Assemblyman Pete Lopez Calls On Regional Economic Development Councils To Focus On Storm-Impacted Farms & Businesses

October 25, 2011
Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R,C,I-Schoharie) has reached out to Governor Cuomo and personally met with Lieutenant Governor Duffy to seek their support in redirecting a portion of the $1 billion Regional Economic Development Council funding to assist the recovery of existing farms and businesses impacted by Tropical Storms Irene and Lee.

“The very existence of our flood-devastated communities throughout the state is at risk. Too many existing businesses and farms were impacted by Irene and Lee. If they are not helped in their recovery, the lifeblood of these communities will dry up,” said Assemblyman Lopez. “While the Governor and Lieutenant Governor have been engaged as responsive partners throughout the recovery period, we cannot overlook the simple fact that without extraordinary assistance now we will simply not have a future.”

In addition to assisting the recovery efforts in the seven counties he represents (all of which were designated as disaster areas following the storms), Assemblyman Lopez has been paying close attention to and participating in the Regional Council process, which, because of the vastness of the 127th Assembly District, includes four separate Councils (Capital Region, Mid-Hudson, Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier). Recently he joined the Mohawk Valley Regional Council held at SUNY Cobleskill, where he raised this concern with the Lieutenant Governor, the assembled Council Members as well as with local business and government leaders from across the region.

“Working closely with our communities, I am actively helping farms and businesses to get back on their feet and stay in the community. One of the most challenging situations has been the Amphenol Corporation, in Sidney, New York, which serves as one of our largest employers – with 1,200 local residents working there every day. After being flooded twice in less than five years they are asking ‘Why should we stay?’” said Assemblyman Lopez. “At the same time, thousands of other existing businesses and farms are making decisions whether they stay or go. Their existence keeps our communities alive. We cannot ignore them.”

Tropical Storms Irene and Lee are estimated to have caused at least $1 billion in damage in New York State alone. With the $1 billion economic development fund created to achieve “REAL” regional economic development by ensuring “state funding aligns with local priorities” (as stated in the mission of the councils), Assemblyman Lopez believes that part of this money should be redirected to specifically help existing employers impacted by the storms. Additionally, with an estimated 140,000 or more acres of farmland destroyed by the storms, Assemblyman Lopez is asking a portion of the economic development money also be redirected to supplement the $15 million Agricultural and Community Recovery Fund, which is being quickly exhausted to meet the damages caused to family farms across the state.

“We cannot afford to let the Regional Council process move forward in a vacuum,” concluded Assemblyman Lopez. “The storms punished our homes and families enough. Imagine what will happen when large numbers of farms and businesses remain closed. The Councils need to make them their highest priority. We need to act now.”