Calling on candidates and policymakers to reinvigorate the Upstate Economy by scrapping a broken system and supporting entrepreneurs

Albany, NY – Upstate Jobs Party (UJP), a nonprofit 501(c)-4 independent organization, today announced the economic component of their 2020 platform, calling for an overhaul of economic development programs and a refocus to supporting entrepreneurs in the innovation economy to drive both job and wage growth for all. With a loss in population of more than 1 million in the last decade and current Upstate unemployment rate of more than 15%, a new approach is needed to jumpstart our regional economy.

UJP Founder and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Martin Babinec said, “For far too long, Upstate has been left behind by a broken economic development system in New York. The COVID pandemic now places us in a position to take drastic steps to fix this broken system and make it work for everyone. Let’s give our neighbors and businesses a chance to succeed in this recovery.

In two separate platform proposals, UJP asserted New York needs drastic change to improve economic outcomes and encourage private sector investment. This platform includes a new approach to economic development and supporting the innovation economy:

  • End the crazy government “picking winner and losers” process.  New York tax dollars in economic development projects should be limited to those situations where private investors are taking greater risk than taxpayers.
  • Provide greater transparency in job creation outcomes. Just like in the business world, transparency in spending and investment is absolutely essential to establish confidence in investors, stakeholders, and most of all taxpayers.  To truly enable an ecosystem that produces outcomes of more jobs, state policymakers must begin by reporting in each economic development grant the cost of public investment per job (CPJ) that is the basis for the investment or incentive as well as the evaluation period that CPJ will be tracked.
  • Put the Regional Economic Development Councils to Bed.  With COVID-19 sidelining the REDC process this year, the time is right to re-think this process.  The current structure has REDCs locked in a “Hunger Games” competition based on political boundaries that have no bearing on how commerce flows or how workers seek opportunities.  It’s time to end this ineffective and costly boondoggle.
  • Promote existing tax incentives to spur more private capital investment into startups. New York State has a Qualified Emerging Technology Company (QETC) program that allows investors to see a tax credit for up to 20% of their qualifying investment in startups – but the program is rarely used as too few investors even know about it. Should the State really want to get the engines firing, a greater percentage of tax credit could be offered if the QETC is located in Upstate.
  • Make program investments that advance collaboration across boundaries. With the billions of dollars we invest in economic development each year, pitifully few resources are allocated to the core reason our best high growth entrepreneurs leave Upstate to launch startups elsewhere: their perceived difficulty in getting connected to the people willing and able to help them here. Better to tie grants to initiatives that explicitly advance collaboration across the region’s institutions by connecting entrepreneurs to people who can help them.  
  • Research innovation economy and commit to economic development transparency. Some people evolve their thinking about innovation economy startups after stumbling into a friend, relative, or colleague sharing an example of a young company growing from nothing to a major employer in a much shorter time period than traditional businesses.  Just think about how much better we could make decisions on public policy, resource allocation, and even private investment if we were to know more precisely these companies are spurring job and wage growth in their local areas.
  • Use power to convene to get input – then do something with it.   Elected leaders in Upstate New York should be seeking out investors, entrepreneurs, and innovation economy executives to learn what they need, and also bring together the diverse stakeholders that can make a difference.  With our existing base of innovation economy employers and a vast array of STEM universities, there is no shortage of smart people Upstate who can contribute, but no leaders are asking them to do so. We need public officials who are proactive in reaching out to innovation economy leaders to get that input – and then actually do something with it.

Learn more about why Upstate Jobs thinks these changes would improve the Upstate Economy with our posts on Economic Development Reform and Supporting the Innovation Economy.

UJP Chair John Bullis said, “Never before has a refined focus on economic development and investment been so important.  Our leaders need to overhaul the economic development system, encourage transparency, and put the innovation economy to work for all New Yorkers!”

UJP will be seeking candidates to support this fall that embrace an overhaul to our economic development system to improve opportunities Upstate. The full UJP policy platform can be found at the UJP website here.

About Upstate Jobs

UJP is focused on building priorities around stemming the outflow of our young talent, getting government out of the way of investors and entrepreneurs, and fully reforming New York State government. In 2017, UJP supported independent candidate Ben Walsh, who successfully upset the political establishment by winning election as Syracuse Mayor on the UJP line. In 2018, UJP supported the candidacy of three state legislative candidates – all of whom were successfully elected.  In local races in 2019, UJP supported seven candidates for local and County offices, with all but one being elected. Volunteers interested in joining the effort to create more jobs in Upstate NY, keep our best and brightest talent from leaving to pursue opportunities elsewhere, and build a strong economy throughout the region are encouraged to visit to learn more.