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Griffin outlines economic development

TORREY—The economy needs encouragement to grow. At the annual dinner of Cornell Cooperative Extension, Yates County, Thursday, Dec. 2, members heard about some seeds for future growth.
Steve Griffin, executive director of Finger Lakes Economic Development Center (FLEDC), outlined some ideas in place now as well as prospects for the future. Griffin said the good news is that the unemployment rate in Yates County is the second lowest in New York State. The down side is, on average, Yates County workers are the lowest wage earners in the state.
Griffin outlined the three bases of the economy in Yates County: manufacturing, tourism and agriculture. On the positive side, water and electricity are available at good rates and workers have a good work ethic. The low unemployment rate is a positive.
Challenges are tactics to increase wages and the need for more locally owned businesses. Griffin posed the question: “How do we remove or minimize theses challenges?” Yates County is in a difficult spot because of the size of the county. If the state is able to attract companies that employ 2,000 people, smaller businesses get lost. Griffin said, “The small businesses keep the economy humming.”
Griffin said a tool for development is a grant to support viticulture and organic education. The original application was for $4 million. Four months later a grant of $750,000 was approved. While grants are a benefit, the state wants large capital investment paired with large job growth. Griffin said these requirements are a challenge for a lot of agriculture-related businesses. The program that resulted from the grant offers grants for up to $150,000 for any one project. The second program that has been developed is an entrepreneur fund. Griffin said many people are working for less money than they want. With the entrepreneur fund they have a chance to make their dreams come true.
Despite the concern about low wages in Yates County, Griffin said it was a record year here for economic development. There are 16 new attractions to Yates County. Five hundred fifty four jobs have been created here this year. The Connection call center is responsible for a large number of the new jobs.
Griffin said he is a huge proponent of staying positive, commenting, “We have to shout louder than the negatives.”



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