Sharpe, in Massena: Too many N.Y.ers move away

Larry Sharpe speaks at the Enterprise office Wednesday, June 27. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

MASSENA — The lunch crowd at Morley’s American Grill in Massena had an opportunity to meet Monday with the Libertarian candidate for governor.

“I’m doing this because I care about this state. I’m doing this for a very selfish reason. I don’t want to move,” Larry Sharpe said.

He said more than 100,000 New Yorkers leave the state every year and move south, to areas like North Carolina and Florida, where they find life is better than in the state they left.

“We have people who are getting pensions and they’re leaving the state and we’re still paying for it,” and they’re spending it somewhere other than New York, he said.

“I’m literally writing a check to Florida,” he said. “In the perfect world, you spend your time here in New York state, you move your family, your business, you retire, you take your pension, and you spend that right here in New York state. Better yet, you take that pension and you start a small business in New York state.”

Sharpe said he had the opportunity to compare North Carolina with New York and wondered why it was better in the South.

“It didn’t make me happy. It made me angry. It made me upset,” he said. “Why is North Carolina so much better than us? I love our state. I was born in our state. I was raised in our state. My family and friends are here.”

What was important, he said, was keeping New Yorkers happy.

“I want you to be happy. Why do I want you to be happy? Because if you’re a happy New Yorker, you stay here. That’s how it works. We’re all human,” Sharpe said. “If you’re happy, you stay here. If you’re happy, you move your family here. If you’re happy, you move your business here.”

Sharpe said, in the business world, the focus should be on creating small companies rather than “bribe” a larger business to come here with financial incentives, only to have it leave when those incentives are done.

“You want to make this state resilient? What you don’t do is bribe the business to come here. That’s what they’re doing,” he said.

He said that also applied to companies that were already in the state like Alcoa, whose contract with the state to keep operations going at Massena will expire at the end of March. Instead, he said, any money that would be destined for a large company could be used to invest in small businesses.

“We can’t be a hostage to some big company. That’s what it is. I’m going to support small businesses like there’s no tomorrow,” Sharpe said.

Regional Economic Development Councils have been set up throughout the various regions in the state, each competing for a share of money from New York, and Sharpe said that was a “disaster.”

“Regional Economic Development Corporations are nothing but bad. They are petri dishes for corruption,” he said.

He said the focus should be on marketing the opportunities available in the state, not building something that may not work.

“If you’re a businessman as I am, you know marketing is as important, if not more important, than the infrastructure,” Sharpe said.

Sharpe predicted, when the November election rolls around, the Republican gubernatorial candidate would not fare well.

“Republicans have not won a statewide election in 15 years, and this is the year?” he said. “They didn’t even give you a primary. They picked two people downstate and said you’re going to vote for them. At least the Democrats gave themselves a primary.”

He suggested the only campaign the Republicans were running was that the Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was corrupt.

“How does that help me and you? How does that give you a better business? How does that give you a better job? How does that give you a better education? How does that lower taxes? How does that make the roads better?” Sharpe said. “But the entire Republican campaign is, ‘Cuomo’s corrupt.’ That’s the entire campaign. How does that help one New Yorker? How does that help some dairy farmer survive? There are no answers for any of these things.”