A Buffalo surgeon was formally nominated Tuesday by Gov. George E. Pataki to head a new state agency to help bring high-technology jobs to New York State.
Dr. Russell W. Bessette, a plastic surgeon who helped coordinate the team of doctors that recently treated County Executive Joel A. Giambra for throat cancer, will be paid $136,000 a year to head the New York Office of Science and Technology, or NYSTART.
Bessette was named the agency's executive director and Dr. Roland Schmitt, a former president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy and one-time research and development center chief for General Electric, will serve as chairman of its advisory board.
"I'm confident that under the leadership of Dr. Schmitt and Dr. Bessette, NYSTART will help us make tremendous strides toward making New York State the nation's premier center for technology-based growth in the new millennium," Pataki said.
The new agency was created, in part, as a response to concerns that the state's economic development efforts were not well-coordinated and that they focused too much on funding individual companies without an overall statewide goal. The new agency will push for better coordination between private industry and the state's private and public colleges.
The agency also will try to help companies, through universities, turn ideas into actual products for the marketplace, and also work with education policy-makers in Albany to devise plans for colleges to draw more high-technology industries to the state. To do all this, the agency has the potential of handing out hundreds of millions of dollars a year in incentives.
With Western New York's economy lagging behind that in the rest of the state, Bessette's appointment could assist efforts to bring more high-technology firms to the region.
"It's very good news for Western New York," state Sen. Dale M. Volker, R-Depew, said of Bessette's appointment. "Now we've got a guy from Western New York who will be one of the people who will administer and make the decisions" about economic development issues.
Bessette is close with Erie County Republicans, and he served on Giambra's transition team. He had been considered last year to head the state Health Department, a much higher-profile and more powerful job than the one for which Pataki chose him on Tuesday. The health job went to Dr. Antonia C. Novello, a former U.S. surgeon general.
Bessette, who also is a dentist, is a clinical professor at the University at Buffalo's School of Medicine and is executive director of research for the Buffalo Technology Transfer Center at Sisters Hospital. Since 1996, he has been chairman of the state Public Health Council.