May 12, 2008

The Politics Of Economic Development

I must say, I'm a little bit confused about comments that Niagara County Legislator Dennis Virtuoso is making about economic development efforts in the county. Over the past year, the NC Leg has often talked about their marketing efforts and the successes that they have enjoyed through those marketing efforts.

But not Virtuoso. He takes every opportunity he can to bash the county's economic development efforts.

Here's where it gets a little confusing. Virtuoso is a Niagara County Legislator. One would think that Virtuoso would tout the successes of the county. By repeatedly saying that the county has failed, Dennis, you have failed. You see, you've been in the Leg for 20 years. Now you can point to the Majority caucus doing this and that, but as the senior member of the Leg, you wear both the successes and the failures.

That is unless you have rendered yourself politically impotent as a member of the minority. I know, we've heard it before, you can't do what you want because you're not in the majority. But there is nothing to stop you from bringing legislation that would enhance our economic development efforts. You are, after all, part of the same team, aren't you? Aren't all 19 legislators interested in moving forward with the best interests of the county at heart?

Let's hope so. We all enjoy the politics of Niagara County. If we didn't I wouldn't be writing this blog and you wouldn't be reading it. But really, does the politics of this area stink so bad that we want the other side to fail, and in doing so, want this county to suffer? God help us all if that's where we're headed.


Anonymous said...

Dennis joining the "Evil Empire"? Wow, if that was ever to happen what would the world look like? God forbid any man put aside his ego & hairdo... for a better economic state. I see trees of green.. red roses too.. and I think to myself....What a Wonderful World. Doubt it.

WilliamWallace said...

Term limits, term limits, term limits. Service for the people, not a pension.

Anonymous said...

Another smear campain is in full swing for good ole hobbes. You cannot show one thing done in your majority rule except barn painting, so you must pick on dennis. Hey I heard he friends with jim j....hobbes your going to lose delphi but its more fun to make remarks about peoples haircuts.

Anonymous said...

Ok. Let's start right now. Objectively. List the accomplishments of Dennis.
Anon, you start.

Anonymous said...

Well Hobbes you got a big F last year, sorry but a new tim horton's does not count.

Anonymous said...

One thing he did was give me a nail file in front of the polling station, also he said hi to me at latina's and he goes to church every sunday. Thats more than the agnostic bill ross every did.

Anonymous said...

A few republican wins, the hiring of extra conflict lawyers(but you still had to use others because of conflict)that alone should give you F, but how is OZ coming along? any day now, also the banking center in cambria, how is that coming along? But you did cut the ribbon at steak escape(a nice fat IDA loan)

Anonymous said...

According to the Lockport Journal, only 5 projects were completed in an entire year under Dennis Virtuoso's "leadership."

Maybe the lack of progress had more to do with the IDA Board members who were indicted or the interference by the Leg or the turnover of the IDA's leadership or its FAILED attempt to develop an airport.

And why are people so quick to call criticism a smear campaign? People that live in glass houses should not throw stones.

rob clark said...

I was going to jump right in on this one. (But its a double edged sword. This is a problem that has been brewing in this county for awhile. The NC Legislature need to work together to find the right answer on this one.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I have never read any statement from HSBC regarding its project not moving forward. How does Rich Marasco have this inside line? Who the f___ is Rich Marasco? Does the election he lost or his entitlement to a public pension make him an expert?

Anonymous said...

The only way the republican's hold on the the majority is by fooling all the old ladies by running as dem's.

Anonymous said...

The only old ladies who have been duped with the nice Shellbury sisters in Newfane who fast Eddie Shoemaker helpled bilk out of their life savings. I wonder if that's the money Eddie used to bankroll the Dem candidates like Merrill Bender and Charlie Dahlquist while Professor Larry's NCCC faculty union was funneling money to the NT race against Andrea McNulty as well as Mr. Naughton's campaign against Bill Ross. Seems the only thing paid for by the Democrat Committee itself was Buffalo Common Council and Erie County Leg races where Dan Rivera funneled the money for his boss.

dark knight said...

As much as people want to look at IDA boards, the fact is the leadership for economic development really falls on the shoulders of Sam Ferraro. Sam has worked under the leadership of both parties. He was hired at the IDA when the Dems controlled the board and has maintained in the position for the last five years by the GOP Majority. So the real quesiton on economic development is whether Sam Ferraro has been effective and if not, why has Dennis Virtuoso (or any other Legislator for that matter) called for his ouster.

The Realist said...

Just read the article this post is based on. Rick Marasco sounds like a complete moron ready to fight the AES battle again. Hey Rick, put down your public paycheck for a second and recongize the HSBC data center was for processing mortgages and the whole mortgage industry when ka-bloom.

"Me not understand your macro economics. Me upset that county couldn't for HSBC to build new building. Me get elected to county, me change global economy. Me very smart." -- Rick Marasco

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the republican's are poopin their pants. Too many sweet heart deals for their a__ kissers.

Larry Castellani said...

Statewide it seems there is good reason to bring economic development into question with respect to the effectivity of the IDA’s. I recall reading a story I believe in the Tonawanda News about a report from Cuomo’s office claiming that there was little empirical data suggesting that the IDA’s statewide were producing jobs sufficiently statistically significant to indicate that they are making an appreciable difference in the economy. So if I remember and have interpreted the story correctly, it seems to really be seriously bringing into question the worth of the IDA’s. … But how do you judge whether a deal like AES is worth it? What are the criteria? Is there a mathematical formula for tax loss versus job increases or what? Does anybody really know besides Sam Ferraro? Does he know? Are there economists working with him? If Virtuoso’s criticism aren’t simply ritualistic obligatory ranting, then what’s his basis for criticism? Are there data on the results of IDA “investments?” Are there other economic tools utilized independently of IDA’s to create jobs/businesses or is the whole strategy linked to the IDA mechanism??? If there aren’t some measurements by which these questions can be answered is it any wonder that there’s such pissing and moaning about economic development in NC? And if there is data/measurements what/where is it? Is it available to the public? Help!

fawn leibowitz said...

Well Hobbes, I think your question has been answered. Unfortunately, the answer is yes, some would rather see the county as a whole fail rather than see the current majority be able to claim any successes. How pathetic.

Larry Castellani said...

So why won’t someone share some hard stats that are indicating a significant upward swing in job creation over the last 3 years. Is Updegrove’s claim regarding recent successes based on some hard evidence? And again I’d just like to know where this evidence is located? If it’s not just in somebody’s mind, then how can one who really doesn’t know find out? If you won’t accept arguments pro or con about who’s right and who’s wrong, and I can’t get hard data from someone, what counts as legitimate criticism or questioning? The pubescent sarcasm and name-calling isn’t helping. I really don’t care who’s right or wrong, believe it or not. I’d just like to be able to see the evidence that the Repubs and Dems are basing their arguments on. Has the IDA been publishing reports of their actions and progress? Or do we have to wait for the business council again? …. Also, how does a bond rating work to help business? … And, is anybody interested in the empirical truth of the matter? I’m actually begging to be educated here. Help me out! Anybody have time for some education?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

No relief in the sales tax for gas, spend any savings from Mt.View on NCCC, and they want to smell James J.'s fingers. Yes I would say an F is in order, the republican fat cats are useless, oh I forgot they painted some barns.

gop shill said...

I'd rather have a GOP Majority that paints barns rather than a Dem Majority that nearly bankrupted the IDA while Renae Kimble and Shirley Hamilton sat in the office smoking ciggy's all day.

I nearly pissed myself when Virtuoso said the Niagara Airport Development Corproation is the reason the NFTA is building a new terminal. Sorry, Dennis, the only thing the NADC did was the line the pockets of consultants with ties to certain Dem leaders. No, they contributed nothing.

The only good the NADC did is sink the Dem Majority. Thanks, guys.

pirate's code said...

Larry --

Sam Ferraro from the county issues an annual report to the Legislature on the activities of the IDA and the county's economic development department (he heads both).

The IDA's website includes reference to that report, plus a list of current and recent projects. It doesn't appear to have historical data that I could find in my five-minute search, but maybe it's there somewhere.

I copied the following from a newsletter that is included in the web page that I believe is supposed to be a summary of the annual report to the Legislature:

Some highlights include:
--For the year ending 2007, the IDA successfully closed on 12 ease and bond projects, projecting to create over 130 jobs within 3 years and retaining over 1200 jobs, with a total investment of
over $82,000,000.
--In addition, 9 projects were approved but did not close by year's end. These projects are
projected to create over 300 jobs within 3 years and retain over 150 jobs, with a total investment
of over $87,000,000.
--In 2007, the IDA closed 7 loans totaling $1,940,000. These rojects are projected to create 49 jobs within 3 years and retain over 240.
--The Niagara County Microenterprise Assistance Program was created in 1995 for the benefit of low-to-moderate income individuals and small businesses with 5 employees or less. Since that time, the NCIDA has provided 24 rounds of training to local entrepreneurs. The program has an
excellent record of success, with over 1400 applications received since its inception and 525
individuals graduating from the educational portion to date. Over $2,000,000 in loans have been
approved since 1995. For 2007, 2 loans were approved, 15 jobs are projected to be created, and
3 jobs are retained.

Now, is this great, average or poor performance for an IDA/economic development group? Darned if I know. I suppose the good news is that there is at least some activity in an otherwise bleak economy. I also read (in the Gazette, I think) recently that the IDA's auditor has found its finances to be sound, which is a turnaround from five years ago or so.

I think the performance of the county's economic development efforts is dependent far more on the economy than it is on who controls the county Legislature.

Sorry to interrupt the debate with facts. Return to your regular programming.

Larry Castellani said...

thank you for the info. I think I've been avoiding doing may own research. I find reports like those on the website excruciating to read. Philosophy is easer. ... But it seems that without some real objectivity here no believable claims can be made as to the virtue and vice of the IDA board. ... The notion that their success is predominantly a function of the economy and not the political party in the majority seems to make sense. You and some Anon have made the same claim. But if the procedure is so cut and dried why such vitriolic accusations of wrong doing and incompetence? Or is it all so cut and dried as the Anon in the above blog claimed???

pirate's code said...

@Larry -- "But if the procedure is so cut and dried why such vitriolic accusations of wrong doing and incompetence?"

Sadly, professor, I believe the answer rests not in what the IDA may do, rather in who makes the appointments to the board. The practices of any IDA (county, city or town) are clearly laid out in state law, and is audited annually by an outside firm and periodically by the state. This is not to say there aren't abuses, or simply missteps, because clearly there are.

As I understand it, the IDA board is not a paying gig, so it would seem the perks of the job are few. But, I believe the county legislature appoints all the members of the board, so certainly which ever party holds the majority has the option to appoint any and all of the members.

Unfortunately, I believe IDA support is necessary for us to compete for new jobs or business expansion. Our delivery system for such support is awful compared with, say, North Carolina--where one phone call to an "800" number sets you up with the economic developers for the entire state. Here in Niagara, we have three IDAs that I know of (the county, town of Niagara and town of Lockport) and at least a couple of quasi-IDAs known as local development corporations (NT has one, for sure). According to a recent state report, there are 116 local IDAs across New York. How that is even remotely efficient is beyond me. All of this gets layered on top of (or below, depending on your point of view) the state's own economic development bureaucracy [see the current debate over Gov. Paterson's plan to do away with the two-headed leadership of this function created by Spitzer].

There would appear to be little that a county, by itself, can do to effect dramatic change in its own economy. There are simply too many other factors at work. So, in the face of this, what is the reaction of the political class? Blame the other guy.

Is this a great place to live or what?