The North Country Regional Economic Development Council was awarded a stunning $103.2 million Thursday for its Strategic Development Plan.
A total of $785 million was announced for 720 projects across the state during a ceremony in Albany.
The North Country plan was chosen as one of four Best Plan Award winners by the Strategic Plan Review Committee — and was also the second-highest amount granted to any of the 10 councils from around the state.
Co-Chairs Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, and Anthony Collins, president of Clarkson University, were both delighted to bring $103 million home to the North Country region.
About $40 million comes from the Best Plan Award, with the remainder of the $103.2 million from a variety of state-agency funds and grants.
“We’re all ecstatic here. This is not something that happens every day,” Douglas said from Albany shortly after the awards were announced.
“This will be transformational.”
The award includes funding for the16 priority projects identified in the plan and for 54 other projects across the seven-county region.
Collins said it was rewarding to see the Review Committee recognize the tremendous effort the council members devoted to create its plan.
“It says a lot about the willingness of our region to come together and formulate a great plan.”
He sees it as a huge shot in the arm for the region, especially considering its geographic size and sparse population.
“In a world full of turmoil and not such good news, I hope everybody in the North Country can be pleased.”
Local priority project funding includes $2.5 million for Bombardier Transportation in Plattsburgh to expand its main plant and test track facility; $397,000 for Strand Theater restoration efforts; and $1.2 million in support of bringing more research firms to Trudeau Institute’s campus in Saranac Lake.
During last week’s presentation to the Strategic Plan Review Committee, Collins told the panel that would decide the funding that every $1 from the state would be supported by $6 from the private sector.
MORE NEXT YEAR
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he reached an agreement backstage with State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to include a second round of funding in next year’s budget.
That will allow the regional councils to continue the progress that has been made this year.
He said it is part of the move to return New York to a business-friendly state.
“The one thing we haven’t had is a government that is as good as the people of the state, and that is what is changing, and that is what is changing this year,” he said.
Silver said it just makes sense to leave economic-development decisions in the hands of those who understand what their region requires.
He shares the belief that a “one-size-fits-all approach to economic development no longer makes sense.”
Skelos said the new approach is a great way to bring development partners together across a region. In recognition of that, he said, he immediately agreed to include the second round of funding in next year’s budget.
U.S. Rep. Bill Owens said the award was a huge win, thanks to the efforts of Douglas, Collins and the other members of the council. He called the complete list of funded projects “mind-blowing,” to say the least.
“One thing I am extremely pleased about was how the funding was spread across the (23rd Congressional) district,” he said.
Owens said it really covered the entire North Country and provides every region something to help move economic development forward.
“This hopefully will create a lot of jobs,” he said.
State Sen. Betty Little congratulated the North Country team.
“The collaborative effort of this council, the relationships and partnerships forged and strengthened, will yield benefits for many years to come,” she said in a press release. “In the North Country, the more than $100 million in state investments announced today will focus on existing clusters, including biotech and health in Saranac Lake and transportation and aerospace in Plattsburgh.
“There’s also a focus on infrastructure investments in broadband, natural gas and highway, rail and air transportation and new opportunities in developing and delivering clean energy.”
‘ABOVE AND BEYOND’
Assemblywomen Janet Duprey and Teresa Sayward acknowledged the hard work and dedication of the council to conceptualize innovative ideas to make the North Country a business leader and economic engine.
“Our council obviously went above and beyond with their work in bringing the top prize back to the North Country,” Duprey said in a statement. “Families and businesses across the region will benefit greatly from the investment in infrastructure and business that this funding will allow us to make.”
“This funding will be huge for the North Country,” Sayward said. “Our communities have been hit especially hard by the recent economic downturn. This funding will go a long way toward creating jobs and revitalizing our region with investment in industry and a look toward the future with a focus on high-tech and research and development.”
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