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Griffo supports Regional Economic Development Council, but says North Country needs more

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State Senator Joe Griffo was in Potsdam Thursday for Governor Andrew Cuomo's announcement of the new Regional Economic Development Councils.

Griffo's a Republican whose district covers Onieda, St. Lawrence, and Lewis Counties.

Nora Flaherty spoke with him about what the councils might mean for the North Country. She asked him if he had any concerns about the plan.

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Nora Flaherty
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"We want to ensure that we're not adding more layers to economic strategy and efforts," Griffo said. "Based on the conversations that we have had it does not appear at this point and time that will be a problem or an obstacle. The other thing we advocated and we wanted to ensure is that while there is a pot of money that communities by region will be able to compete based on the project needs, I think there are some unique concerns and issues and challenges to specific areas, like the North Country, that will need additional attention and additional resources beyond what comes through the economic development councils.

"If you look at some of the major ideas that we have - not only infrastructure needs but take a look at the Rooftop Highway concept and whether or not this is something. I know that we are very strapped for cash right now but this is something that could really enhance the traffic network here, which obviously is an important part for economic development and the future. So there are projects like that but there are significant cost attached to projects like that. We would need more than just state assistance we would need federal assistance, but those kind of projects along with some of the needs that take place from manufacturers, like Alcoa in this area, that we need to continue to be sensitived to and continue to work with.

"Downstate, I think you've seen somewhat of an economic revival in the city and the greater city area but upstate and the North Country has struggled more and particularly here in the North Country, I think when you look at like in Massena the largest employer isn't Alcoa. You had General Motors but they left. So I think you need to be sensitized to that and say beyond the work and the strategy of the councils we also have to pay more specific attention and as a result allocate additonal resources to distressed areas that are facing unique challenges like the Massena-Potsdam area.

What are this region's priorities and how will the council help or hinder those priorities?

"I don't know if the council will hinder the concepts or priorities. I think maybe more of the problem might be when you have to rank what project is more important than another because you still have a variety of counties involved and every county is going to feel that their specific project is important. But i think the aspects here that we need to recognize that - this is a good part of this - that we can grow regionally. I think that's what we need to come to grips with and maybe this will force communities to work regionally, which I think is very important. It's something that we are capable of doing and result we can all benefit. So I think the biggest problem is going to be to get everybody to agree that it's regional success, not individual community success that really will matter. In the end, how do we accomplish that? What projects will fulfill that objective."


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