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Wilmers leaves behind a mess

Bob Wilmers, when he doesn't want to answer a question, likes to say "that's out of my pay grade."

Well, when it come to running the state's major economic development agency, Wilmers was definitely working out of his pay grade.

After one year on the job as chairman of the Empire State Development Corp., Wilmers resigned Thursday, effective today.

His legacy: an agency hamstrung by inertia and in-fighting.

Kind of describes what ails local economic development efforts, doesn't it?


Reports Tom Precious:

The agency has seen its share of infighting, sources have said in recent months, with tension between the various upstate and downstate offices of the department. A source said recently that Wilmers also has expressed frustration with the musical chairs among high-ranking officials in the governor's office over the past year -- making it difficult for the agency to get adequate attention at the Capitol.

Wilmers' departure comes less than a week after Marisa Lago abruptly left as president of and chief executive officer of the ESDC. She was replaced by Mullen, who served as the upstate president of the agency. Sources have said Wilmers and Lago clashed, at times, on various internal matters.

I questioned at the time of his appointment whether Wilmers was the right person for the job:

He's been a major power in the Buffalo Niagara Partnership for years, an organization whose mission includes promoting economic growth in the region. Given the state of the local economy, does the Partnership's track record make Wilmers worthy of a promotion to oversee the entire state economy?

Wilmers has had great success in the private sector, but it did not translate into the altogether different world of government.

Somewhere, Dan Gundersen is laughing.

He's the guy Eliot Spitzer hired as upstate economic czar who crisscrossed the state, practically living in his car for a year, to learn the lay of the land and figure out what needed doing. When Spitzer self-destructed, Gov. David Paterson insisted on bringing in his own guy. Gundersen was as good as gone.

Well, Paterson got his man, and the rest of us got a year of inaction. Now we're back to ground zero, that much deeper in the economic hole.

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