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WORKING TOGETHER, WE CAN REVITALIZE UPSTATE

How do we make a governing body realize there is more to a state than Wall Street? We find common ground and a common cause. Advance Upstate New York has done just that.

Established last April, the group is a singular voice meant to be heard throughout the halls of the State Capitol in Albany. The message is clear and simple: repeal the gross receipts tax (GRT), repeal the Wicks Law, reform workers' compensation and reduce air fares.

Founding partners -- the Greater Rochester Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, of which I am president and chief executive officer, and the Metropolitan Development Association of Syracuse and Central New York -- knew firsthand the region's recovery from the early '90s recession has been well behind the rest of the country -- it has been stagnant.

Labor Department statistics show that our private-sector job-growth rate statewide ranked 21st among the 50 states and that New York ranks 17th in total job growth. If upstate New York was considered a separate state, it would rank 46th in the nation in total job growth. To paint a darker picture, our youth are leaving in droves.

To date, Advance Upstate New York is the voice of 50 employer organizations representing more than 1.5 million employees statewide.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Gov. George Pataki are leading efforts to eliminate the GRT. In November, Bruno announced he would sponsor repeal of the GRT. The governor, during the State of the State address, announced a comprehensive, multifaceted $700 million package of new tax cuts and economic initiatives to continue and expand job creation and economic development throughout upstate New York. The group will seek to accelerate the phase-in schedule beyond the $17 million in tax cuts proposed for fiscal year 2000-2001. However, the job is not done yet. We need bipartisan support for the repeal of the GRT.

Advance Upstate New York is serious about the state of upstate. We are a hub for high-tech jobs, biotechnology and boast some of the finest education institutions in our country.

In terms of quality of life, the upstate region is second to none and is in the top ranks across the country, according to Places Rated Almanac Special Millennium Edition. But all this is meaningless if the tax burden remains so severe that business can't afford to do business here. Join us, for the state of upstate, at www.advanceupstateny.com.

ANDREW J. RUDNICK

Buffalo

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