New York’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils are presenting their annual reports to the state, including their priority projects. The documents are key in the annual competition that awards up to $150 million in capital funds and $75 million in Excelsior Tax Credits. On Wednesday, the State Assessment Team was in Plattsburgh to hear the North Country Regional Economic Development Council report.
Each year as part of the competition for the state economic development investment awards, the Strategic Implementation Assessment Team, a group of commissioners and agency heads appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, either has the regional councils present reports in Albany or travels to the individual regions for the presentations. This year the panel is touring the 10 council regions.
On Wednesday the panel was in Plattsburgh to hear the report from the North Country Regional Economic Development Council. Clarkson University President Tony Collins is co-chair of the regional panel. “I think that the team really values the opportunity to come to the region and see projects that have been awarded funding in the past coming to fruition. That gives them a strong sense of confidence that the state investment is really worthwhile.”
The council offers projects from the St. Lawrence River to Lake Champlain. The region includes the Adirondacks and ends at the Canadian border. A video highlighted the area’s successful projects. A Powerpoint presentation notes that since 2011, 92 percent of the 481 projects totaling $199 million are complete or in progress. Steady progress has occurred in tourism, manufacturing and advanced manufacturing, enhanced airports, international commerce and foreign direct investment, renewable energy development, and attracting millennials and young talent.
Council co-chair Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, notes that that a wide range of sectors are included among their priority projects. “This is a diverse region so we have several sectors that we put a lot of attention to in selecting priority projects. There are some tourism projects. One of those would be an airport hotel at Plattsburgh International Airport. Another hotel project in Blue Mountain Lake and a couple of others as well. There are a number of manufacturing projects. A couple of transportation equipment companies are looking for equipment to enhance their operations in the area. Clarkson and the Ogdensburg Bridge Authority have a joint project to engage in a virtual technology to help them with future planning. There are a couple of small projects involved in agri-tourism. So a real variety of projects.”
Collins says the North Country has been following a strategic plan since the council’s inception. “The projects we've chosen as priority projects align with the basic themes of that strategy which is tourism, advanced manufacturing, energy. We support Fort Drum so projects around Fort Drum. So we developed our strategic plan six years ago now and we're sticking to it and the region I believe has now got confidence that if a project is not funded this year it might be next year or the year after. So there's a memory in the system. We're consistent. We are sticking to our strategic plan and I think it's paying dividends.”
Douglas is confident that the North Country region will do well in the upcoming round of grant announcements. “We have done well every year. We were amongst the quote unquote winners the first three years. The next three years we weren’t amongst those but we did extremely well. Most of our priority projects were still regarded as good projects and got funded and frankly the difference between having been one of those top three versus being the funding that we were awarded wasn't necessarily all that great particularly when you think of you know something on the order of 80 or 90 million dollars to a region with two percent of the state's population. We're going to do very well again. I think we have a very good chance. I think we've made a very good impression to certainly be in active consideration as a winning region once again. But we're going to do very well regardless.”
Five development councils will be designated “Top Performers” and receive awards of up to $20 million in Empire State Development grants.
The awards will be announced in December.