Wednesday October 3, 2012

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo began a statewide tour Tuesday to cheer on business projects that have gotten under way with the help of tax breaks, as New York's unemployment rate remains stubbornly higher than the national average.

Accompanied by local and state officials in Syracuse, Cuomo echoed what many business leaders and economists have long said -- economic recovery depends partly on the image that conditions are improving or will soon.

He planned to visit Long Island on Friday, followed by eight other stops before the end of the year.

"We have real results. We have cranes in the sky," said Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney in Syracuse.

"When you can count the cranes, it means you're building and you're moving forward," the governor added. "The energy is up, you can feel it here. You can feel it when you are on the ground. You can feel it all across the state. We have made great progress in two years.

"Getting people to believe is the first step," Cuomo said. "And when people believe a region is coming back, they invest, they buy homes, they fix their homes and it becomes a positive synergy, and that's what's happening here."

Meanwhile, unemployment rates in the area last month -- 8.6 percent in Syracuse; 8.3 percent in Onondaga and Madison counties; and 10.2 percent in Oswego County -- were worse than a year ago. And layoffs were announced Monday at The Post-Standard newspaper.

The unemployment rate statewide was 8.8 percent in September, compared to 8.2 percent nationally. The statewide rate was lower than in July, but higher than a year ago, when it was 8.1 percent.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in August that 32 of 372 metropolitan areas nationwide had higher unemployment rates this June than in June a year ago. All 13 of New York's metro areas -- from Buffalo to New York City -- accounted for more than a third of them.

Cuomo has wide support for his plan to have local officials and business operators pull together on regional development plans then compete for state tax breaks and other incentives. But his plan also allows companies to get substantial tax breaks to locate operations in New York while established employers pay high state and local taxes.

"The regional council approach is something we supported," said Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate, a business group where the state is directing most of its economic development effort.

"I think the question that everyone is still looking to have answered is what are the regulatory and process changes to be made to speed up a lot of these projects in getting them off the ground," Sampson said in an interview.

He said he hopes the Legislature will address easing many of the regulatory hurdles in next year's session. Most of them were created by the Legislature to protect the environment and unionized workers, which represent major political constituencies in Albany.

"The point we always try to make in any of these conversations is when you have a state with the 49th worst business tax climate in the country, you are always going to have to provide incentives for jobs," Sampson said.

Easing the cost of regulations, such as worker's compensation costs, will ultimately add jobs without taxpayer-paid incentives, he said.

"We will always say the state has to do economic development as long as the state has one of the most notoriously business unfriendly states," Sampson said.