realities we face. Our state needs to reinvent its attitude toward business. That’s why Gov. Cuomo’s speech was so refreshing. He gets it. We do not yet know how all of his plans will play out but we are committed to working with him to achieve our mutual goal of improving our economy. We are extremely enthusiastic about a number of his proposals. It is clear to us that this is the best chance we will have for decades to redraw the map: We can and must chart a business-friendly environment in New York State. Gov. Cuomo proposed several specific steps to move our state forward: Hold the line on taxes now and work to lower them in the future. Adjust the attitude of state agencies to find ways to say “yes” to businesses that want to expand existing operation or relocate to New York Create regional economic councils to coordinate with state agencies, local governments and economic development experts to create jobs. Repair and improve the “Excelsior Jobs Program.” Use the SUNY system to help drive New York’s economic engine. Enact property tax relief. We realize that there will be an extended political process and Assembly and Senate review of Gov. Cuomo’s plans, and all of that is as it should be. But we cannot overstate how important it is to reboot this state’s attitude toward business. Our economic success - or failure - is directly tied to whether this state’s business climate can be improved. Are we ready, across local and state governments and related agencies, to find a way to make the next Macy’s deal happen? We believe it is imperative to seize this time to change the course of our state. We will do everything we possibly can to assist Gov. Cuomo and ensure that New York once again has the “vibrant private sector” that can help this state thrive. Mike Oates is president and CEO, Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. Maureen Halahan is president and CEO, Orange County Partnership.

We’re going to start by transforming New York’s economy, because what made New York the Empire State was not a large government complex. It was a vibrant private sector that was creating great jobs in the state of New York. That’s what made us the Empire State once and that’s what’s going to make us the Empire State again. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Jan. 5, 2011