Regional councils apply for state funds
TRI-COUNTY AREA—The Finger Lakes and Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Councils are vying for a portion of $1 billion from the state for community and business improvements.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo will divide the funds between 10 regional councils, including $200 million in competitive funding. A committee will analyze and compare each region’s strategic plan. Based upon this review, four regions will be awarded $40 million each in capital funding and tax credits to be applied toward the priority capital projects identified in their plans. The remaining allocations will be divided among the other six regions.
Yates is one of nine counties in the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council along with Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne and Wyoming. To meet that competitive challenge, the council identified 10 transformational projects that it recommends for state support.
One project is the Finger Lakes Museum, planned for Branchport. The Finger Lakes Museum will have a central campus in Keuka Lake State Park and satellite programs throughout the region. Once completed, the museum is projected to draw 130,000 visitors, reinforcing the appeal of existing tourism assets, including the region’s many state parks and the Finger Lakes wine trails.
The other projects are:
• The council has identified two potential ways to maintain and expand Eastman Business Park in Rochester. One will create a cluster of cleantech businesses at Eastman Business Park led by U.S. Renewables Group. In five years, this project is projected to create 1,200 jobs directly and an equal number indirectly. The centerpiece of this initiative is a new $300 million state-of-the-art bio-fuel generating plant.
• A second project will create an advanced energy storage commercialization center at Eastman Business Park. The NY-BEST Commercialization Center will involve more than 80 companies from across New York state and provide critical testing and manufacturing facilities necessary to develop the next generation of fuel cells. If located in the Finger Lakes region, this initiative is expected to create 223 direct jobs in the state during the first five years of operation.
• The Finger Lakes Business Accelerator Cooperative will create an interconnected “hub and node” network that consolidates and streamlines support and incubation resources across all nine counties. The cooperative will support the creation of early stage companies, spurring employment growth of more than 1,000 direct jobs in the first five years of operation.
• The Golisano Institute for Sustainability at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) will be expanded. The institute, which will make RIT an international leader in programs that embody the principles of sustainability in product development, will create an estimated 1,075 direct jobs. The Center for Governmental Research estimates that the institute could catalyze the creation and expansion of related firms in the region that could account for thousands of additional jobs over the next five years.
• The University of Rochester’s Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation-a partnership with IBM to create the most powerful computer system dedicated to health research in the world-will be expanded. The center will enable the university to grow its research funding by more than $134 million and accelerate the development of the region’s life sciences sector. The Center for Governmental Research estimates that this initiative will create 800 direct and indirect jobs.
• The Finger Lakes Internal Harvesting and Economic Gardening initiative will provide an innovative, region-wide business retention and expansion program that will connect and coordinate all of the region’s economic development organizations and agencies. The initiative—which will target growth-oriented companies and help them expand—will create 500 new jobs over the next five years.
• The Seneca AgBio Green Energy Park will expand to enable three companies to locate their manufacturing operations at the site. This project will focus on the conversion of agricultural byproducts and waste into biofuels and biomaterials and will accelerate plans to redevelop the former Army depot in Seneca County and create 60 new direct jobs in this rural community.
• The nationally recognized Finger Lakes Health Collaborative will be expanded. The collaborative is led by the Rochester Business Alliance and the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency and involves more than 50 local organizations. The current project of the collaborative consists of a community-based effort to reduce the incidence of high blood pressure and related conditions. The project will have both an immediate benefit and is part of a long-term strategy to reduce health care costs in the region by $8.5 million per year.
• The city of Rochester plans to accelerate the redevelopment of the Midtown site through the adaptive reuse of the former Midtown Tower into a mixed commercial, office, and residential space. This $73 million tower project is central to plans to redevelop the 8.2 acre Midtown site and will create and retain 690 direct jobs.
Schuyler County is one of counties in the Southern Tier council, which also includes Steuben, Tompkins, Chemung, Tioga, Broome, Chenango, and Delaware. According to the council, the region’s downtowns and neighborhoods need to be revitalized, especially as a result of the devastation brought about by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
Other issues the council wants to address are:
• Lack of critical and basic infrastructure: commercial buildings, adequate housing stock in neighborhoods, pedestrian transportation support such as bike lanes and sidewalks, shovel ready sites, broadband, and ground transportation.
• Workforce development, especially in health care and preparing for the growth in industries such as energy, transportation and agriculture.
• Aging population, with growing demand for health care services.
• Growing population with chronic diseases.
• Length of time to bring research and development to productization.
To address these concerns, the council is proposing a number of actions. The list includes renewable energy and efficiency programs for residential to commercial properties. For health concerns, the initiative would focus on aggressive workforce training for healthcare professionals and IT personnel, development of a Regional Health Information Exchange and Electronic Medical Record System to facilitate effective care management between healthcare providers, development and expanded care coordination and chronic-condition management in rural areas, and enhanced deployment of telemedicine and mobile health care.
Other projects would award money to groups in the Southern Tier. The council is proposing a Regional Infrastructure Fund for Shovel Ready Sites be established and used as matching funding to leverage federal, state, municipal, local development corporations, economic development agencies and private sector financing to provide the region with a competitive edge to grow and attract businesses to the Southern Tier region.
The proposed Neighborhood Revitalization Fund Project would provide targeted investment in the form of grants and loans in the region’s neighborhoods that are experiencing varying degrees of distress. Priority would be given to investment projects that are designed to achieve high impact transformation in a specific neighborhood.