The squeals of air-powered hand tools echoed Friday morning throughout the 75,000-square-foot Northeast Transformer Service building in Preble.
A few dozen workers scattered among the field of transformers, small and large, dirtied their hands taking the equipment a part and moving it around.
In a 10-minute period several of them were offered a handshake. They hesitated, due to the dirtied hands, but the other hand stayed firm, not worried about the grime.
That hand belonged to Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro.
It was a common theme to his day Friday of venturing through Cortland County: Say “hi.” Shake hands. Ask for a name, and have a quick conversation.
He is the sole contender for the GOP nomination. A Siena poll of 745 likely voters between June 4 and June 7 showed 71 percent of respondents had no opinion of Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive. The same polled showed Gov. Andrew Cuomo leads actress Cynthia Nixon by 35 points — 61 percent to 26 percent — for the Democratic nomination.
In the midst of his campaign, Molinaro already visited Syracuse and Lewis County, but his visit to Cortland County was his first full-day event.
“I’m trying to reach all parts of the state,” Molinaro said. “We have to.”
He started his day at the tip of the county around 10 a.m. in Preble at Northeast Transformer Service, then traveled south through Homer, Cortland and Marathon. He ended his day in Solon for a fundraiser in the evening.
During his stops at Northeast Transformer Service he learned how the business grew from a small space in Cortland with a few employees to 65 employees in 75,000 square feet facility. During his afternoon visit to Forkey Fabrication in Cortlandville he learned how the company started in company President Charlie Forkey Jr.’s garage and in about 10 years has grown to a 118 employee business in a 132,000-square-foot facility.
Cortland County has lost big-name manufacturers, but Cortland County Business Development Corp. Executive Director Garry VanGorder said in April the focus now isn’t attracting large businesses as much as growing the ones already here.
To make sure those businesses stay and grow, Molinaro said the state needs to make it more affordable, with fewer regulations.
“We ought to be driving down costs so everybody benefits and allow everybody to achieve success,” Molinaro said.
He also cited high property taxes and the cost of living in New York is driving people and businesses away, too.
“We need to drive down costs,” Molinaro said. “We need to make sure the kids educated in Cortland have job opportunities here. Which means investing in your village and city centers so that they can grow a start-up opportunity, and connect them to existing businesses to create synergy for new opportunities.”
To help lower taxes, Molinaro said he would make the property tax cap permanent, and reduce spending in state government.
“We would make sure if an agency isn’t meeting its outcomes, it doesn’t exist anymore,” Molinaro said. “If it is spending money it doesn’t have right to, it doesn’t exist anymore. There has to be regular fairness and also accountability.”
Forkey Vice President Charlie Forkey III had some concerns he wanted Molinaro to address. One was getting more kids ready for work, rather than college.
Molinaro said it is about making sure schools like BOCES isn’t just a third entity in the education system and teaching trades in public schools, so kids can leave school ready to work.
Another one of Forkey’s concern was school safety. He said he likes the idea of school resource officers — only Cortland, Homer and Tully school districts have the funding for them.
“The state does,” Molinaro said.”The state can afford to put an SRO in every district in the state. I understand some districts may not want that, but I don’t think a kid should go back to school in September without an SRO.”
He suggested an idea that possibly the state could pay for the resource officer 100 percent the first year, then 90 the next and so on, gradually getting to a point the districts could afford it.
Forkey Jr. asked Molinaro how he plans to win the election. Molinaro said “doing this.”
Say “hi.” Shake hands. Ask for a name, and have a quick conversation.