January 17, 2001
To the Editor: (Syracuse Newspapers)
Your Sunday editorial of January 14, 2001 asks the question: "If Not This, What?" I have some constructive thoughts:
We should, once and for all, encourage the abolishment of the seven or more Economic Development agencies that separately have claimed over the years to represent the greater Syracuse area. These groups attempt to bring in and retain jobs and businesses to Central New York. To me, the Mall proposal is a substitute answer to a gifted area that deserves better.
We should take the administrative savings; establish one official lead entity, and hire bona fide professionals as our ambassadors to bring in solid proposals.
We should create an executive board made up of local talent, free from political and self interests. It can be done, and is done in many cities that are prospering on well prepared projects.
The respected Lee Smith of Syracuse University College, Roundtable and Citizen League renown, in a letter to the editor January 7, 1997, questioned, "Who Speaks for CNY?" He voiced his concerns on why we have so many Economic Development groups. He suggested one "umbrella organization" as the contact agency, and that "the overall effect of so many competing offices and personnel cannot be helpful to our local economy."
When I was turned out to pasture, retiring from the County Legislature in 1994, after 17 rewarding years, I had but one real hang-up--why all these Economic Development groups? I gained first hand knowledge of many of the internal struggles and turf problems while serving over 10 years on the Legislature's Tourism Committee; the special new Convention Center Task Force, and later on, as Majority Leader. The ongoing Economic Development infighting was an obvious hindrance to our progress. I challenged it several times, Suggested new business leads, and out of frustration, sought outside expert advice as to whether Our Community was being best served in our search for stable jobs and businesses. We were not! My suspicions were confirmed--especially when I outlined what our CNY area had to offer: fresh water lakes, rivers, central location in the State, the Dome, State Fair, two super bisecting highways, our educational and cultural centers, agriculture, no physical curtailments to growth, four variety seasons; excellent County Credit Ratings--you name it, and we had most all the ingredients to draw quality businesses!
Over the years, when other area's thrived and we were "treading water," there was the tendency to blame New York State taxes; our weather; politics; high insurance rates; southern appeal; etc., but never mention of the obvious problem: internal strife within Our own "selling" troops. To me, this has had a direct effect in limiting the number of good solid business choices we would welcome to settle here, and leaves us with a singular, second rate Mall expansion "gamble." This coupled with a "take it or leave it" attitude and a "crisis" timeline.
I have lived here all my life--so has my family and 13 grandchildren. My grandfather, in the late 1880s, chose Syracuse to open a successful business on Geddes Street. It's been referred to as the "Cradle of Industry." My roots are here; I care about the area, and I want it to grow for the benefit of everyone, not just a few. My thoughts are genuine, and hopeful. Changes are difficult, but they must be evaluated.
My vibes tell me that this Mall project in time will pass with the necessary votes--there are too many in leadership roles in favor to believe otherwise--I hope I'm wrong! Either way, please correct a long standing wrong, consolidate these groups so we can have better choices--our future depends on it.
Bill Lipe Sr.