Winners and losers: $738 million given in regional councils' round II

Dec 19, 2012

A highly packaged awards event in Albany was the forum for allocating a range of funding to support economic development across New York state on Wednesday. A total of $738 million was distributed in the second-year of this competitive planning process driven by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

In comments prefacing the award announcements themselves, speeches long on rhetoric and praise for what presenter Maria Bartiromo of CNBC called "Governor Cuomo's economic development councils..." also emphasized the regionalization of the state's economies.

The end result is really a two tier funding stream, with regional councils deemed to have excelled in planning receiving considerably more than the remaining regions.

Here's a summary of the dollar amounts in order of announcement:

  1. Western New York: $52.8 million
  2. North Country: $90.2 million
  3. Central New York: $93.8 million
  4. Long Island: $59.7 million
  5. Southern Tier: $91.1 million
  6. Finger Lakes: $96.2 million
  7. Mohawk Valley: $59.7 million
  8. Capital Region: $50.2 million
  9. Mid-Hudson: $92.8 million
  10. New York City: $51.4 million

Here are how some of the regions in upstate New York broke down:

Central New York

Central New York has kept its streak going, coming out as one of the state’s favorite places for economic development, in the second year of the state's Regional Economic Development challenge. It was dubbed a "two-time winner" by a spokesman for the Empire State Development Corporation.

The region, anchored by Syracuse, was named one of four “best plans” last year out of the ten regions.

For round two, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration named central New York a “top performer” – and a top-tier winner. Central New York walked away from this morning’s event with $93.8 million in hand for 73 projects.

That amount is second only to the Finger Lake's $96.2 million.

Council co-cair Rob Simpson pinned some of the region's success on a data-driven approach.

"It starts with a very honest self-assessment of what we’re good at and what we’re not and tries to build on those strengths," he said after the award ceremony.

Some of the projects central New York put up this year were:

  • $2.5 million to redevelop the former Sibley's Department Store into a mixed-use space with ground-floor retail and residential units
  • $320,000 to construct Prospect Place, a planned mixed-use development adjacent to St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center's main entrance and newly-constructed emergency department.
  • $397,831 for the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to create a biomass and biofuel processing facility on campus
  • $1.5 million to establish a shared-use processing and warehousing facility for small-scale food processing and distribution of locally-farmed products in Canastota
  • $500,000 for Central NY Biotechnology Accelerator
  • $1.5 million for infrastructure improvements related to the planned redevelopment of the Syracuse Inner Harbor

Southern Tier

This year’s regional council awards were much the same as last year’s: there was a promotional video from each region, CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo hosted again and some regions won more money than others.

This year, the Southern Tier received $91.1 million, putting it near the top of the list among the ten regions. Last year, it was at the bottom, receiving $49 million.

The projects put forward included support for large employers like BAE and Endicott Interconnect. The region’s two major universities – Binghamton and Cornell – are also in line to receive funding. And downtown renewals projects made up the third area of focus.

North Country

The North Country fared well in today’s Regional Economic Development Council funding awards, netting $90.2 million.  

Projects supported by the additional funding include the revitalization of tourism infrastructure and hospitality lodging, as well as an expansion of the Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

Another major project is combating the housing shortage at Fort Drum by building multi-family housing developments.

The Regional Economic Development Council defines the North Country as Jefferson, Lewis, Hamilton, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, and Essex counties.

Warren and Washington Counties were included in the Capitol District.  Adirondack projects in those regions that may or may not be funded include localizing production of Davidson Brothers craft beer in Glens Falls, and a sewer and water project in Whitehall.

Western New York

The region got a little more than half of the $100.3 million it received in 2011. Reflecting the smaller total in 2012 ($52.8 million) the largest grant allocated was half a million dollars for a partnership between SUNY Buffalo and Alfred University for the creation of an Advanced Materials Manufacturing and Training Center.

The big winner in the West was the cultural sector with a total of $829,120 in two grants going to the Springville Center for the Arts to improve and acquire property for a multi-purpose arts center incorporating an artist marketplace, café and artist housing.

The City of Niagara Falls receives $450,000 for its plans to revitalize downtown, including funding for its much discussed plans to attract young graduates through offering assistance in paying down their student loans.

Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes REDC received $96.2 million in funding to continue working on 76 projects around the region.

It was also one of three Best Plan awardees, winning $25 million for its 2012 submission.

The Finger Lakes council received the largest award in the state, and CEO of the Rochester Business Alliance, Sandy Parker says she is pleased that this money will be filtering into the region’s communities.

“This is a great boost, and the region should be proud of getting the largest award.”

Parker says the council applied for funding for ten transformational projects across the Finger Lakes, totaling about $28 million in funding requests in the Consolidated Funding Application process.

She says they received all the capital needed for the projects, plus extra funding that will trickle down to other endeavors in the region.

In a statement released today, co-chairs of the Finger Lakes regional council – University of Rochester president, Joel Seligman, and CEO of Wegmans Food Markets, Danny Wegman – said they are proud of the council’s progress so far, and they look forward to moving forward with projects thanks to this funding.

These funds represent a crucial investment in our plans to create 50,000 new jobs in the region over the next five years. We take particular pride in the fact that the state singled out our region’s strategic plan for recognition.

Sandy Parker says she does not know yet the exact list of projects receiving funding, or the amount that will be given to all projects.

However, Parker says the following list of projects is an example of how the funding will be divided:

  • The University of Rochester Center for Computational Excellence: $5 million
  • RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability: $5 million
  • MCC’s Middle Skills project: $600,000
  • The Midtown revitalization project: $4 million
  • The University of Rochester College Town expansion: $4 million

Other projects that will receive funding include the Eastman Business Park in Rochester, the Pathstone Finger Lakes Enterprise Fund, the STAMP project, the Seneca Ag-Bio Green Energy Park, and the Finger Lakes Business Accelerator.

Capital Region

The Capital Region did not earn top performer or best plan designations, but that may be alright considering it has a burgeoning nanotech industry that's already been heavily incentivized.

Here are some of the highlights from the $50.3 million the region was granted:

  • $4 million to preserve the historic nature and long-term value of Kiernan Plaza in downtown Albany
  • $1 million install a new biomass fueled co-generation plant at the Watervliet Arsenal
  • $950,000 to redevelop the Albany Waterfront into a premier destination for waterfront events
  • $1 million to support the expansion of the Rotterdam MultiModal Center allowing Railex

The entire list of projects from across the state that were given money can be found here [PDF].