The head of the region’s leading business development group says the consensus commission’s report present opportunities to streamline operations for developers. It's the latest of many perspectives in our series examining the potential impact of the commission’s recommendations.
One of the ideas is to combine the county and city industrial development agencies into a single entity. Centerstate CEO President Rob Simpson says his office was the first to applaud when the mayor and county executive co-located those offices but not their operations. After a few years, though, even that agreement fell apart. now they’re back to square one.
"We don't need an environment where developers can come in and shop one IDA against another," Simpson said. "We also don't need an environment where it appears from the outside looking in as if city interests and suburban interests are being pitted against each other in a game of development war. That's not the image we want to project to the world."
Simpson says the region needs to have its act together in one office to manage business interests. He says that’s just one example of how the community continues to operate in a divided way, even though the area is truly one economy. Simpson says 27 of the county’s 36 municipalities are projected to run a deficit or significantly raise taxes in the next decade to stay afloat.
"The fiscal condition facing our communities is dire," Simpson said. "The economic circumstance for Central New York is one that is well known to all of us. We're not seeing the same level of growth we would like. Our demographic story tells a similar path...30 to 40 years of demographic decline with population exodus. We believe that doing nothing is only going to lead us to a worse situation."
Simpson says that could mean no local control by residents, municipalities or businesses.
"At some point in the future, someone from outside our community is going to come in and dictate the terms change," Simpson said. "Whether that's a fiscal control board or a receiver...given the fact that we can all see the train coming at us, we think it's a much better alternative for us to work together, sit at the same table, and plot a future that allows us to be successful going forward."
Simpson says a metropolitan government has proven to work in other places and reap significant benefits. he dismisses any notion that it would amount to a county takeover of the city or that it would be forced on the towns and villages. But Simpson feels they might choose to participate if services can be delivered more effectively at a lower cost.