Kenneth Adams, chief executive of the Empire State Development Corp.,...

Kenneth Adams, chief executive of the Empire State Development Corp., said the agency should take steps to improve business conditions. (Feb. 22, 2011) Credit: David Pokress

New York State's economic-development czar outlined an aggressive agenda Tuesday that goes beyond the customary role of giving money to companies to expand here.

Kenneth Adams, chief executive of the Empire State Development Corp., said the agency should take steps to improve business conditions, such as pushing for legislation to do away with regulations, fees and taxes that discourage job creation and investments in new factories and equipment.

The corporation's board of directors applauded the initiative.

"We will craft policies to improve the business climate," Adams said. "We will make proposals to the [state] legislature . . . We have an obligation to our customers: the 509,000 employers in this state."

He spent years lobbying for such an agenda as head of the Business Council of New York State and Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. In January, he was tapped by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to run the development agency. Adams lives in Brooklyn and has a second home in Hampton Bays.

"Will our voice always be heard [by Cuomo and lawmakers]?" Adams said during the corporation's monthly board meeting in Manhattan. "Maybe not. But we have to try."

State agency heads and Cuomo cannot introduce legislation. That must be done by state senators and Assembly members, who often agree to sponsor bills from the executive branch.

The development corporation provided about $1 billion in grants, loans and other assistance to businesses last year. However, that's less than 1 percent of New York's economy, which totaled about $1 trillion.

Adams said, "We must do more, and we can by improving the business climate."

Bemoaning upstate's moribund economy, he suggested the Motor Vehicles Department remove the "Empire State" slogan on license plates. "It's a lie. It's been misleading for years," he said. "We don't have a right to put that on our license plates."

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