A Mechanism of/for Economic Opportunism or Temporary Socio-Economic Stability: IDAs in New York State’s History

By: Hernando del Pueblo

A sign stands in front of the former Binghamton Public Library downtown on 78 Exchange Street announcing that it is another redevelopment project of the Broome County Industrial Development Agency (BCIDA).  Most passerby’s will be puzzled by what the latter really is and what it means for the community.

 As a government tool for “economic development”, the story of IDAs in New York State, and the BCIDA specifically, is an important one to all residents due to its centrality in county affairs. 

The BCIDA currently owns over eighty properties in the county and it gives millions of dollars in property, mortgage, and sales tax to private enterprises each year.  Additionally, the members of the BCIDA are some of the most influential in the community (Please see BCIDA Organization Chart  below for a brief overview of its members).  It’s current executive director, Richard D’ Attilio says; “we [BCIDA] are revenue-driven, we are independent and autonomous from the county, the government. Once the board of directors has been put in place, they are the final word on all activity”. But what kind of historical activity(ies) D’Attilio is talking about? Well, his answer is; “since 1970, we’re probably just about anywhere you might see industrial growth and development and it’s a fairly long list of projects”.

So, what happened back in the 70s (and perhaps similarly today) which has justified the establishment and continuity of IDAs as a government tool for “economic growth and development policy” then and (until) today? Let us borrow a common yellow media statement of the 1970s; “as we move into 1975, national morale is shaky. Across the front pages march with heavy tread the grim phalanxes of inflation, recession, scarcity, crime and corruption. They have sent out the stabs of fear that good times are forever gone and our system is crumbling. On newsstands, national magazines challenge passersby with apocalyptic covers; one depicts a-well-to-do family sitting down to a Christmas dinner of empty plates; another trumpets “The End of Affluence: The Last Christmas in America”; a third cover announces that we are “Coming Around to Socialism”. If this is not enough, let’s follow with another typical news headline from the same period; “Americans begin 1975 without either the urgently painful crisis of an unwinnable war, nor the festering fears of a spoiled and distrusted presidency. Instead, we face what John F. Kennedy called a ‘long twilight struggle” against economic dislocation and strain, compounded by energy shortages, and a cumulative uncertainty about world peace, inflamed by tensions in the Middle East.”

IDAs then arise in the context of what has been considered the decline of the United States status as a world power. As seen, the late 1960s and 1970s were tumultuous times for the country and New York State. US military conflicts in Southeast Asia, the Watergate scandal, social, civil rights struggles, the Middle East oil crisis and the Cold War represent the period’s most pivotal moments and for many again, are signs of the decline of US power in the world. In New York State this timeframe covered both the heyday and decline of Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller. Thus, IDAs were part of an aggressively pro-business and welfare strategy of state intervention in the economy to free up markets, while at the same time raising taxes and investing in job creation and welfare programs to guarantee social stability, particularly among “the poor”.

Under this context then, the NYS General Municipal Law, in its Article 18-A authorized the creation of Industrial Development Agencies statewide in 1969. The Industrial Development Agency Act states that IDAs can be created by state legislation at the request of a sponsoring municipality. In Broome County this request was made by the County Legislature through resolution No. 78 on Tuesday, March 24th, 1970. Later on the same year the New York State Assembly authorized the creation of the BCIDA, and the County Legislature proceeded to elect its first board of directors. (The BCIDA board continues to be appointed by the BC Legislature annually – See BCIDA Organization Chart).

Our question remains; have IDA’s been created as a mechanism for economic opportunism or a measure for temporary social-economic stability? In pieces by contributor Emma Pulaski we will see current examples of IDA’s operations and who benefits and loses from these. What is shown is a dim portrait. Regardless of its initial purpose, IDA’s turned out to be instruments to provide economic advantages for private capital, entrepreneurs and the like at the cost/expense of taxpayers. The latter are left with unstable sources of temporary social-economic stability at the mercy of short-term highly engrossing projects for passing businesses.

Chair: Terence M. Kane    Director of State and Community Relations at Binghamton University  Owner of Chenango Commons Management and Golf Course Ass’t Vice Pres. of Gov. Relations at   Binghamton University   Chenango Valley School Board of Ed Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs  Committee


Vice Chair: Wayne L. Howard                      District 8 county Legislator and Majority Leader  Vice President, Chief Operating Officer at Louis N. Picciano and Son, Inc.

Secretary: John J. Stevens            Community Relations – Tioga State Bank’s Broome County Business Development Board and Former Vice President

Treasurer: James Rounds                        Business Manager/Financial Secretary , Plumbers and Pipefitters Local112

       Jeffrey K. Davis              Founder Jeffrey K. Davis LLC – A Binghamton based business specializing in public policy analysis, public affairs, community relations and communications. Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs Committee

   Robert N. Nielson Jr.           Chief of Staff then Counsel to Deputy Majority Leader Thomas W. Libous, NYS Senate

            Ronald J. Keibel              District 11 County Legislator

      Debra A. Preston           Broome County Executive

       Daniel D. Reynolds        District 4  County Legislator and Minority  Leader       


2 Comments on “A Mechanism of/for Economic Opportunism or Temporary Socio-Economic Stability: IDAs in New York State’s History”

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