Press-Republican

December 12, 2013

Region receives $81.3 million in funding awards

For use on 79 projects around North Country

DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — Way to go, three in a row.

The North Country Regional Economic Development Council received $81.3 million for 79 projects and programs in the third round of the Regional Economic Development Council competition, announced Wednesday morning in Albany. 

And it was one of five Top Performers in this round.

North Country Council Co-Chair and North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said the North Country is the only region to be named a Top Performer all three years. It was awarded $90.2 million for 82 projects in 2011 and $103.2 million for 70 projects in 2012.

“This $81.3 million is on top of the nearly $50 million announced two weeks ago for two of our regional priorities, Trudeau Institute and the Whiteface Mountain Highway,” he said by email. “That’s $131 million worth of confidence by the state in our plan, our process and our priorities. 

“We can’t thank Governor (Andrew) Cuomo enough for empowering and supporting our region in such an unprecedented away, as well as all of the members and volunteers who are part of our Regional Council and its working groups.”

AIRPORT ARRIVALS FACILITY

Plattsburgh International Airport is to receive $4.5 million for construction of an international-arrivals facility for U.S. Customs operations as part of the terminal expansion there. 

Clinton County Legislature Chairman Jimmy Langley said the county included space for a federal-inspection-services facility in its plan but was not going to outfit it until it had funding available. 

Now, it will be able to do so during the terminal-expansion project.

Plattsburgh International Airport Manager Christopher Kreig said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Customs and Border Protection has a layout for such facilities. It requires an entry, exit and baggage area that is separate from the ones for domestic flights.

“It’s a very detailed plan we have to follow,” he said. 

Kreig said international flights are part of the long-term plan for the airport, and this is an important first step in that process.

Langley said it will also help in marketing for expanded service at the airport.

“The chamber can’t market international flights without having this in place,” he said.

The county will have to fund its operation for the first two years, then the federal government will take over. 

‘EPOCH OF PROGRESS’

The funding announced Wednesday also includes $5 million for revitalization of the Hotel Saranac and $2 million for construction of a new resort and waterfront restaurant at the site of the former Lake Flower Hotel, which is expected to leverage private investment to diversify the region’s tourism/recreation-based communities.

Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau was in Albany for the announcement and welcomed the funding.

“We are thrilled and thankful for these awards, and now an epoch of progress and prosperity is at hand for Saranac Lake, ‘The Capital of the Adirondacks,’” he said by email.

“Combined, these two hotel resorts will solidify Saranac Lake’s place in the top tier of Adirondack destinations and position our village for sustainable success because their whole, together, is far greater than each standing alone.” 

‘LIKE WINNING TWICE’

The funding includes $250,000 to support Phase 2 of the Wild Walk at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, which comprises construction of activities and permanent outdoor exhibits. Phase 1 had already been awarded $1 million in the second round of awards.

Wild Center Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe was also in Albany for Cuomo’s presentation. She said it is an honor to be chosen by the council members as one of the North Country’s priority projects.

“We are thrilled that our colleagues see us as one  of those,” she said.

Ratclliffe said the entire North Country delegation was ecstatic to once again be chosen as a Top Performer.

“For us, it was like winning twice,” she said.

The Wild Walk is scheduled for completion in 2015. It will include interactive exhibits that will allow visitors to stand in an eagle’s nest or climb in a giant spider’s web.

Another $6 million is targeted for creation of a North Country Broadband Grant Fund to expand the region’s broadband infrastructure and continue the progress of the Connect NY program.

‘ABOVE AND BEYOND’

Bionique Testing Laboratories is to receive $650,000 for a 10,000-square-foot expansion of its testing facility in Saranac Lake. The new space is intended for laboratories, conference rooms and storage space.

In opening remarks, Cuomo said the councils have done a better job in each of the three years of the new approach to economic development.

“What you’ve done in the regions is actually going above and beyond,” he said.

After years of perceived neglect by the state, the North Country has demonstrated what can be accomplished through regional collaboration, the governor said. And the seven-county region now shows a cohesion that was never apparent in the past.

State Sen. Betty Little said a third-consecutive top award for the North County will help ensure that momentum continues for projects important to the future of the region. 

“A hearty congratulations to all who played a part in developing this third winning plan, including our Co-Chairs Garry Douglas and Tony Collins. In the competition for these funds, pulling in the same direction is essential, and we have a great team on that rope,” she said by email.

$25 MILLION BONUS

The 10 regional councils were competing for $150 million in capital this year. The totals for the five Top Performers included $25 million each, with the remaining five splitting $25 million.

The councils were also competing for $70 million in tax credits and up to $540 million from state agencies through the Consolidated Funding Application process.

Email Dan Heath:dheath@pressrepublican.com

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FULL LIST OF FUNDING

To see the full list of projects and programs that received funding awards, go to regionalcouncils.ny.gov and click on 2013 Regional Economic Development Council Awards near the top of the page and then on the 2013 REDC Awards Project List in the box above the blue-shaded area near the bottom of the page.