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Business community gathers for 'State of the Region'
LATHAM -- State of the Region. Tuesday leaders from the business community met together to discuss where we are, and where we're going. With signs of an economic uptick nationally, is the trend following suit in the Capital Region?
The picture is brighter perhaps than it has been in recent years. However, there are critical issues businesses believe must be addressed to keep any momentum moving.
"We have a lot of people moving back to this region they want to come back here they see what's happening," said Linda Hillman, President of the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber.
No longer is the Hudson Valley the selling point for business leaders. Tech Valley is the distinction they say keeps cash in this area.
"At one time it was really aspirational," said Mark Eagan, President & CEO of the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber. "It was an emerging technology sector. Now anyone in the tech space across the country and across the globe, Albany is on the map."
Regional chamber presidents are watching their members hire people and expand their products.
"You have to look at the GE," said Chuck Seiner, President of the Schenectady County Chamber of Commerce. "Renewal of interest, renewal in to their energy business, that the expansion there and the opportunity that ge continues to thrive here in this region."
The Siena Research Institute finds revenues and profits growing this year. Nevertheless, it can be a taxing venture for a business owner.
"The cost of doing business in New York, taxation, regulation," Eagan said. "It can't be the actions of one or two legislative sessions. It has to be the new way that New York governs."
That's the cloud which hangs over the horizon of downtowns and Main Streets. Siena's surveyors found that only about a quarter of CEO's asked said they would set up shop in New York one more time. Most CEO's surveyed believe income tax reform and spending cuts should be the Legislature's top priority. Governor cuomo has proposed a $2 billion plan to cut taxes. Assemblymember Pat Fahy does not support the entirety of his plan.
"There is a need for mandate relief, I know workers comp has been an issue," Fahy said. "Clearly we're holding the line on property taxes which also affect businesses, and I think that that has helped."
Fahy says nearly $1 billion in that tax cut plan is caught up in the business transaction tax and the estate tax. The latter of the two she says only effects about 200 New Yorkers -- most of them downstate, and money lost there would have to be made up elsewhere. However, the business community is in support of the whole plan as it stands with the belief that any incentive to keep money flowing in the private sector is positive.
The Siena survey also found one significant impediment to economic growth. 69% of businesses which responded believe the Affordable Care Act has a negative affect on their success.
The Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber is also advocating for the exit 4 construction project along the Northway. It believes providing a direct link to the Albany International Airport will open the entire area up to investment, as well as property in the immediate area. Eagan says there is interest in the project from leaders outside of Albany County, as far south as Columbia and as far north as Washington, for leisure travelers and businesses who can have greater ease moving between the airport and their final destination. It will also improve public safety, the Chamber believes, with less traffic backed up on the highway and local roads.
Eagan will speak on the subject at a public hearing on the project, as well as the reconstruction of the Northway bridges which cross over Albany-Shaker Road, which is scheduled for Tuesday night.