State Sen. Tom O'Mara Column: "Making Hard Work Pay Off"

Posted July 26, 2011

State Sen. Tom O’Mara Column: “Making Hard Work Pay Off”
(Week of July 25, 2011)

Now comes what just might prove the toughest and most important job of all: turning around the upstate economy.

It’s an economic revitalization that’s been talked about, incessantly, over the past three decades. But the actions have never truly matched the words. I think, and I sure hope, that’s about to change. With the end of the successful Empire Zone program last year, this new effort becomes all the more critical.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature are coming off a legislative session that, viewed in the light of actions living up to words, was remarkable in the recent history of Albany. Don’t just take my word for it.
 The strongest proof of this year’s success isn’t found in what the governor or legislators are saying about it. Instead, just look at the advocacy groups that have lined up in recent weeks and welcomed the session’s results. Good government advocates praising ethics reform. Business leaders touting less state spending and no new taxes. Environmental groups excited about the potential for green jobs.

The change has been hard to believe, really, for anyone who pays any attention at all to New York government. Now comes the best change of all, in my view. I’ve been as pleased as anyone by the fact that, in my first term in the Senate, there’s been this turnaround -- especially in the mindset that government can make a difference. But I also know as well as anyone that everything’s not suddenly coming up aces in our regional economy. Job losses continue. Work remains hard to find for too many of our unemployed and underemployed citizens. Local governments face daunting burdens and challenges.

So here’s what Governor Cuomo had to say last week, and it was music to many ears: "We have made great progress, but there is still a long way to go. It is essential that we build on the momentum, fix state government, and create jobs for New Yorkers across the state."

Translation: New York government’s not going to sit and rest in the shade of this year’s achievements. Far from it. With states across America and communities throughout New York still under the dark cloud of an economy that’s proving stubbornly slow to recover, we’re going to step up our own efforts to try and do something about it. I share a core belief with many others that private-sector job creation must be economic priority No. 1 and that government, by itself, can’t create that growth. But there’s no denying that government can play a key role in helping to establish a climate that can help open the door.

Governor Cuomo began 2011 with an economic call to arms: “New York is open for business.” The state Senate quickly followed suit by adopting a comprehensive new jobs plan. This year’s state budget, as I’ve stressed in this column and elsewhere since April, took important steps. Now we need to kick the effort into high gear. The 10 regional economic councils established in this year’s state budget are getting underway. They’ll be reaching out locally and statewide with an offer: tell us what economic strengths you can build on, pinpoint weaknesses, put together a plan, and make your case. I look forward to joining with area business leaders, community officials and others to do anything and everything necessary to make a strong and successful case for our region.

The governor has labeled this new phase “NY Works.” You can read more about it at In addition to the regional councils, other specifics include:

-- changing the way businesses apply for hundreds of millions of dollars in state economic development funds;

-- a new marketing campaign, "New York is Open for Business," to more effectively help New York State stand up and stand out to business leaders worldwide making the decisions on where to locate their operations and create jobs;

-- overhauling the state’s procurement practices for goods, services, and real estate with the goal of savings hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and streamlining the process for attracting businesses and industries, large and small, to New York.

New York government proved it can work throughout the 2011 session. But even more importantly, it’s about to show that we’re going to keep on working, day in and day out, to turn this state around. However, it is vitally important to recognize the input of our local communities in this effort, including our Industrial and Economic Development Agencies that have been performing yeoman’s work in promoting our region’s strengths.

It’s one of the most important opportunities we’ve ever had to live up to one of the nation’s bedrock ideals: Hard work pays off.

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