Editorial Board

If Cuomo wants to uplift upstate economies, he needs to put money toward local businesses, not the state fair

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s dedication to promoting and uplifting the cities of upstate New York is admirable. But Cuomo’s efforts to do so are falling short, especially in Syracuse and its surrounding community, because pouring millions of dollars into the New York State Fair ultimately doesn’t do enough for local businesses in central New York.

Cuomo announced the second phase of his Upstate Revitalization Initiative, of which central New York is a focus, on Monday. The second phase comprises $50 million for constructing a multi-purpose expo center and aerial gondola connecting the Fairgrounds and Lakeview Amphitheater and $20 million for constructing an on-ramp on Interstate 690 and renovating the Orange parking lot at the Fairgrounds.

The state fair is a cornerstone of tourism in the state, and it makes sense at face value to invest in the fairgrounds. But at the end of the day, the fair takes up only about two weeks of the year — Cuomo announced Monday that the fair will last 13 days in 2017 — and there are other aspects of central and upstate New York economies that need to be targeted as well.

A major part of those economies, though, are small businesses. Cuomo’s initiatives aim to attract tourists to the state fair. But when tourists’ revenue pours in, it’s going more toward businesses that occupy the state fair, which, for the most part, are not locally based. Rather, companies including amusement ride providers travel to the fair to make a profit, and then leave once the fair is over, meaning that the money does not stick in central New York for more than 13 days.

Successfully uplifting local businesses should be a priority of Cuomo’s work, including as a part of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. So if the Cuomo administration really wants to help these economies, it should direct money toward the promotion of local businesses rather than the promotion of the state fair.


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