Our Guest Viewpoint, as published on Sunday, May 22 in the Press & Sun Bulletin.
Do you remember that scene in “Rocky,” where he announces he’s going to go into the ring with what typically is a tougher, stronger fighter?
Inevitably, everyone tells him he can’t do it. He’s too old, he’s not strong enough, he can’t win. But then, there is the scene we all live for — the moment when he’s on the mat and he’s bloodied and beaten. At that moment, it happens — he finds his strength and his tenacity, and he wins.
In many ways, we’ve been on the mat, too. By the looks of it, we’re the underdogs — beaten and bruised, but not down yet. We’ve certainly got challenges. The Southern Tier is losing population, partly because New York is plagued by high property taxes. These things are true, and we don’t refute them.
The challenges are real, and we need to address them together. And while yes, this is a “feel-good” piece, it is substantiated by a lot of things to feel good about.
For starters, the Southern Tier has been named a Top Award winner in the state’s regional economic development competition for four out of the five years since it was established. This is no small task. Balancing the needs and wants of eight counties takes unprecedented collaboration, and this has been done with exceptional style by the region’s co-chairs — Tom Tranter, of Corning Enterprises, and Harvey Stenger, of Binghamton University — and the entire membership of the council.
Since 2012, the Southern Tier’s accomplishments have been many. More than 330 projects have received award funding and nearly 90 percent are complete or underway. These projects have resulted in 4,050 new jobs and the retention of more than 12,000 regional jobs. State funds have resulted in nearly $900 million in new investment, and this is before the announcement of the $500 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI).
The fruits of our regional collaboration culminated with the Southern Tier being named a $500 million winner in the “hunger games,” as many have called them. This includes a dedicated investment of more than $100 million for Broome County’s urban core.
The seeds of this opportunity are being planted now, but we know that in the next five years, Broome County will have very fertile soil to grow businesses and attract the next generation of entrepreneurs, creatives and residents to the community.
As part of the Greater Binghamton Innovation Ecosystem Initiative, we’re working with our academic and local government partners to create distinctive innovation districts that will transform Binghamton, Johnson City and Endicott into the type of place that people are flocking to.
Think about the cities you love to visit — what do they have? A dynamic creative and arts scene? Breweries, great restaurants and bars? An annual influx of energetic college students? Cool events almost every weekend? Sounds like someplace familiar?
Like we said, we’ve got work to do. As economic developers, we’ve got to continue to create opportunity for investment and expansion of business. We need our business leaders and elected officials to communicate what the impacts of living in a high-cost state are to growth. We need our colleges and university to continue to do what they’re doing so well — connecting knowledge with opportunity and resources.
But we need all of us, together, to keep throwing our hat in the ring, take the blows when we have to and keep fighting the good fight.