It was just two years ago that Joanie
Mahoney squeaked out a primary victory against Dale Sweetland and went
on to beat Bill Magnarelli to win election as the third county
executive in Onondaga County’s history.
One of Mahoney’s big pledges was to
bring business to the region. “I can do it, and I know it can be done,”
said Mahoney. “I know because I’ve seen it.” Mahoney told us time and
again that she had a ringside seat as her own husband, Mark Overdyk,
worked to bring a small trading company to downtown. Syracuse and
Central New York have a lot to offer for innovative businesses—we just
need to keep reminding them.
Since then the national economy has gone
into a depressing recession. The downturn was led by Wall Street, so
New York state’s tax revenues took a serious hit. Locally we’ve seen
mixed economic results. Magna International has all but shut down.
Crucible Steel threatened to close, went into bankruptcy and now has
gotten off the mat for one more round under new ownership, with
assistance from the county.
Joanie Mahoney: The time is right for her to hit the road and bring home the bacon. MICHAEL DAVIS
There’s been a mini-revival downtown,
with King & King Architects and O’Brien & Gere Engineers moving
back from the suburbs, demonstrating belief that the talk of a green
economy touted for our Emerald City is not a fantasy.
Last week the Reva car company folks
came to town announcing that they had chosen Syracuse as their home for
production. They hope to hastily create a plant that will employ 200
workers making a car that you can plug in next to your iPod and drive
We seem to have a team in Congress with
some pull, judging by the number of announcements of local projects
getting stimulus money from Washington. There’s talk of light rail, the
Center for Excellence is opening soon, and recently Attorney General
Andrew Cuomo announced that Syracuse will be the hub for a new venture
reviewing health insurance rates.
If you listen closely, you can hear
sounds of an economic revival. A boomlet is in progress, but it has not
yet achieved critical mass. The stars may be aligned, but the momentum
is not yet what it needs to be. We need an ambassador to the greater
It’s time for Joanie to hit the road.
Understandably, it has taken a while to get things in order at the
Civic Center. Ed Kochian served as her deputy long enough for a new
administration to get settled in. Now she’s found a competent deputy to
replace him—a man everyone seems to respect—Bill Fisher. She’s found a
new Economic Development Commissioner, Mary Beth Primo, who can tend
the home fires. There was a blocked sewer that needed to be unclogged,
a rough-and-tumble budget process, which left no one happy, but for now
Our county executive can either keep
steering the ship herself or she can leave it in the hands of her staff
and set out to bring in those new businesses and new jobs.
I say that what we need now is a leader
who will go out and bring in greater opportunity to the county. If not,
she may end up spending the rest of her term fighting over how to
divide a pie that keeps on shrinking.
So hit the road, Joanie. Find those
places where the next big thing is about to happen, and tell them what
a terrific place we’ve got here. (Fly coach.) Stagger those people in
Los Angeles with our short commutes. (Keep in touch by e-mail.) Knock
the socks off those people in New Jersey with our phenomenally low
housing costs. (Bring along some Dinosaur.) Show them pictures of the
hospitals and the parks, and dazzle them with
statistics on our high performing schools. (Important: avoid the use of the term “Destiny” whenever possible.)
Businesses looking for a place to move need to hear about Central New York—and we could ask for no better ambassador.
There may be those who object whenever
the chief executive takes her hand off the snowplow, but we can’t
afford to keep her pinned to her desk when there is a world of
opportunity waiting out there.
Her future may be riding on it as well
as ours. Unemployment was 4 percent countywide when she was elected;
now it’s knocking on the door of 8 percent. Add a few hundred laid-off
country workers, and you could be looking at some serious grumbling
Go get ’em, Joanie. We’ll leave the light on.