By CHRIS MORRIS
The $103.2 million jackpot goes to ... the North Country.
From left, Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau, Assemblywomen Janet Duprey and Teresa Sayward, and Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce head Garry Douglas wait in the nervous minutes before regional economic development awards are announced Thursday at the Egg in Albany.
(Photo — Brian Mann)
The North Country region was one of the four big winners today when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the results of a statewide competition for economic development funds.
Ten regional councils developed strategic plans earlier this year in hopes of getting $40 million for priority projects in their region. But they got much more than that. Four councils were given "Best Plan Awardee" designations and received the biggest slice of the funding pie.
The North County Regional Economic Development Council was awarded a total of $103.2 million, which includes millions of dollars in funding that was already in place. In all, 70 projects were funded, including 16 priority projects.
Cuomo announces top economic development projects
ALBANY (AP) - The state is announcing the winners of a competitive competition for millions in public-private partnerships to create jobs.
The awards include:
- Central New York, $103.7 million;
- The North Country region, including the Adirondacks, $103.2 million;
- Western New York, $100.3 million;
- Long Island, $101.6 million;
- The Finger Lakes region, $68.8 million;
- New York City, $66.2 million;
- The Mohawk Valley $60.2 million;
- The Southern Tier $49.4 million;
- The Capital Region, $62.7 million
- The Mid-Hudson, $67 million.
These have been deemed the most promising economic development projects throughout the state.
Projects are sharing $1 billion in aid to help companies expand, locate or stay and to boost employment.
Among those priority projects are plans to bolster job retention and creation at the Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake, where officials hope to establish a new biotech cluster. The council said last month that Trudeau wants to "recruit and establish four faculty level scientists and their research teams" at the research facility. The goal is to attract competitive funding from the National Institutes of Health and related organizations.
According to the Governor's Office, Trudeau received $1.2 million "to modernize its laboratory facilities and hire scientists to explore disease protection techniques."
Other priority projects in the North Country receiving funding include: $9.9 million to open the 46-mile Newton Falls Rail Line to service paper mills and mines in the Adirondacks; $4 million to build rental housing at the U.S. Army base at Fort Drum; $3 million to help build the new Clayton Hotel on the St. Lawrence River; $397,000 to restore the 1924 Strand Theatre to the Strand Performing Arts Center in Plattsburgh; and $2.5 million for Bombardier's expansion of its rail car assembly and testing facility in Plattsburgh.
The awards were announced Thursday morning during a large ceremony at the Egg in Albany. Numerous local and regional officials attended the event, including council co-chairs Tony Collins, president of Clarkson University, and Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, as well as Adirondack North Country Association Executive Director Kate Fish, state Adirondack Park Agency Chair Lani Ulrich and Saranac Lake village Mayor Clyde Rabideau.
In his introduction, Cuomo said New York state has a "beauty and depth that no other state has," while a video in the background showed footage of the Adirondack Mountains. After the North Country was named a top prize winner, Cuomo declared: "Great job for the North Country."
Douglas said the North Country rarely secures this kind of state funding for projects, and he noted that the 100-plus million dollars was almost twice as much as that received by New York City.
"We don't have the big bang," Douglas said. "We're not going to build a nanotechnology factory in Saranac Lake that will employ 6,000 people. But we do have a series of firecrackers, and they'll pop and have a collective impact that will be transformational."
Rabideau noted that as the North Country award was being announced, the words "Saranac Lake" were splashed across a screen in front of hundreds of people.
"A year ago we were on the verge of losing our biotech base with Trudeau Institute (considering relocation)," he said. "Now, a year later, with this award and the establishment of the biotech cluster, the future is looking great."
The North Country's state assemblywomen, Teresa Sayward, Janet Duprey and Addie Russell, attended the ceremony as well, and they called the award a big win for the North Country. Duprey said the diversity of the projects in the plan helped put it over the top.
"We were all a little concerned," she said. "Can we pull Plattsburgh and Watertown and all the points together? I'm absolutely delighted."
State Sen. Betty Little, who represents the eastern North Country, said the bottom-up approach to economic development is a good model because it relies on local business, labor, higher education and communities working together on a road map for growth.
Essex County Chairman Randy Douglas, D-Jay, said the funding will help communities strengthen and rebuild, especially in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.
"The plan will also strengthen the middle class and create new private-sector jobs, helping put residents in our county back to work," he said.
News of the award also spread to Washington, where U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said the council's work represented a real understanding of the communities that make up the 23rd Congressional District.
"They did a great job on the state level convincing Albany that these projects are important," he said.
In an email later Thursday, ANCA's Fish expressing pride in the North Country's "do it yourself" attitude, citing as examples the Big Tupper Ski Area reopening, Saranac Lake's Community Store and the economic reinvention of Plattsburgh and Watertown, among other things.
"Today we celebrate a big win for the North Country," Fish wrote, saying the region's plans will "create a climate that will allow entrepreneurs to flourish.
"Projects included in the plan are intended to launch the region's transformation by focusing on high-tech and traditional manufacturing, green energy production, agriculture, tourism, and arts and culture."
Central New York got the largest grant award, totaling $103.7 million. Other big winners included Long Island, $101.6 million, and Western New York, $100.3 million.
North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann collected quotes for this story in Albany.