The more things change…?

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Things are changing at New York State’s economic development agency. Governor Paterson’s recent appointment of Buffalo-based Robert Wilmers, the Chairman and CEO of M&T Bank Corp., to head the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), has garnered much praise from business groups across the state. But whether Wilmers will support state subsidy reforms remains to be seen.

Wilmers’ appointment (subject to confirmation by the state Senate), has pleased business leaders downstate like Kathryn Wylde, head of the Partnership for New York City, “because of his business background,” as well as those with more of a focus on upstate. Brian McMahon, the executive director of the business-backed New York State Economic Development Council (which is opposing a push to attach job quality standards to locally granted subsidies) told the Albany Times Union that because of Wilmer’s experience in New York City and upstate, he is “an outstanding choice” to lead ESDC.

As Buffalo News reporter Jim Heaney notes on his blog, Outrages and Insights, Wilmers, and M&T Bank have “in many ways been good corporate citizens” by investing in downtown Buffalo, but Wilmers has also directly benefited from public subsidies. Heaney points out that M&T Bank received $1.3 million in Empire Zone benefits in 2006. Since Wilmers will maintain his position at M&T while serving as the ESDC chairperson, Heaney questions whether it will be a conflict of interest for an Empire Zone recipient to head the agency that administers the program. According to the Albany Times Union, M&T Securities was listed by ESDC as a company that had not lived up to its Empire Zone job commitments, but officials with Paterson and the company recently said that was an error.

When it comes to corporate giveaways, let’s hope Bob Wilmers thinks beyond his immediate business ties and he doesn’t leave us sighing the old adage “… the more they stay the same.”

One Response to “The more things change…?”

  1. Dan Owens Says:

    Thanks for the great blog and great work all around. We’ll be keeping tabs on the following, but you might be interested in this as well:

    http://www.ktiv.com/News/index.php?ID=26161

    One day, that’s all the time left for Wells Dairy to meet state deadlines to create high paying jobs.

    If they don’t, they risk paying back millions of dollars in loans from the state of Iowa.

    In 2004, Wells Dairy told state economic officials that it would create 129 jobs and retain another 346 by mid 2008.

    In return the state offered the company a 3-million dollar forgivable loan to help build a corporate headquarters.

    If Wells doesn’t meet the June 11th job deadline they would be forced to pay back the loan.

    A spokesperson for Wells Dairy says it’s too early to speculate whether those jobs are there. “We really don’t want to speculate until the entire process is done, because then incorrect information will be passed along, and that is not what we want to do. We want the process to be complete so the information is complete and accurate,” said Dave Smetter, Wells Dairy spokesman.

    Smetter went on to say that if it turns out Wells doesn’t meet the job creation requirements that they will pay back the state for the loan.

    For now, it looks like we are going to have to wait until Wells’ documents are actually due to the Department of Economic Development at the end of the month to see how they did.

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