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Verizon fiasco shows New York needs a new approach

The recent announcement that Verizon was abandoning its proposed construction of a data center in Niagara County that would have created 200 good jobs should be a wake-up call to all New Yorkers.

Verizon officials were blunt in listing the reasons for walking away. First on the list was New York's bureaucratic and litigious environmental process guaranteed to produce a long and costly court fight. Rather than run that gauntlet, the company simply moved on to greener pastures.

Our region is now out the jobs, the tax revenue and the economic spinoffs that would have resulted.

Other states have recognized that "time is money" and have found common-sense ways to protect the environment without causing years, and sometimes decades, of delay. Without this type of approach, a high-tax state like New York will never be a serious contender for job creation projects.

This is why FAIR (Fair Apportionment of Infrastructure Revenue) conducted a summit meeting last October titled "Pinpointing the Chokepoints." FAIR is a coalition of engineering firms, contractors and labor unions and the Coalition for Community Building. We brought together public- and private-sector leaders to take a serious look at New York's regulatory environment.

One of the most powerful images from that meeting was comparing Ohio's environmental procedures manual with that of New York. Ohio's manual meets every federal regulation for protecting the environment when evaluating a project. It is about two inches thick. New York's manual is 18 inches thick.

Following that summit, a working group was established to identify the most critical laws and regulations in need of a more balanced approach if our state is ever going to become an engine for job creation and economic growth. As a result of this effort, a follow-up meeting will be held on April 8. "Summit II -- Unclogging the Chokepoints" will detail these recommendations, prioritize them and put together a game plan that we hope leads to meaningful reform. We will be inviting federal, state and local elected officials to attend and asking them to make these reforms a reality in New York.

Not long ago an article appeared in a national publication. The article -- "Why government can't build things anymore," by Michael Barone -- talked about how the Pentagon was built in 18 months, yet a small bridge near the author's home had gone through years of procedure and review prior to construction. Sounds familiar doesn't it?

With the Verizon announcement, we now have a "poster child" for a regulatory, political and legal system gone wild at the expense of jobs and people's economic well being. Shame on us if we fail to act!

Douglas May is chairman of the Fair Apportionment of Infrastructure Revenue Committee. Michael Bartlett is executive director of the Hamburg Industrial Development Agency.

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