Regional Council eyes $21 million for priority projects
Regional Council eyes $21 million for priority projects
Manufacturing, lodging and tourism-related projects flagged for state investment
The North Country Regional Economic Development Council (NCREDC) received $61.4 in economic development funds Dec. 8, 2016 at the Egg Center for Performing Arts in Albany.
PLATTSBURGH | A number of glamorous lodging initiatives and heavy-duty machinery upgrades are among the projects flagged by regional economic development experts as leading priorities to receive millions in state funding.
Top items included in the North Country Regional Economic Development Council (NCREDC)’s proposal are machinery upgrades at manufacturing facilities across the region, including International Paper (Ticonderoga) and General Composites (Willsboro), Bionique Testing Laboratories and Carpe Insectae (Saranac Lake).
Requests range from the low five figures to $1.7 million for IP to upgrade several pieces of equipment — including the modification of a superheater and production upgrades that the NCREDC says will allow the plant to be more competitive.
Major hotel projects are also being eyed.
NCREDC is seeking $2 million for the construction of a 80-room hotel at the Plattsburgh International Airport — part of a constellation of ongoing state- and federal-funded upgrades at the facility — and $5.9 million for the construction of a proposed $19.6 million four-star hotel in Blue Mountain Lake replete with high-end camping known as “glamping.”
As part of a $1.8 million project, the North Creek-Indian Lake Hut-to-Hut Circuit Lodging is eying $365,000 to establish a hut-to-hut circuit in the central Adirondacks — including the construction of a 48-person “eco-lodge hostel.”
Boutique projects designed to drive tourism are also included in the application.
War Canoe Spirits Distillery is seeking $705,384 to establish a distillery and manufacturing operation with “tasting, dining, retail and event space” in Crown Point, a project applicants say will create six jobs.
And a start-up called Chicota, Inc. is seeking $199,000 to transform the former Dew Drop Inn in downtown Saranac Lake into a “food experience” business, including bar and restaurant, short-stay apartments, cooking school and event space — a $2.2 million effort.
The Adirondack Public Observatory is seeking $300,000 for an expansion project.
Additional lower priority items include continuing to foster broad strategies for longer term projects.
For the Olympic Village, that includes keeping the region’s global sports brand competitive, including supporting a bid to host the 2021 Special Olympics World Games and upgrades to sporting venues.
In Plattsburgh, the strategy is to keep a sustained focus on developing a skilled workforce and transforming the region into a global manufacturing hub and transportation cluster leveraging its proximity to Canada.
In all, the 21 projects across the region — including in Watertown and Ogdensburg — represent a total proposed state investment of nearly $22 million, leveraging more than $100 million in private and other funding.
Collectively, the proposed projects will support the creation of 255 new jobs, 441 indirect jobs and the retention of 756 existing ones, according to the report NCREDC submitted to the state last week.
NCREDC Co-chair and President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce Garry Douglas said the set of projects is the best the group has mustered in three years.
“This year we are proud to report that we are nearing all of our strategic aims, having progressed steadily in a cumulative way each round,” Douglas said in a statement.
The pitch is part of the Regional Economic Development Council Initiative, the state-sponsored program designed to offer a collaborative, community-driven approach to stimulate economic growth.
Each of the state’s 10 councils contain local experts and stakeholders from business, academia, local government and non-governmental organizations.
Since 2011, the NCREDC has received $484 million through the program, including $10 million each to revitalize downtown Plattsburgh and Watertown.
Nearly 450 projects that are completed or in progress and have committed to create or retain over 6,530 jobs in the region.
A total of $4.6 billion has been invested since the program’s inception.
The state is on track this year to award $800 million across all 10 regions, including up to $225 million in performance-based grants and tax credits from Empire State Development, and approximately $575 million from two dozen state agency programs.
While Gov. Andrew Cuomo has lauded the program as a departure from the secretive “pork barrel” spending of the past — “It’s a waste of money, we did it for a lot of years, it failed,” he told Politico New York in February — the program has come scrutiny by lawmakers and fiscal watchdog groups as at best, overly optimistic and at worst, lacking oversight and tainted by scandals that have marred other economic initiatives, including the Buffalo Billion.
Critics have also criticized the program as taxpayer-financed subsidies to private businesses and developers.
“Whether they involve financing an enormous, complex $750 million manufacturing plant — or, on the other hand, distributing five- and six-figure grants to countless craft breweries, farm distilleries and ice cream shops and other trendy micro-enterprises across the state — government economic development programs are no substitute for a better business climate,” testified E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center, at a state Assembly Economic Development Oversight Hearing in 2016.
“Unfortunately, more often than not, economic development programs actually serve to distract attention from the state’s failure to improve that climate.”
The 2017 REDC awards will be announced before the end of the year.