When the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council was awarded $68.8 million in state funding last December, the news was greeted in some quarters with disappointment. That’s because this region was not among the big four winners statewide.
The process that produced the Finger Lakes council’s plan involved months of meetings and public sessions with participation by dozens of business and community leaders, not to mention hundreds of area residents.
"It would be easy to be discouraged, even upset," Rochester Business Alliance Inc. chief Sandra Parker noted in a column published in this newspaper after the announcement. "After all, we put a lot of heart and soul-not to mention hours and hours and hours of work-into the (plan)."
Yet, she added, "we are winners just for having gone through the process."
In recent days the council submitted its second list of priority projects. As in the first round, this region will be competing with others around New York for a portion of more than $750 million in state resources.
Though the outcome of the competition will not be known until later this fall, this is clear: The process itself might be the most valuable part of this effort.
Working collaboratively, members of the council have identified key steps to "accelerate job growth and reinforce the region’s quality of life." From this came a five-year strategy and a very concrete goal-to add at least 50,000 jobs by the end of 2016.
The priority projects chosen to vie for competitive capital funds share a couple of important attributes: They will "leverage significant private investment and address critical economic development needs throughout the nine-county region."
They range from the top priority-preserving and strengthening Eastman Business Park-to boosting the Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation (a partnership of the University of Rochester and IBM Corp.) and Golisano Institute for Sustainability at Rochester Institute of Technology. Redevelopment of Midtown Tower and UR’s College Town project also are on the list.
Funding is important, to be sure. But the community-based, performance-driven model required to compete in this game likely will pay rewards for years to come.
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