Op-Ed: Economy and New York's Future

State Sen. Toby Stavisky on the challenges facing her district.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky represents New York's 16th Senatorial District, which includes much of northern Forest Hills, in the New York State Senate.

A common theme I hear wherever I go is how bad the economy is and how hard it is for people to find a job.

This is the most important issue we face. There is no magic wand that we in government can wave to fix our financial and economic problems. Washington appears to be in gridlock. The income gap between the wealthy and the middle class seems to be widening. Unemployment is at 9 percent. Foreclosures are also at record highs and more than 1.5 million people filed for bankruptcy last year.

One of the first steps we need to take is to make our work force more competitive. New York State spends huge amounts of money on education. The children in school today will be tomorrow’s doctors, educators, legislators, electricians, police officers, daycare and homecare workers – in other words, those to whom we will one day entrust our lives.

It has been frustrating to watch the decline of New York’s industrial strength as jobs slip away, first to the south and then out of the country.  In 2008, recognizing this problem, the Governor created the Task Force on Diversifying the New York State Economy through the Industry-Higher Education Partnership, chaired by Dr. David Skorton, President of Cornell University.  The panel was charged with studying the relationship between our highly regarded system of public and private higher education and the growing knowledge economy in order to develop economic innovation and growth.

The Task Force examined how New York State can better link university-based research and development resources to improve economic growth statewide. Our classrooms can be incubators for innovation and entrepreneurship that can power our economy through difficult economic times.

In adjacent but seemingly separate worlds, New York is also home to major financial institutions and corporations devoted to research and development and venture capital. Yet, New York’s colleges incubate fewer new companies than the national average, and New York attracts approximately 5 percent of America’s venture capital investment. We as a State can and must do better.

We must leverage this underutilized potential, to create what the Task Force called “the innovation ecosystem.” The bottom line must be an industry/higher education partnership, an investment in human capital to create a massive collaboration.

Our excellent schools produce bright, motivated, capable graduates who can develop along with the economic needs of the state. We have vibrant business, technology and entrepreneurial network growing throughout the state.

This was the basis for the announcement from Governor Cuomo and the SUNY Chancellor in May about a Challenge Grant to put New Yorkers back to work by creating a partnership between colleges and the private sector. This program combines SUNY’s cutting edge research capabilities with local business development and job creation.

A year ago, the Mayor launched Applied Sciences NYC, an initiative to develop or expand a graduate school campus in exchange for City-owned land and up to $100 million in capital funds. This program will be an economic catalyst for job creation and making New York competitive in the technology based economy.

The Mayor anticipates a $6 billion boost to the economy, including $1 billion in private capital investments, resulting in thousands of jobs. The City received seven responses from seventeen of the world’s best institutions and Cornell University, in partnership with the Technion Institute in Haifa, Israel, had the winning proposal. An applied sciences campus, which the City hopes will rival Silicon Valley in California, will be built on Roosevelt Island.

I believe that higher education can be the economic engine to restored growth. If you would like to receive important updates from Albany on these or any other issues, please call my office at 718-445-0004 or email me at Stavisky@nysenate.gov.

Toby Stavisky

State Senator, 16th District


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