Posts Tagged ‘ncredc’

Details emerge about spending priorities for North Country’s $103 million development fund

State officials have released this partial list of which projects will get immediate funding through the North Country Regional Economic Development grant process award, unveiled yesterday:

  • Rehabilitation of 46.25 miles of the rail line serving the Newton Fall Fine Paper, Benson Mines and Slack Chemical — $9.97 Million (St. Lawrence County)
  • Expansion of the Bombardier Mass Transit Corporation’s production facility and extension of the railcar test track to increase efficiency, flexibility and capacity for new contracts — $2.5 Million (Clinton County)
  • Development of a destination boutique hotel along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River in Clayton — $2.25 Million (Jefferson County)
  • Modernize laboratory medical facilities and hire additional scientists to explore disease protection techniques at Trudeau Institute — $1.2 Million (Franklin County)
  • Redevelopment of the former Lyons Falls Paper Mill site to make it shovel-ready for mixed use as a business park — $330,000 (Lewis County)
  • Expansion of broadband access throughout Hamilton County — $4 Million (Hamilton County)
  • Rehabilitation of a combined wastewater and stormwater sewer system in the Town of Ticonderoga — $598,575 (Essex County)

North Country a winner!

The North Country is among top winners in Gov. Cuomo’s regional economic development competition – 103.2 million dollars.  The announcement this morning capped months of work by a diverse group of community leaders. After the grip and grin onstage, Gov. Cuomo added a shout-out to the NC regional council: “Good job, North Country!”

The mood was electric as the announcements trickled out.  A large contingent of folks from the region are in Albany for the ceremony, including Brian Mann, who’ll have  more on what it all means today during All before 5, and during regional news tomorrow morning.

Western New York, Central new York and Long Island were other top winners, but all the regions won at least $40 million. 720 projects. &785.5 million dollars in total.

UPDATE from Albany: Wait almost over for big NY development grants

To give you a sense of just how important this decision is to the region, here’s a partial list of North Country leaders on-hand:

Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau, Clarkson president Tony Collins, Assemblywomen Janet Duprey and Teresa Sayward. Olympic Regional Development CEO Ted Blazer, Essex County tourism chief Jim McKenna, Plattsbugh Chamber president Gary Douglas, Adirondack Park Agency chairwoman Lani Ulrich…

I’m blogging live from Albany where Governor Andrew Cuomo is about to announce which regions will win the big $40 million packages designed to boost economic development.

Four of ten regions will take home the big prize — taking home $40 million apiece.  The other six regions will divvy up a much smaller pool of money.

Gary Douglas, one of the co-chairs of the North Country’s Regional Economic Development Council told me a few moments ago that he’s had no hints, no indications about the likely outcome.

The Cuomo administration is known for playing its cards very close to the vest — yesterday’s tax deal being a case in point — and this decision is no exception.

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward also noted this morning that her district could see big economic boosts from any of three different regional councils, the North Country, the Capital Region, or the Mohawk Region.

So this could be kind of a mixed decision.  More soon…

Regional council does North Country “proud”

Our own Ellen Rocco was in Albany yesterday with the group representing the North Country  at the regional economic development competition being run by the governor’s office.

It pits eight regions of the state against each other for economic development aid from the state. The four winning regions each get $40 million, the others split $40 million. Big stakes.

Ellen was there with two other people involved in one of the projects selected for presentation to the panel of judges: North Country Pastured, which hopes to get a mobile poultry processing facility going in the St. Lawrence Valley.

Others on the travel team:   Kevin Elkin of Elkin Tree Service in Indian lake ( a passionate broadband proponent) and representatives of a company based in Syracuse and Ogdensburg that’s working on advanced LED lighting technology. Leading were co-chairs Garry Douglas of the North Country Chamber of Commerce in Plattsburgh, Clarkson University President Tony Collins, and Kate Fish, a North Country Council member representing the Adirondack North Country Association.

Here’s a link to the website with all the regions’ full videos. (Don’t worry…you should be able to fast forward to various bits.)

The co-chairs did the presentation, and each of the judges had questions, with interjections from time to time.

The big takeaway – “We think we did the North Country proud,” says Ellen. She says all the panelists said the North Country presentation stood out, partly because this region’s council was the only team to bring actual people who could talk about their own projects. And the visuals were smart and looked good…not your typical “death by Power Point” presentation.

We’ll see, soon. A decision is expected Dec. 14.

Is this locally-produced North Country economic plan “transformational”?

The first word in the new North Country Regional Economic Development plan — the banner headline really — is “transformational.”

Here’s a link to the document, now available in complete form, which has already been sent to Albany for review by state officials.

I want to urge In Box readers first to look through the plan and then to chime in on one question:  Does it live up to that very large, very ambitious word?

Is this a menu of visions and projects that will transform the seven-county North Country in positive ways?  That’s the measuring rod state officials will use when deciding which regional plan will receive a bonus allotment of $40 million.

There are things in here that I find very interesting, including a sizable loan fund for new tourism start-ups, and some micro-enterprise efforts that include a mobile poultry processing plant.

The biggest single item that the Council wants state officials to fund is the refurbishment of the industrial railroad line to the Newton Falls paper mill in southern St. Lawrence County — to the tune of nearly $10 million.

Here’s the vision statement that binds all this together:

We will energize our micropolitan cities, building on growth in the aerospace, transit equipment, defense, biotech, and manufacturing industries.  Attract and nurture entrepreneurial pioneers to cultivate innovative clusters in our rural communities.

Mobilize the creativity and capacity of the graduates of our outstanding places of higher education.  Catalyze the highest per capita rate of small business start-ups in the state. Elevate global recognition of the region as one of the special places on the planet to visit, live, work and study. Activate tourism as a driver to diversify our economies. Propagate an agricultural revolution as we help feed the region and the world.  Create the greenest energy economy in the state.

I don’t think I’m betraying a bias when I say that this all sounds pretty great.

The question is whether this is a roadmap that might get us there?  What’s your first blush opinion?  Good ideas in here?  Bad ideas?

And how about the process?  Was it exciting to see this conversation generated locally, rather than focused in Albany?  Was your voice heard?  As always, your comments welcome below.

Morning Read: Can the Adirondack-North Country really create a brand?

The North Country Regional Economic Development Council’s new list of priority projects includes a proposal for the state to invest $2.6 million in an effort to help “brand” the seven-county region.  Here’s what the plan has to say:

“This project will create a regional brand that communicated the unique identity of the seven county region, attracting new visitors, residents, entrepreneurs, and investment, and opening new access to markets for the region’s businesses and organizations.”

We’ve debated this before here on the In Box, whether the Adirondack-North Country has (or needs) a recognizable brand, and what it might take to create one.

Which brings us, finally, to this morning’s Morning Read.  On the Adirondack Almanack, Kimberly Rielly, director of communications for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, has an interesting essay questioning the value or viability of all this.

If we, as marketers, “owned” everything inside the [Adirondack] blue line, we could force everyone to adhere to the Adirondacks’ brand guidelines, and police all use of the approved logo and messaging that reflects the customer experience.

But this isn’t Disney World. The Adirondack region as a whole is only treated as one entity from a regulatory standpoint; by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA).

Otherwise, it is, indeed fragmented into separate delineations for counties, and various New York State agencies with multiple regions, including DEC, DOT, Parks and Recreation, ESD, etc.

It’s an interesting, thorny question.  Vermont, New York City, and Hawaii are all pretty fragmented places, yet they have successfully crafted brands which seem to boost their profile.   So what makes us so different?

Read Rielly’s essay here and chime in below.  What do you think?  Do you hope an intensive branding effort gets off the ground? Or, as Rielly suggests, should we “continue to promote our destinations as we have been”?

Could energy be the North Country’s next big thing?

The last couple of weeks, I’ve listened in as Tony Collins, head of Clarkson University and co-chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council has talked up the opportunities of a sort of local energy movement.

“I know there are projects in the pipeline that rely on energy and utilize natural resources, the forest reserves, forest products,” Collins told me recently.

This same idea has been a steady theme for Kate Fish, head of the Adirondack North Country Association.

As the region talks about and debates a unified theme for our shared economic future, energy seems like an interesting angle to explore.

After all, our communities are already industry leaders in hydro and wind power.  Watertown has a chain of power generating dams right in the middle of the city.  Big hydro facilities on the St. Lawrence River are cornerstones of the regional economy.

The Tug Hill and Clinton County have seen sizable wind farms kicking into gear.

What if rural towns and small cities also became major exporters of wood pellets for stoves and producers of electricity at biomass facilities?

Is it impossible to think that this region could become a next exporter of energy in the next decade?

One big and necessary step would involve a massive effort to improve the efficiency of North Country homes, so that we consume far less heating oil in the winter.

An expansion of public transportation and the adoption of more energy-efficient vehicles would also help.

Remember, every gallon of oil that we avoid burning means more money staying here in our economy.

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Jerry Jenkins has also been writing and thinking about the opportunities (and the challenges) of this kind of transition.

His latest book gives a fascinating portrait of the energy economy in a rural region like ours.

The short term benefits, in terms of jobs developed and products exported, seem worth exploring.

But it’s also reasonable to imagine a future where the rest of the US suffers big energy shocks, shortages, and price spikes, while the North Country controls more of its own destiny.

So what do you think?  Would you rather see your warmth this summer come from a local pellet plant, rather than a big oil company?

Are you skeptical that wind, hydro and biomass can really fuel a vibrant economy?  Comments welcome.

Morning Read: Governor’s Economic Development Council hits rooftop highway pothole

So when I reported on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new system of Regional Economic Development Council’s last week, it was still a little unclear how these volunteer-run advisory groups would navigate politically charged decisions.

State officials, and members of the North Country Council, argued that the group would work toward consensus, using public input to shape a plan for this region that all sides could embrace.

Then, last week, Council co-chair Garry Douglas — who also heads the Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce — announced that the I-98 rooftop highway project wouldn’t be included as a priority project.

Now, a St. Lawrence County legislator is calling for Douglas to be replaced, according to the Watertown Daily Times.

“If Mr. Douglas cannot find it in himself to be more open-minded, then I call for Gov. Cuomo to remove him from the council and we can continue with one chair,” Mr. Burns said in an email.

Mr. Burns’s ire was raised by Mr. Douglas’s announcement Friday that the council will not include I-98, the proposed four-lane highway that would link Watertown to Plattsburgh, as a priority project for state funding.

In his response, Douglas said that the highway project would eventually be addressed in the planning process.

“I take no offense. I perfectly understand how passionate people get about their projects. I have never expressed opposition to any project or support of any project. We’re letting the process work.”

So what do you think?  Can these volunteer advisory councils make decisions like this without courting controversy?  Is consensus really possible on issues of this kind?

And in the final equation, is it better to have this debate going on here, in the North Country, rather than being decided in Albany?

Rooftop highway not on council’s first list

The rooftop highway, now known as I-98, won’t be on the list of projects the North Country Regional Economic Development Council sends to Albany  this month.

The idea has been around for decades: a four lane interstate to connect I-81 on the western edge of the region, to I-87, on the eastern side.

Council co-chair Garry Douglas told NCPR yesterday that the interstate, being pushed hard by St. Lawrence County, just isn’t the kind of initiative that fits the mold, for now:

We will need to identify a discreet, probably small number of projects, that will have to meet very rigorous criteria…so this is not one of those projects.

This is just the first pass  in Gov. Cuomo’s regional approach to economic development. Appointed councils from around the state are competing for $40 million in state funds —  that’s another the reasons the highway, estimated price tag $4 billion, doesn’t qualify, so far.

The state department of transportation’s against it.  Instead, the DOT prefers more modest improvements along existing state Rt. 11.  How about it? Good idea? Or no?

YESeleven, a group opposing the rooftop highway, has posted maps of what it thinks the route would be, in sections from Watertown to Plattsburgh. Find them at the group’s website, here.

New North Country Economic Development Council will wield huge clout

I didn’t realize until I went to last night’s regional economic development council gathering in Elizabethtown just how influential that new group — created by Governor Andrew Cuomo — will be.

After taking input from across the North Country, the group will now move quickly to draft a plan designed to shape economic development in the region over the next five years.

A final version will be created by November 4th and sent to Albany, where it will shape what economic development projects in our region are funded.

The group will also have the final say about which specific initiatives are placed on a priority list for state dollars that could total roughly $40 million next year alone.

At last night’s session, the Council’s leaders acknowledged that the final plan will be completed and sent to the governor without the public having a chance to review the document — a fact that drew criticism.

“I’ve been a little surprised and frankly disappointed at how little information this regional economic development council is putting on line,” said Stu Baker from Ticonderoga.

“You’re looking for comments on a plan under development and there have been no draft materials placed out there for us to comment on and I think that’s a big mistake.”

There’s no sign that the Council is trying to be secretive or coy about the process, or its priorities.

On the contrary, members have fanned out across the region collecting opinions and ideas.  But they are also moving very quickly, trying to meet a deadline set by the governor.

It also remains unclear what process the group will use to make final decisions, which will shape controversial initiatives such as the I-98 or “rooftop highway” proposal.

Another fact that I hadn’t understood before last night is that this Council will also have the enormous responsibility of judging future economic development proposals that apply for state funding.

The group will score projects on a scale from 1 to 20.  That grade will make up fully a fifth of each project’s total score when being evaluated in Albany for taxpayer dollars.

That’s a lot of clout for this new organization.  Members of the Council acknowledge that there are still some growing pains, and some details to be worked out about how this will all work.

But co-chair Tony Collins — president of Clarkson University — said last night that he’s confident that an “objective” set of criteria will be established to rate future projects.

So what do you think?  Are you comfortable with how this new plan is being developed?  Hopeful that it will move the region forward?

And do you like the idea of the Council playing a permanent, on-going role in shaping which projects the state funds?

Final decisions about the plan will look like will be made without