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ALBANY-M&T Bank Corp. chairman and CEO Robert Wilmers has been nominated by New York Gov. David Paterson as the new chairman of the Empire State Development Corp. The recently revealed nomination came the same day Dan Gundersen resigned as chairman of Upstate ESDC. Patrick Foye, the chairman of the downstate region for ESDC, resigned in March shortly after former Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned.

The moves are a clear sign that Gov. Paterson is looking to revamp the agency. The governor has called for doing away with the leadership structure at ESDC where one chairperson was in charge of Upstate economic development and another chairperson led Downstate efforts, without what he terms a clear reporting structure.

“I believe that, because we are one state, we need one leader for ESDC who understands the challenges facing New York as a whole,” Gov. Paterson says. “We need someone who understands the challenges of revitalizing Upstate, the complexities of jump-starting the large development and transportation projects Downstate and the economic relationship between Upstate and Downstate.”

State officials say the 74-year-old Wilmers will be based in Buffalo and will have complete oversight of economic development issues throughout New York State. Wilmers will be undertaking a search to identify two individuals who will be in charge of the Downstate and Upstate divisions of ESDC. Both individuals will report to Wilmers.

“I’m pleased that an executive of Bob Wilmers’ caliber will be at the helm as we establish a new, unified leadership team that will strengthen the Empire State Development Corp. and bolster the state’s efforts to attract business and spur local development,” Gov. Paterson says.

Commenting on his nomination, Wilmers says, “We have tremendous assets in New York that we can leverage to grow businesses, grow jobs and grow our economy. I’m grateful to Gov. Paterson for this opportunity to bring new leadership, a new management structure and a renewed commitment to the effort to bring more private-sector economic growth to Upstate and all New York. With the right business plan and the right support in Albany, we can make New York a leader in attracting new investment and creating new jobs.”

Wilmers has led M&T Bank and its principal subsidiary, M&T Bank, since 1983, when M&T had assets of $2 billion. Today, the company boasts assets of more than $66 billion and 7,300 employees in New York.

After graduating from Harvard College and attending the Harvard Business School, Wilmers worked for Bankers Trust. He went on to serve as a deputy finance commissioner under New York City Mayor John Lindsay. He returned to the private sector at Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. before he was named president, and later chairman and CEO, of First Empire State Corp., now M&T Bank Corp. He serves on the board of directors of The Business Council of New York State and has served as chairman of the New York Bankers Association in 2002 and as a director Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 1993 to 1998.

The nomination must be approved by the New York State Senate. Wilmers is expected to begin work at ESDC on July 12.

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