As the discussions begin across that state about Gov. Andrew M. Cuomos tax-free zones embedded at upstate public and private universities, the list of strategic state assets to be included in the plan has not been determined. In fact, lots of essential specifics have not yet emerged.
The governor is developing a list of 20 strategic state assets in addition to the state university properties. The jockeying to be on that list has begun. Political leaders in Albany County suggested Wednesday that the states 300-acre Harriman office campus be included as an asset. The site is just east of SUNY Albany. There is speculation about including the Saratoga Technology + Energy Park.
Inclusion on this list is critical to attracting state economic development benefits. As the state recognizes that its tax climate impedes development by conceding that tax-free havens will make the state more competitive, it is essential for local leaders to find creative means to place assets on the list of favored development sites. If not, parts of the state will become high-tax enclaves and will watch upstate develop everywhere but their home counties.
In St. Lawrence County, which lives under the continual threat that the state Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg or a state prison may be closed, throwing hundreds of people out of work, leaders should mount an effort to place the entire Psychiatric Center on the list of assets qualified for tax-free development.
The center has plenty of untaxed land along the St. Lawrence River and unused buildings that would be suited for development or reuse. Success in attracting statewide attention, combined with the academic/research assets of the State University and Clarkson University, would build a base for growth in an economy that has been atrophying for years.
It is no longer sufficient to lobby and protest to maintain the status quo. Our changing economy does not respect the past; it depends upon new ideas. Delivery of psychiatric services has changed, just as the need for prison cells has declined. The north country needs to embrace new directions and lobby to place the Psychiatric Center on the list of strategic assets in New York state. And it needs to be done now before the list is created.