History of Empire State Development
Empire State Development’s roots trace to the Division of
Commerce, created by the State Legislature in 1941, and the
Urban Development Corporation, which the Legislature created
The Division of Commerce assumed the functions and duties of several State bureaus and created an additional Bureau of Industry. It was replaced in 1944 by the Department of Commerce. A 1960 revision to the state Commerce Law established three divisions in the department -- the Division of Economic Development, the Division of Economic Research and the Division of Public Information. The Division of International Commerce was established in 1962. In September 1976, the Department was reorganized along functional lines, giving increased emphasis to retaining and expanding New York businesses. A 1976 amendment to the State Commerce Law also created the Division of Small Business.
Eleven years later, on August 31, 1987, the Omnibus Economic Development Act was signed into law, creating the new Department of Economic Development (DED) and giving its commissioner explicit authority to create State economic development-related policy and to coordinate State activities. The law stressed the delivery of services at the regional level and the integration of services among the State’s economic development-related agencies. The Act created nine new programs designed to address specific problems and opportunities within the State’s economy.
The New York State Urban Development Corporation was created with a mandate to generate industrial, commercial and civic development in distressed urban areas and to create jobs through the construction of low- and moderate-income housing and the renovation or expansion of industrial and commercial facilities. UDC was given a broad range of statutory powers to attain those goals, including the authority to issue tax-exempt and non-tax exempt bonds, to provide flexibility in the application of local codes and to arrange full or partial exemption from real estate taxes. The Corporation can also exercise powers of condemnation, act as an agent in obtaining federal subsidies and grants for projects and invest in real estate at below-market interest rates in a manner similar to that of an individual development agency. The Corporation’s ability to execute complex financial transactions, coordinate public and private resources and serve as a one-stop development authority thus offers a combination of services that no other private or public service entity in New York State can provide.
In 1975, the Corporation was reorganized and its mission expanded from developing housing to economic development. The Corporation still maintains a housing portfolio that currently includes mortgages valued at $650 million covering 20,200 housing units.
In 1995, in an effort to reduce the size of government and improve efficiency, the functions of the Department of Economic Development (DED) and the UDC were consolidated, along with other State economic development entities: the Job Development Authority (JDA) and the Science and Technology Foundation (STF). UDC’s directors, reflecting the statewide scope of the Corporation’s current efforts, decided that the corporation would do business as the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). Some functions of JDA and STF were folded into DED and ESDC, respectively, and the collective entity is known as Empire State Development. DED was headquartered in Albany and ESDC in New York City.
In 2007, an Upstate ESD headquarters opened in Buffalo in recognition of the different economic challenges posed in the two parts of the State. Two chairs were appointed, one for ESDC Downstate and the other for ESDC Upstate. The ESDC board also authorized the creation of a subsidiary, Upstate Empire State Development Corporation, to concentrate on Upstate issues.
In 2008, Governor David A. Paterson brought the two components of ESDC back together again, emphasizing that New York is truly “One State.” The former Upstate and Downstate offices now work together seamlessly to ensure that New York’s economic development strategy benefits the entire State while being mindful of the specific resources and special challenges of each region.
In January 2011, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo appointed Kenneth Adams as ESD President & CEO and DED Commissioner. Mr. Adams was confirmed by the Legislature on April 5, 2011.
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