Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced $2.25 billion in economic and community development funding has been awarded through round five of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative and the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The governor also announced the four upstate regions not selected as "URI Best Plan Awardees" will receive an additional $50 million to fund priority projects and further implement the regions' strategic plans for economic growth.
Cuomo said, "Over the past five years, the Regional Councils have become an integral part of generating economic opportunity in communities statewide. By removing barriers to growth, controlling spending and cutting taxes, we have laid the groundwork for our Regional Councils to pursue projects in key industries that have turned their communities into local economic engines. This year's round of awards demonstrates the progress that has been made in changing the trajectory of our economy and continues our commitment to investing in the future of New York state."
A centerpiece of the governor's strategy to jumpstart the economy and create jobs, the Regional Councils were established in 2011 to transform the state's approach to economic development from a top-down model to one that is community-based and performance-driven. The initiative empowers community, business and academic leaders, as well as members of the public in each region of New York, to develop strategic plans specifically tailored to their region's unique strengths and resources in order to create jobs, improve quality of life and grow the economy.
This year, the 10 Regional Councils once again competed for funding and assistance from up to $750 million in state economic development resources as part of round five of the REDC competition. Additionally, the governor established a new competition in 2015 - the Upstate Revitalization Initiative - to award a total of $1.5 billion to three regions, which will help to transform local economies by providing $500 million over the next five years to support projects and strategies that create jobs, strengthen and diversify economies, and generate economic opportunity within the region.
Of the state's 10 regions, seven were eligible for the URI competition: Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, Central New York, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Capital District and Mid-Hudson.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, chairwoman of the Regional Economic Development Councils, said, "Having traveled to every corner of the state over the past year, I have watched how Regional Councils have helped communities put their best ideas into action. Economic development is more than just dollars and cents - it's about restoring hope and optimism to communities yearning for a brighter future. This year, there are no 'losers' - non-winning regions this year will receive more funding than top performing regions last year. Gov. Cuomo's REDC awards, along with the $1.5 billion Upstate Revitalization Initiative, will produce new investment, new jobs and new opportunities for all New Yorkers."
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said, "We all recognize that we must do everything possible to focus on job growth so that our children can have bright futures living, working and raising their families in New York state. The Senate is proud to continue partnering with the Regional Councils in the successful projects that are moving our economy forward, generating new jobs and creating better opportunities for all New Yorkers."
Assembly Majority Leader Joseph D. Morelle said, "Thanks to the continued faith and commitment of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the tireless efforts of my colleagues on the Regional Council, we have secured what is arguably one of the most important economic investments in our region's history."
Since 2011, the Regional Council process has awarded nearly $3 billion to more than 3,100 job creation and community development projects across the state, supporting the creation or retention of more than 150,000 jobs.
On April 30, Cuomo launched REDC round five and the URI competition, and introduced several new components to the Regional Council initiative, including the selection of a regional industry cluster to focus on strengthening and growing. This year's REDC competition focused on workforce development, furthering regional Global NY strategies, implementing strategic plans, identifying regional industry clusters and keeping the project pipeline full, among other ongoing state priorities and regional initiatives.
After the consolidated funding application period closed July 31, members of the strategic implementation assessment team, which is composed of state agency commissioners and policy experts, traveled to each of the 10 regions to see firsthand the REDCs progress implementing the strategies and goals outlined in their plans. Then, in late October, members from the 10 Regional Councils traveled to Albany to make in-person presentations of their proposals directly to the SIAT, which reviews the progress being made on projects that have previously received state funding, assesses the regions' strategic plan implementations and proposals for funding this year, and provides recommendations for the regional awards in 2015.
Western New York: Regional Council Awardee | $83.9 million supporting 125 projects
In Western New York, economic strategies, like the "Buffalo Billion" investment plan - which served as the model for this year's URI completion - continue to propel a rebound and are transforming the region into a hub for medical research and development, clean energy and advanced manufacturing. Key indicators point to a growing and increasingly vibrant regional economy, with more jobs, businesses and greater productivity than just a few years ago, including the addition of more than 7,500 jobs, 1,100 new businesses and $1.9 billion in wages.
The Western New York progress reports identified materials and machinery manufacturing as a key industry cluster that will continue the forward trajectory of their regional economy.
Top projects this year include:
•Bethlehem Steel Redevelopment - $2,280,000: This project entails the acquisition of approximately 100 acres along New York State Route 5 to coincide with site remediation, site grading, access roads, pedestrian pathways, utilities and associated infrastructure in preparation for converting 100 acres of brownfield land into shovel-ready property. The total project cost is approximately $10.2 million.
•Alfred State College Biorefinery Development and Commercialization Center - $1,500,000: The Alfred State College Biorefinery Development and Commercialization Center will be a multifunctional facility designed to enable private firms to scale the production of bio-renewable materials and sustainable energy from lab-bench to commercial volumes using a hot water extraction process developed at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The center will be built at Alfred State's School of Applied Technology in Wellsville, in collaboration with SUNY ESF and Applied Biorefinery Sciences LLC.
•National Comedy Center Connector - $2,025,000: The National Comedy Center, partnering with Hologram USA, will build the world's first Hologram Comedy Club to be housed in a former public utility building. Professional analyses project approximately 114,000 visitors per year, resulting in $17 million in goods and services, $6 million in wages and 184 jobs in a tri-county area. Additionally, one-time construction costs will generate $55 million in goods and services, $24 million in wages and 451 jobs.
State Sen. Marc Panepinto, D-60th, said, "Through this latest round of Regional Economic Development Council Awards, Gov. Cuomo has once again demonstrated his steadfast dedication to the people of Western New York. The distribution of $83.9 million to these deserving projects is not only indicative of their strength, but of the faith our state government holds in our community. I am proud to serve as the representative and advocate for 19 of these outstanding awardees and look forward to continuing to work on their behalf."
Panepinto issued letters of support for awardees throughout the 60th State Senate District as part of the REDC application process. The 19 projects funded throughout the district account for a total of $11,242,732 of the $83.9 million awarded to Western New York.
Project awardees within and serving the 60th State Senate District include:
•Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra $63,000
•Buffalo RiverWorks $900,000
•Buffalo Sewer Authority $1,815,000 Scajaquada Creek Restoration
•Burchfield Penney Art Center $63,000
•Burchfield Penney Art Center $125,000
•City of Buffalo $937,500 Niagara Street Revitalization Phase III/IV
•City of Buffalo $1,500,000 Niagara Street Revitalization Phase III/IV
•City of Buffalo $50,000 Shelton Square-Erie Street Greenway
•City of Tonawanda Engineering Study $100,000
•Erie County Bethlehem Steel $2,280,000
•Gates Circle Infrastructure $2,000,000
•Graycliff Conservancy $33,750
•Massachusetts Avenue Project $385,000
•Research Foundation for SUNY Buffalo $100,000
•Zoological Society of Buffalo, Inc. $500,000 Buffalo Zoo Reptile House
•Town of Evans $19,950 Lake Erie Beach Business District Revitalization Project
•Town of Evans $142,898 South Creek Pool Park Improvement Project
•Town of Grand Island $197,634 Scenic Woods Bicentennial Park Phases I-IA
•Village of Hamburg $30,000
In Niagara County:
•$500,000 goes to the City of Niagara Falls for the Highland Avenue Business Park phase one. Officials there will aim to transform a New York state-designated brownfield opportunity area priority brownfield site in the Highland Avenue corridor into a prosperous, economically diverse location capable of attracting new investment and employment opportunities by stabilizing and upgrading existing buildings, remediation of the land, acquiring strategic properties and developing a marketing package to attract businesses and developers.
•$200,000 goes to the Riviera Theatre and Organ Preservation Society Inc. to expand the venue by 23,000 square feet to increase the number and types of events it offers, as well as positively influencing its impact on the downtown area.
Assemblyman John Ceretto said "We have made great progress in strengthening Western New York's economy, but there is always more to be done. The $83.9 million awarded today will allow us to build on our past successes and continue our ongoing revitalization.
"Improving our local economy is one of my top priorities as a legislator. Moving forward, I remain committed to investing in our region's infrastructure and modernizing our economy, so that we can create new jobs, attract more businesses and do what's right for hardworking families."
A full list of the 2015 REDC awards is available at www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov.
The 2015 Regional Economic Development Council Awards Booklet is available at https://www.ny.gov/sites/ny.gov/files/atoms/files/REDCAwardsBooklet2015.pdf.
Through five years, each REDC has secured a significant amount of resources for their region:
For more information on the Regional Councils, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov.