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Lieutenant Governor Visits Plattsburgh, Discusses Economy And Albany Issues

Photo of Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul inside the Strand Theatre
Pat Bradley/WAMC
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Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul (right) tours Strand Theatre with Joshua Kretser

With New York poised to award $1.5 billion in funding to three of seven competing regions later this week,  Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul was in Plattsburgh Monday to tour cultural and business venues and discuss economic development.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul visited a number of venues while in Plattsburgh Monday including the Momot Elementary School and Spenser ARL, a transportation equipment company.

She also toured the newly restored Strand Theatre downtown, an historic 1924 vaudeville theatre whose renovation was among the first priority projects funded by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.  City councilor and Strand Theatre Director Joshua Kretser guided her through the evolution of the refurbishments.  “The theatre went thru many reincarnations. The building unfortunately fell into a horrible state of disrepair. The Regional Economic Development Council was instrumental in us being able to fund a number of phases of improvements that have just completely transformed this space into what it is now.”
Hochul:  “Is it finished?”
Kretser:  “We’re still ongoing.”

Prior to the tour, the Lieutenant Governor held a meeting with economic development and business leaders at the theatre to discuss how the region can capitalize on its strengths.   “The biggest challenge faced by our employers today is not finding the skilled workers they need to step into the existing jobs. And as we continue to grow, particularly in the transportation equipment industries which are really robust in this area, we’ve got to do more.  I’m going to continue working with the business community to make sure that we align our colleges, our high schools, community colleges to find out what specific skills the employers need to take this economy to a new level.”

Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas noted that regional economic development has changed as the Cuomo administration works in collaboration with the business community.   “The conversation quickly turned to workforce availability and skills particularly in connection with things that we’re foreseeing over the next several years that are going to tighten the workforce situation here and actually give us an opportunity to draw new people in. But we’re going to have to focus a lot of attention very aggressively behind our existing workforce development systems. Getting them to work together even more closely than they’re already doing and to do some new things. So much of the conversation was about workforce.”

Hochul, who chairs the 10 statewide Economic Development Councils, says she is out of the loop regarding the selection process and does not know which regions will receive funding on Thursday.  “There really are no losers in this process because the governor has added so much more money not just to this opportunity to win 500 million for three regions but separate from that is the consolidated funding program, the traditional economic development dollars. He has infused even more money into that program. So anyone who this year does not come out on top, they will still receive more money than the winners from last year’s round.”

In the wake of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s corruption conviction last week, Hochul claimed that Governor Cuomo would continue his push for reforms.   “The governor last year was successful in getting a number of initiatives through. We now have the toughest anti-bribery laws for public officials on the books. We also have restrictions on the use of campaign finance funds. The governor has called for the end of the LLC loophole, which is a way that people are funneling thousands of dollars into campaigns from businesses. He wants that to end.  The governor has been a leader on this. But he needs partners and we were heartened to hear that Majority Leader John Flanagan has said that the Senate will take this issue up. So the governor’s going to keep pushing as he has for the last four years to make sure we’ve got the toughest ethics laws in the nation.  But we need the Assembly and the Senate to work with us as well.”

The Albany Times Union reported in August that the Cuomo re-election campaign received $200,000  from four separate LLCs with the same address in Brooklyn.  In June 2014, ProPublica reported that Cuomo said he accepted the funds in order to get elected to change the law.  ProPublica’s analysis of state campaign filings during his first 3 and a half years in office showed that the governor had received more than $6.2 million from LLCs.

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