The Empire State Development board of directors met in New York City and approved $4 million in funding for seven projects that are spurring economic growth and opportunity in New York. Directors said these targeted investments will leverage more than $20 million in private and other public funding to support small businesses, community and downtown revitalization, regional tourism attractions, and projects that are building a strong foundation for future economic growth and job creation.
"Empire State Development continues to be busier than ever, supporting key projects and priorities advanced by Gov. Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Councils and making targeted investments in a range of industries that will result in greater economic and employment opportunities for New Yorkers," said Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Kenneth Adams. "By approving these resources for high-growth industries like technology and tourism, and partnering with prominent financial and academic institutions to advance our workforce and improve downtowns, these projects are benefiting communities today while paving the way for a brighter future."
The board approved the following Regional Economic Development Council award grants:
•Stony Brook University Small Business Development Center SBIR Grant Program - (Nassau and Suffolk counties) - $1,500,000
•Syracuse University Connective Corridor Façade Improvement Program - (Onondaga County) - $450,000
•Arbor Housing and Development - (Steuben County) - $450,000
•Lewis County Development Corp. - (Lewis County) - $330,000
•Strand Theatre Digital Conversion (Herkimer County) - $25,000
The board approved the following New York Works Capital grant:
•Buffalo Zoo Arctic Edge - (Erie County) - $750,000
The Buffalo Zoo, the oldest zoo in New York and the third oldest in the U.S., will use a grant of up to $750,000 as reimbursement for a portion of the construction costs of a state-of-the-art Artic Edge Exhibit, including an Arctic Conservation Center.
The Buffalo Zoo, owned by the City of Buffalo and founded in 1875, is the most visited tourist attraction in Erie County, offering year-round exhibits of approximately 1,000 endangered and domestic animals, fundraising events, and educational programming. The zoo welcomes more than 45,000 visitors annually, and has invested more than $32 million to upgrade and establish new exhibits and amenities.
In 2011, the zoo's existing polar bear exhibits failed to meet current standards adopted by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the zoo was forced to transfer its polar bear population to other zoos. To avoid the permanent loss of one of its most popular species, the zoo began fundraising efforts to construct the Artic Edge Exhibit, a state-of-the-art exhibit for polar bears and other arctic animals that will connect visitors to the newly created Arctic Conservation Center, which will contain educational displays focused on climate change and positive methods for reducing carbon footprints.
The zoo applied for funding in the first two rounds of the Regional Council's CFA process and was granted a combined total of $776,000. In 2013, Cuomo announced a $750,000 award through "New York Works," allowing the project to break ground in February. Without ESD's assistance, the project would not have been completed in time to keep the polar bears in Buffalo.
This project is consistent with the Western New York Regional Plan's focus on tourism and smart growth initiatives.
The board approved the following Minority and Women-Owned Business Development and Lending Program grant:
•Carver Bancorp - Bridge to Success (New York County) - $562,500
In 2013, Cuomo announced the creation of the Bridge to Success Loan Program, which invested at least $15 million to expand access to short-term bridge loans for New York State Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises. The program provides lending support to MWBE contractors seeking the working capital to execute on a state contract.
State contract payment cycles frequently take longer than what is financially feasible for many MWBEs, and the delay in the payment cycle poses a significant barrier to these firms securing state contracts. The program helps MWBEs access the short-term loan capital needed to hire staff, buy materials, or purchase equipment, giving these companies a better chance to secure the up to $1 billion currently available in state contracting opportunities.
The next meeting of the board of directors will be in October.
Empire State Development is New York's chief economic development agency (www.esd.ny.gov). ESD's mission is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the state and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. For more information on Regional Councils and ESD, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov and www.esd.ny.gov.