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State audit critical of way economic development run in New York

Millions of dollars in taxpayer funds were approved through the SUNY Polytechnic Institute and the Buffalo Billion program, but those funds didn’t have a strong process for evaluating whether the projects were viable.

That’s the message from New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, whose office audited the economic development initiatives.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

“While these projects still have time to meet their total job commitments, it is unclear whether such goals will be met, given that much work remains to yield the overall employment and investment targets – in some cases, years after construction has been completed,” auditors said.

Poor record-keeping, and millions spent on expectations for generating economic development goals that have not been achieved.

Empire State Development pushed back against the audit findings.

“After an extensive review of SUNY Poly’s high-tech portfolio, this audit confirms what is already known: all ESD expenditures were made appropriately, and until a global pandemic shuttered companies worldwide, not a single company within the portfolio had missed an annual investment or job creation commitment,” ESD spokeswoman Kristin Devoe said. “The significant reforms implemented by ESD since 2016 have yielded increased transparency, oversight and accountability, stronger executive leadership, improved finances, additional research funding and lower vacancy rates, leading directly to upstate commitments of more than $4 billion in new investment and over 2,500 new created and retained jobs.”

The audit could lead to changes in the way economic development is done in New York State. Republicans have been calling for changes in state assembly and senate for years.