Seven upstate regions are competing for $1.5 billion in state funding as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Upstate New York Economic Revitalization Competition.
Leaders from the six counties of the designated Mohawk Valley region heard from locals on the campus of Fulton-Montgomery Community College. The MV500 group, initiated by Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente in March, is attempting to organize the community and gather input needed for the region’s bid for one of three $500 million economic development prizes.
MV500 co-chair Alicia Dicks heard comments from residents of communities large and small of the area that sits at the base of the Adirondack Park.
“It’s really about engaging our six counties to get one unified voice and we can’t do that in a boardroom. We need to do that by going out and meeting with community members and having forums like this for them to give opportunities to speak. It’s not about us telling them what we’re going to do, it’s them telling us about what’s right, what’s wrong,” said Dicks.
The panel heard about many of the issues they’d like to see addressed in an economic development plan; infrastructure, renewable energy, property taxes, historical preservation, the list went on.
Karen Crouse, Village Clerk of St. Johnsville, is a lifelong resident of the Montgomery County community. She said while much of the upstate revitalization conversation these days is focused on high-tech and industry, the small communities need their own kind of promotion for assets like museums and other sites.
“We need to have more focus on adverstising on the Thruway that there are small villages just off the beaten path.”
The high-tech hubs of Utica and Albany sit on either side of the Mohawk Valley. Crouse joked about the investments made in the Valley’s bookends.
“ If you clean your living room and your kitchen but the dining room is in between and it’s a mess, what do you got?,” laughed Crouse.
Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane said her city, while certainly different in size, has many of the same goals as what she heard from the surrounding small towns.
“And so that’s redevelopment of our waterfront areas, our downtown, focusing on repurposing factories and revitalizing neighborhoods, and we heard a lot of that today in this room.”
But as the MV500 team puts together its bid, Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said it’s important not to focus on only the negative, but what makes the region unique.
“We have a lot of strengths and we need to build on them. We are an affordable low-cost option in a beautiful area with a lot opportunity whether it’s recreational or otherwise, and sometimes it’s good to focus on our problems and things we need to fix, but it’s also good to show and strengthen and get the word out about all the positives that are going on here and oftentimes that might get left behind a little bit,” said Ossenfort.
Other areas eligible for one of the three $500 million awards are Mid-Hudson, Capital Region, Central New York, North Country, Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.