The Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council, along with other regional councils across the state, have submitted their final strategic plans which are essentially applications for an initial 40 million dollars of NY state economic development funding.
The economic councils are part of a new strategy initiated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to manage economic development ideas and the disbursement of state economic funding. From the Regional Economic Development Councils web site –
The Regional Council approach is a fundamental departure from New York’s traditional economic development approach, which has been top-down and State-directed. The Governor’s vision is that the State will rely on regional expertise to identify and prioritize significant projects that would maximize the State’s return on investment.
You can get more information about the initiative at http://nyworks.ny.gov/, where you can view the Mohawk Valley’s plan as well as all the other region’s plans.
The Mohawk Independent has a nice article outlining some of the “Priority Projects” that will compete for a slice of the initial 40 million dollar funding. The list includes two businesses opportunities located in Montgomery County. Please check out the MI article for some details on those projects.
In addition to county-specific projects, there are also six regional projects which Amsterdam should benefit from. Here are brief descriptions of each program, quoted from the plan:
- The Mohawk Valley Regional Revolving Loan Fund (MVRRLF) is proposed to be capitalized at $7.5 million over a five-year period. The MMVRRLF is expected to leverage another $31 million and will target loans to 50 businesses in the six-county region to support the creation and retention of an estimated 750 jobs.
- Create the Mohawk Valley Microenterprise Grant Fund, which is designed to stimulate small business and entrepreneurial small business start ups to help capture the needs of younger businesses and turn good ideas into early seed capital businesses. This proposed fund would be capitalized at $2.5 million with $200,000 being capitalized as a priority project and the balance to be funded through the 2012 CFA process. The Microenterprise Fund would seed 100 young and early stage businesses and leverage at least $2.5 million in other funds. The Microenterprise fund would be designed to create/retain 250 jobs.
- Priority project funding of $150,000 (with $50,000 to be dedicated for the start-up activities/feasibility activities) would be targeted for exploring the creation of Mohawk Valley Ventures, a Seed Capital-Venture Capital Fund that would be capitalized with state and private funds in 2013.
- A Mohawk Valley Sandbox Program would be created to nurture students with a talent for innovation and creativity. The students would be mentored by volunteers from industry and academia who would encourage students to experiment with entrepreneurial techniques as part of their coursework. A Start-up fund of $100,000 is earmarked to help speed the development of this program.
- The MVREDC strategy also recommends creation of the Mohawk Valley Waterfront Development Opportunity Fund, (2.5 million initial funding request) a multi-year program to support waterfront development activities in key parts of the region, including Amsterdam’s Waterfront Heritage Way, the Rome Harbor Waterfront Village Initiative, and Utica’s Harbor Point. (2.5 million initial funding request)
- Create the Mohawk Valley Brownfield Opportunity Development Fund that is a major regional initiative to help implement the Brownfield Opportunity Area plans that would affect eleven BOA districts within the Mohawk Valley consisting of nearly 8,000 acres. A key thrust of the MVREDC Strategic Plan is to help the region reclaim and re-program former industrial sites. This $75 million effort is included in the Region’s five-year strategy and would be launched with $2 million in priority project funds and $6 million in CFA funding for 2012. The MVREDC would work with local communities to complete BOA strategies, undertake engineering and remedial clean up activates, and begin implementation of BOA strategies that are linked with viable reuse strategies. The MVREDC believes that the reclamation of the region’s former industrial core area is integral with
It’s important to note that with most of these projects, there is an initial funding request (ie “priority funding request”), with additional funds to be requested through the Economic Transformation Area Program which was created to assist communities affected by closures of the state’s correctional and juvenile justice facilities, or through a Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) which taps an additional $1 billion fund set up by NY State.
Each of the priority projects, as well as additional, lower priority “Regionally Significant Projects”, fits into one of six strategies (quoted from the plan, with my additional clarification in italics)-
- Enhance Regional Concentrations to stimulate regional growth from within, and to add to that growth by attracting new technologies and industries to the Mohawk Valley Region. (in other words, help develop existing businesses and use them to attract new businesses)
- Align the region’s workforce and educational systems to help grow and produce the workforce and talent base needed to support an economy increasingly centered around innovation and entrepreneurialism;
- Enhance the region’s innovation enabling infrastructure by growing connections and nurturing ideas that will prompt new business activity and invigorate the region’s economy; (in other words, provide grants, loans, etc for new business ideas)
- Increase the region’s spatial efficiency by working to ensure the organization of the region’s physical assets reduces and minimizes costs for businesses, inhabitants and their governments, while contributing to energy efficiency and sustainability… We will also look for ways to improve the Region’s transportation and infrastructure systems through the expansion of broadband connectivity to underserved and unserved communities; the promotion of Brownfield redevelopment and where feasible the adaptive reuse of vacant facilities; the reclamation of the region’s waterfront assets for community and economic development; and investment in downtowns and Main Street corridors; and
- Strengthen government and civic effectiveness by promoting and acting to create leaner and more efficient government; by ensuring that civic institutions nurture a business climate that will promote entrepreneurship; incorporating the ideas (in other words, come up with better public policies and also look at consolidation opportunities).
Overall, I’m intrigued by the projects in this plan. Unlike other plans, such as Amsterdam’s Comprehensive Plan and the Fulton/Montgomery Regional plan, some of the ideas in this plan will, without a doubt, be funded and go forward. There’s more of a sense that immediate progress will be made here.
On the other hand, the grouping of Amsterdam with this particular council along with the cities of Utica and Rome presents us with a serious problem. Being only a 25 minute drive away from Malta, home of the Global Foundries chip plant, and 35 minutes away from Albany, Amsterdam is clearly in a position to benefit from the Tech Valley initiative in the Capital Region. While there are references to the Global Foundries supply chain in the plan, the term “TechValley” is nowhere to be found. By being grouped in this council, we are losing a valuable seat at the discussion table when it comes to collaboration amongst Tech Valley movers and shakers.
Furthermore, Amsterdam has a much stronger historical and cultural connection to the Capital Region area than to the Utica/Rome area, which is over an hour driving time in distance away from us. Indeed, reading through the Capital Region’s plan, you see a much more developed sense of regional collaboration, especially around the Tech Valley initiative, in comparison to the Mohawk Valley plan. I see little sense of shared vision between Amsterdam and the Utica/Rome area.
Unfortunately, it’s yet another hill that Amsterdam will have to climb in its difficult journey to define its role in the emerging NY State economy.