In several posts and Unshackle emails in recent months, I have discussed the Partnership’s Accelerate Upstate initiative to develop an action agenda to improve the Upstate economy which was first announced in May and led to a highly successful August summit for nearly 300 business, government, and community leaders from across New York State.  This week, we are taking the initiative’s next step by releasing the Accelerate Upstate Action Agenda, itself.

Throughout the two-day Accelerate Upstate conference and in follow up conversations that occurred for weeks afterward, participants developed specific recommendations for improving Upstate’s economic future given the demographics of and resulting political imbalance in New York State.  That input received- through group conversations, feedback forms, e-mails, and even tweets- was aggregated into the full agenda, which is available here and arranged according to eight key themes:

1)     A new attitude toward economic development is needed in Albany:

o    Each Regional Economic Development Council should head a more coordinated approach between state and non-state economic development groups.

o    New York State needs to create an environment more attractive for investment by addressing stringent taxes and regulations.

2)     Upstate must capitalize on its bi-national location and relationship with Canada:

o    The leadership of both New York State and the Province of Ontario need to convene to increase their working relationship.

o    Both sides of the border need to begin looking toward the future of both entities as a bi-national logistics hub.

3)     Workforce development programs need to be appropriately linked to employer needs:

o    The private sector, State leadership, and the federal government must work together to define future workforce needs and take steps to meet them

o    It is critical that we address both hard and soft skills across the K-12 continuum and into high education.

4)     Improved access to working capital is required for innovators and entrepreneurs to grow businesses:

o    New York State can and should allocate additional funds for early-stage technology companies.

o    Regional chambers of commerce should serve as matchmakers between private sector investors and startup companies.

5)     Both higher education and the private sector can benefit by increasing their relationships with one another:

o    New York State must work with its colleges and universities to make funding available for capital projects and match degree programs with emerging workforce needs.

o    The Higher Education Compact should be reformed to provide schools with more flexibility in implementing curriculum changes.

6)     Fresh water resources must be protected, and efforts need to be coordinated with neighboring states and provinces:

o    The federal government should restore funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

o    State leadership must engage in Great Lakes issues to ensure New York is prominently considered in future decision making on a national level.

7)     The public and private sectors must work more collaboratively across Upstate:

o    New York should implement policy that will facilitate and encourage public-private partnerships.

o    The Governor’s regional offices should be realigned to meet ESD and DOL boundaries (consistent with the new Regional Economic Development Councils).

8)     Upstate and Downstate can and need to work together on a wide range of issues:

o    Peers in local governments, business organizations, labor, and employers of all sizes need to collaborate, particularly with respect to issues of common interest such as energy policy, and Upstate “back office” support for Downstate companies.

o    The State would benefit by launching a “Sister City” program to match Upstate and Downstate communities with complementary industries.

The Partnership is committed to seeing this agenda implemented, and we’re committing the resources necessary to do so.  But it’s really not “all about us.”  Indeed, I’m sharing the Accelerate Upstate Action Agenda with you as well as to local, state, and federal government officials, our partners in economic development, and in Unshackle Upstate and the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, and the members of the ten NYS Regional Economic Development Councils, because this agenda is a road map for all of us.  If Upstate’s economy is really going to grow and in a sustaining way, we all have to look in the mirror, ask ourselves what our role is, and commit to action.

From the outset, we have taken steps to ensure that Accelerate Upstate is more than just a conversation; it needs to be, and is, about such actions.  That continues this week.  We welcome your continued input at accelerate@thepartnership.org.