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Spitzer wants to focus on WNY development

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer thinks the headquarters of the state's economic development agency should be where there's the greatest need: Western New York.

"Eliot believes that the focus of Empire State Development should be Western New York, because that's where the help is needed the most," campaign manager Ryan Toohey said Friday.

Spitzer mentioned the idea during a campaign stop in Depew last week. His campaign manager repeated Spitzer's statement, while admitting it hasn't gone beyond the concept stage.

"We don't have the details of it yet," Toohey said, "[but] the leadership of the agency should be focused, and based, in Western New York. It's just an idea that makes sense."

Empire State Development has 315 employees in New York City, the agency said in a statement. Most are in the agency's headquarters on Third Avenue in Manhattan, with others at two subsidiaries, Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and Harlem Community Development Corp.

It has fewer than 40 employees in Buffalo Niagara.

Questions about the agency's focus were raised recently, after news that a German chemical manufacturer, Wacker Chemie AG, couldn't get a firm answer from state government about hydroelectric power for a plant that might have led to 1,000 jobs in Niagara Falls.

Andrew Rudnick, Buffalo Niagara Partnership chief executive officer, welcomed the idea of a Western New York focus for Empire State Development.

"That's a cool idea," Rudnick said.

Nationally, private sector jobs grew by 21 percent between 1990 and 2004, while upstate New York saw a 3 percent increase, Rudnick said.

In Buffalo, the number was 2 percent.

"Had upstate metros grown at the same rate as the nation, there would have been 420,000 additional jobs by 2004," he said.


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