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Regional development competition begins

architecture-blur-building-392031-1The State of New York last week kicked off the eighth round of its annual Regional Economic Development Council Competition, expected to award more than $750 million in state funds for regional economic development projects.

The application process for the Consolidated Funding Application  opened Monday, allowing businesses, municipalities, nonprofits and the public to apply for assistance from dozens of state programs through a single application.

“The Regional Economic Development Councils have redefined how economic development is done in New York State, creating new jobs, stronger local economies and more unified regions,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news release. “We are once again empowering regions to chart their future, while providing the necessary tools to implement their vision for community and economic growth, creating a positive impact across the Empire State.”

The REDC process has created a statewide framework for bottom-up, regional economic growth and streamlined the state funding application process, officials noted. Since 2011, more than $5.4 billion has been awarded to the 10 regions statewide, supporting some 6,300 projects that are projected to create and retain more than 220,000 jobs.

Through the first seven years of the REDC competition, the Finger Lakes REDC has delivered $570.1 million for 715 projects.

REDC priorities in 2018 include:
• Supporting downtown revitalization plans and identifying downtown projects for Downtown Revitalization Initiative, or DRI, round three;
• Identifying workforce development strategies to meet business’ needs and improving the regional talent pipeline;
• Identifying projects for the state life sciences cluster;
• Implementing strategies through the project pipeline; and
• Measuring the performance and progress of the strategic plan.

“The Regional Economic Development Councils have brought together local leaders and stakeholders to identify projects and build their communities,” Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “New York has seen tremendous growth in all 10 regions of the state as part of the REDCs and we’re continuing to invest and support that upward momentum with another round of the economic development competition.”

But some community leaders and organizations say the REDC competition is not working.

“Doing something over and over again and expecting a different result is often referred to as the definition of insanity. In New York, we call it economic development,” officials from Reclaim New York said last week.

Reclaim New York touts itself as a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that empowers New Yorkers, through education and civic engagement, to reclaim ownership of their government.

“The state’s ‘Hunger Games’ approach is fundamentally unfair and has done little to create jobs and invigorate an economy consistently ranked among the worst in the nation,” the group said, referring to the competitive nature of the funding. “After spending $7 billion on a strategy that independent research has termed the most expensive, least effective in the nation, launching another round of REDC applications demonstrates just how out-of-touch the administration has become with the needs of New Yorkers.”

But officials in Cuomo’s camp say that by incentivizing the implementation of the strategic plans, regional councils and other stakeholders are further motivated to work together to accomplish the regional vision.

The REDCs will compete this year for up to $150 million in capital funds and $75 million in Excelsior Tax Credits for projects identified by the councils as priorities in their region. Each of the 10 regions will compete for designation as a Top Performer. Five Top Performers will receive awards of up to $20 million in ESD Capital Grants, while the remaining five regions identified as Regional Awardees will receive up to $10 million in ESD Capital Grants.

The previously announced DRI, now in its third year, will invest $10 million in each of 10 communities “ripe for development” to transform them into vibrant communities. In the Finger Lakes region, Batavia received the honors in 2017 and Geneva received the first DRI funding in 2016.

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