Gov. Andrew Cuomo and several other elected and government leaders drew some laughs, but also some praise as they announced another state investment in the National Comedy Center, which is currently undergoing construction in downtown Jamestown.
New York State has already invested $14 million into the project: $5 million from Buffalo Billion funds, $4.4 million from Regional Council funds and $5 million dollars in Empire State Development tax incentives.
Construction of the National Comedy Center is underway inside a former downtown Jamestown train station. Completion is expected next year.
On Thursday, Governor Cuomo announced New York will commit $500,000 toward promoting the completed National Comedy Center through the "I Love NY" campaign.
"That is your vision and it is bright. Your dedication, your energy, is giving us this building. The leadership of your elected officials is pulling it all together. It is smart, it is right, it is going to work," the governor said about the National Comedy Center. "You can feel it coming together. You can feel it building on the energy that Jamestown is developing already. I believe in it, I want to invest in it on behalf of the people of the state of New York."
Cuomo, as he usually does during Western New York economic development-related visits, told a backstory including the state's high taxes and unfriendly business environment. He and Empire State Development president Howard Zemsky had just arrived in Jamestown from a stop in Watkins Glen, where Cuomo said the race track has proven to be an effective regional attraction. He told the Jamestown audience he in convinced the comedy venue will be their local gem.
He said the state has recognized, as part of its economic development strategy, that New York has no singular template.
"This is one state, but it's a very diverse state and it's very different. And what works in the North Country, is different than what works on Long Island, is different than what works in the Southern Tier," he said. "If you really want to get the economy going, then region by region you have to sit the business people down and the academic people down and the elected leaders in that region and say, you come up with a plan for your region that works and we will then invest in your plan."
Other elected officials praised the governor for his commitment to Western New York's economic growth. State Senator Catherine Young listed numerous examples in the Southern Tier, from Athenex and NRG to Nuova Castelli to a new $31 million hotel under construction in Celoron, the hometown of comedy legend Lucille Ball.
Young looked to Ball's life and spoke of her decision to leave for New York City at the age of 14 to attend drama school in New York City.
"I"m sure that Lucy was here, riding the train back and forth," Young said. "Think about that. We may be in the very spot where Lucy once stood."