By PETE KLEIN
Express News Staff
SPECULATOR - A crowd of about 60 turned out at Oak Mt. Ski Center Monday, July 15, to hear updates on how the North Country Regional Economic Development Council will promote economic growth by obtaining grants for the North County.
Present from RED-C were co-chairmen Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, and Anthony “Tony” G. Collins, president of Clarkson University; Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chairman William Farber, who chairs the council’s Adirondack Park Work Group; Daniel Wilt, president of Wilt Industries, Arietta, who is now a commissioner at the Adirondack Park Agency; and Empire State Development North Country Regional Director Roseanne Murphy.
The North Country RED-C is one of 10 New York state regional economic development councils created in 2011. They compete with each other for economic development funding. The North Country RED-C has won $193.4 million in funding so far.
“This process is working in Hamilton County,” Douglas said, pointing to the Hamilton County Broadband Project, which has received funding and is bringing broadband coverage to most of the county.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the third round of the initiative May 15.
This round will build on the $1.5 billion invested in 1,400 projects throughout the state over the last two years. This year, $760 million will be available, including $150 million in capital funding, $70 million in tax credits and $540 million in state-supported programs through the Consolidated Funding Application process.
Five regions deemed top performers, based on implementation and performance, will each receive $25 million. The remaining regions will compete for a share of the remaining $25 million.
The CFA allows one application to be filed for funding from multiple state agencies and departments: Empire State Development; the Canal Corporation; Environmental Facilities Corp.; Homes and Community Renewal; New York Power Authority; Department of Labor; Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Department of State; Department of Environmental Conservation; Department of Agriculture and Markets; and the NYS Council on the Arts.
Douglas said the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is not part of the CFA process; requests to it for grants must be filed separately.
Each RED-C weighs in on each project application’s compliance with its five-year economic development strategic plan, which can be found online, then rates each project with up to 20 points. The state’s Strategic Plan Review Committee then rates each project, awarding it up to 80 points.
NORTH COUNTRY PLAN
The North Country plan focuses on high-tech and traditional manufacturing, green energy production, agriculture, tourism, arts and culture.
Tony Collins spoke about the new Innovation Hot Spots competition intended to promote the commercialization of academic research at state universities and grow the economy -- "entrepreneurial academics,” as Cuomo says.
Each regional council is to create an incubator plan that fosters innovation by offering financial and technical support to bring academic research to the commercial market.
Cuomo has also established the Opportunity Agenda program, which allows RED-Cs to target resources and expertise intended to help overcome economic challenges to poor communities, families and individuals.
Collins said the North Country RED-C has developed the North Country Opportunity Agenda, a region-wide strategy that will invest new and existing CFA resources in projects that foster a business environment that provides residents with the opportunity to enter the workforce.
Within the North Country, some of the barriers that have prevented economically distressed populations from pursuing opportunities include insufficient job skills, education and/or training; seasonality of employment; long travel distances to job training and employment; and limited availability of and/or inadequate childcare services.
The NCRED-C “PIPELINE”
The RED-C wants to know about projects and initiatives that can help the seven-county region implement its strategic plan.
The RED-C has established a “Pipeline Committee” to seek information on existing projects and identify new ones for potential development.
Collins said a pipeline submission is not an application for funding, and being on the pipeline list does not ensure a project will receive funding. It is simply a notification by a project developer of a potential application sometime in the future.
“Please note that all projects that want to be considered for funding must still submit a CFA,” he said.
WOOD PELLETS & ROADS
Lake Pleasant Supervisor Neil McGovern pointed out how a lot of “slash” is left on the ground after local logging operations, and suggested a way be found to use it to create jobs, such as turning it into pellets for wood stoves.
McGovern also said something needs to be done to convince the NYS Department of Transportation that putting down new blacktop to the sides of the road but not blacktopping the center creates dangers for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists.
McGovern said, “DOT needs to understand their roads are our main streets.”
Indian Lake Supervisor Brian Wells thanked the RED-C members for pushing for Indian Lake to be the prime location for the Adirondack Challenge whitewater and canoe races.
Wells Supervisor Brian Towers said he was very interested in cleaner, greener energy production to help create local jobs, but the state needs to realize the importance of road access to Forest Preserve lands.
“Without access, we can’t survive,” he said.
LODGING & SNOWMOBILES
Bill Osborne thanked the RED-C members for their efforts to win grants in support of broadband and said, “This will result in 95 percent of the county having access once it is complete.”
Osborne also spoke of his family history of providing lodging, harkening back to the days when hotels attracted visitors who stayed for weeks and even entire seasons. “What we need is destination lodging properties,” he said.
Speculator businessman Jonathan Lane, who is also president of Pleasant Riders snowmobile club, said snowmobiling is critical for the survival of local businesses and suggested local snowmobiling conditions could be vastly improved and accomplished more quickly if the club could win grant funds for a Class II groomer.
“One Class II groomer will do the work of three regular groomers,” he said.
The last day to file a CFA application is Aug. 12, but Collins suggested filing no later than Aug. 11. Applications and information on how to file are available on the website at http://regionalcouncils.ny.gov/content/north-country