Press-Republican

September 22, 2012

Regional economic council eyes more of the prize

By DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — The North Country Regional Economic Development Council says progress is being made on all but two of the 60 projects that received state funding last year.

Locally, that includes the $25 million expansion of the Bombardier Transportation facility in the City of Plattsburgh, the Adirondack Meat Co. project in Ticonderoga, the Adirondack Park Recreation Portal, Strand Theater restoration in Plattsburgh, the Wild Walk at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, a recycled landfill recreation park in North Elba, the Adirondack Heart Lake Program Center in Lake Placid and a regionwide municipal-water-and-wastewater-infrastructure fund.

Clarkson University President and Regional Council Co-chair Tony Collins said they chose to open their one-year progress report with a quote from former President Theodore Roosevelt, who was an avid recreation and wildlife enthusiast in the Adirondacks: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

“The quote captures the energy and collective focus of our region on its implementation of its 2011 Best Plan award-winning strategy,” Collins said in a statement.

“In addition to leveraging the obvious economic-development opportunities from the $103.2 million award to the region, the real success of the North Country Strategic Plan emanates from the unprecedented momentum for our counties and communities to tell a regional story that is both unique and remarkable.

“We share a deep sense of place, unity and optimism that we can shape the future for the North Country with the assets, challenges and opportunities that we have.”

COLLABORATION CITED

North Country Chamber of Commerce President and Regional Council Co-chair Garry Douglas said the completion of last year’s plan for the North Country, which won Best Plan status and an unprecedented $103 million from the state, was certainly extremely satisfying.

“However, even more satisfying has been the incredibly strong implementation work since then, with regard to both our specific projects and our ambitious strategies. The entire North Country can feel very good about the progress we have just reported across the board and, most of all, about the state of sharing and collaboration that has developed in such a short time across a vast region (that) had never worked together like this before,” he said.

“We have really grasped the opportunity given to us by Governor Cuomo to chart our own course. The results are becoming evident, and the best is yet to come.”

PROJECTS DROPPED

C Speed, which wanted to build a manufacturing center for its radar technology in St. Lawrence County, was one of the two projects that did not move forward. Douglas said by email Friday that the company was not able to secure the defense-related contract it had anticipated.

“The good news regarding the new regional process is that the Regional Council was allowed to reallocate those funds, and we ended up assisting two job-creating companies. Both are set but cannot yet be announced,” he said.

“The important thing here is that, unlike in the past when such funds would have returned to Albany and likely have been used somewhere else, we had the opportunity to keep them in the North Country.”

The second proposal that received funds but didn’t come to fruition was a housing project. Developers determined it wasn’t yet ready to proceed and voluntarily withdrew so it could return at a later date, Douglas said.

PRIORITIES

Continuing priorities the council seeks funding for are the Trudeau Institute, Bombardier and Nova Bus. Bumped up to priority status this week has been restoration and repairs to the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway and facilities.

Others that may require advocacy for federal or other resources or approvals include the Adirondack Club and Resort, Alcoa modernization, Homeward Bound Adirondacks, the Plattsburgh International Airport expansion, North Country movie theaters digital conversion, Rivermede Farm solar thermal greenhouses, the North Country STEM hub and the North Country Higher Education, Research and Development Consortium.

Funding for the second round allows $220 million in competitive grant funding, including $150 million in capital and $70 million in tax credits. Up to $542 million in funds from state agencies is also available.

SPECIAL COMPETITION

The four 2011 Best Plan designees, among them the North Country Council, will compete for two awards of up to $25 million in capital funds. That decision will be based on each council’s revised plan and the progress they have made toward implementation.

The remaining six regions will compete for three awards of $25 million, based on the same criteria. The remaining $25 million in capital and $10 million in tax credits will be available to the remaining five councils.

Starting in early October, each region will receive a visit from the Strategic Implementation Assessment Team to hear an oral presentation and tour the projects. Funding awards will be announced later this fall.

To learn more about the Regional Councils, visit regionalcouncils.ny.gov.

Email Dan Heath: dheath@pressrepublican.com