Press-Republican

October 11, 2012

North Country progress, priorities discussed

By DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — The state is getting returns on its investment in the North Country Regional Economic Development Council projects.

That was noted during the council’s report to the state’s Strategic Implementation Assessment Team on its progress on 2012 projects — and its objectives for 2013 funding —  at the West Side Ballroom on Wednesday afternoon. The council received $103.2 million in the first round of competitive awards, the second-highest amount among the 10 councils around the state.

Council Co-chair and North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said the new approach has created unprecedented unity across the council’s seven-county region.

“What we can now do ... is the remarkable things that partnership makes possible,” he said. “We are now punching over our weight.”

Assessment Team member Matthew Driscoll, president and CEO of the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation, asked what the ratio is of private to public funds in the projects. Douglas said every dollar the state has provided has led to $22 in additional investment.

Bombardier Transportation is a prime example of that, he said. The show of state and community support in providing $2.5 million led that company to invest $25 million in the expansion of its Plattsburgh plant, which will increase in size by about 40 percent. 

The planned expansion was one of the keys to landing large contracts with the Metropolitan Transit Authority and Bay Area Rapid Transit earlier this year, as it showed Bombardier would have the capacity to meet the production timeline.  

BIOMASS FACILITY

Clarkson University President and Council Co-chair Dr. Anthony Collins said he could see the relief in the faces of the people of Jefferson County when they saw region-wide support for Fort Drum, the state’s largest employer and provider of an $1.8 billion economic impact. Among the next round of priority projects in support of the base are 100 units proposed for Creekwood Housing Phase II and the 364 unit Carthage Apartments project, both in Jefferson County.

It also includes ReEnergy Black River, a $35 million project to convert a former coal plant to a biomass-energy facility that would create hundreds of jobs and provide a boost to local foresters. One goal would be production of Fort Drum’s electricity.

Private investors are more likely to come on board when they see the state has a process in place that is working, Collins said.

He said he firmly believes a next step will be to collaborate with other regions. He said one example is a venture capital fund on which the Central Region is working.

PRIORITY PROJECTS

The North Country Council seeks more than $112 million in state capital investment in this round of funding for 21 priority projects with the potential to create 347 construction jobs, 371 permanent jobs, retain 1,421 existing jobs, leverage $200 million in private and other investment and move the region decisively closer to meeting dozens of specific strategy goals, officials said. 

The Assessment Team, which toured sites in the North Country Wednesday, is slated to visit the other nine regional councils. The presentations will be used to evaluate progress and accomplishments based on strategy updates, plan implementation, leverage of resources, priority project advancement, performance measurements and public engagement and stakeholder involvement.

There is up to $762 million in state resources available in the second round of awards. That includes $150 million in capital and $70 million in tax credits to implement regional strategic plans and advance job-creating priority projects and up to $542 million from state agencies to support regionally significant economic development projects.

TO GROW BUSINESS

Last year’s top four councils, the North Country one among them, will compete for two $25 million capital fund awards. The other six regions will vie for three $25 million capital fund awards.

The other $25 million in capital funds will be divided among the remaining six regions. Each region will also be eligible for up to $10 million in Excelsior tax Credits to help attract and grow business.

The funding awards will be announced later this year.

For a full list of upcoming priority projects and strategies, visit regionalcouncils.ny.gov. 

Email Dan Heath: dheath@pressrepublican.com