RIT wins $1.5 million in state funding round

Rochester Institute of Technology has won $1.5 million in the latest round of competitive funding from the Empire State Development Council.

The grant will upgrade the university’s Genomics Research Lab Cluster, helping it expand research, technology transfer and talent development in the life sciences industry of the Finger Lakes region.

After thanking Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the funding, RIT President David Munson said “Research and tech transfer in the life sciences represent a significant segment of the regional and state economy, spanning applications in multiple medical, energy, environmental and agricultural fields.”

The grant is part of $86.5 million that came through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, one of 10 councils competing for $763 million in state funding.

The lab cluster will occupy part of the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences in Gosnell Hall at RIT.

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Regional Economic Development Council posts annual report

Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council co-chairs Anne Kress and Robert Duffy (Photo courtesy of Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce)
Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council co-chairs Anne Kress and Robert Duffy (Photo courtesy of Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce)

The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council has endorsed 23 projects in the nine-county region, with a total cost of more than $171 million, to further the Finger Lakes Forward strategic plan.

In its 2018 annual report, FLREDC proposes $20 million in state investments in the projects, which are expected to bring a return on investment of 9 to 1.

Some of the larger investments include:
• Mason Farms—$2 million in state funding for the $16.7 million Mason Farms operating expansion in Wayne County;
• Rochester General Hospital—$2 million toward the $14.9 million multi-specialty clinical research campus in Monroe County;
• Village of Dundee—$1.6 million in state funding for the wastewater collection system improvements in Yates County;
• Cornell AgriTech—$1.6 million for the $4 million high throughput phenotyping project in Ontario County;
• Strong National Museum of Play—$1.5 million toward the $23 million museum expansion project in Monroe County;
• Midtown Parcel 2 LLC—$1.5 million in state funding toward the $21 million Butler/Till expansion;
• Rochester Institute of Technology—$1.5 million for the $10 million genomics research lab cluster; and
• WBS Capital Inc.—$1.5 million toward the $18.8 million Hawkeye Trade Center project.

The FLREDC annual report also outlines progress since the 2011 first round of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative. Some 732 projects in the Finger Lakes region have received awards through the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process, representing a $2.4 billion investment, including $300 million in state support.

“The state support we have received over the last seven years has truly facilitated our region’s transformation and has accelerated our momentum in moving the Finger Lakes forward,” said FLREDC co-chairs Anne Kress and Robert Duffy in a statement. “The enthusiasm and commitment of all council members is certainly evident in the 2018 annual report. We remain united for success, and our results show that we are realizing our shared vision to extend economic opportunities to all of the region’s residents.”

Round eight of the REDC initiative will award more than $750 million in state funding and tax incentives, including up to $150 million in capital grants and up to $75 million in Excelsior Tax Credits for projects and activities identified by the councils as regional priorities. In addition, more than $525 million from state agency programs will be awarded through the CFA process.

Funding will be announced by the end of 2018.

The annual report also details some of the progress that was made in the region’s economic development plans this year. That includes the $50 million state award for Rochester’s ROC the Riverway initiative, a plan to immediately begin work on 13 projects to ignite growth around the Genesee River.

All but two—Rochester Network Supply Inc. and Rochester Stadium Operations LLC—of 2017’s CFA awards are on schedule, the report shows, and the Finger Lakes region received $37.2 million last year in CFA awards.

Some 1,995 jobs were created in the Finger Lakes through CFA funding last year, according to the annual report, and 503 jobs were retained.

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Downtowns set to compete for state revitalization funding

A rendering of Batavia's proposed Downtown Public Market structure that is to be part of the city's DRI win. (Provided)
A rendering of Batavia’s proposed Downtown Public Market structure that is to be part of the city’s DRI win. (Provided)

The State of New York has launched the third round of its Downtown Revitalization Initiative, or DRI, investing $100 million in 10 downtown areas across the state.

The annual competition awards $10 million to each of 10 downtowns, chosen by the state’s 10 regional economic development councils. The investment is designed to boost local economies and foster vibrant neighborhoods that offer a higher quality of life in regions statewide.

“We have seen firsthand the excitement and transformative nature of these investments—turning downtowns into economic engines for their communities and beyond,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday. “This new round of funding will provide these downtowns new opportunities to rebuild for 21st century needs and foster growth that will be felt across the entire region.”

Now in its third year, DRI will accept applications until June 1 and regional councils will weigh eight criteria to select nominees:
• The downtown should be compact, with well-defined boundaries;
• The municipality, or the downtown’s catchment area, should be of sufficient size to support a vibrant, year-round downtown;
• The downtown is able to capitalize on prior or catalyze future private and public investment in the neighborhood and its surrounding areas;
• There should be recent or impending job growth within, or in close proximity to the downtown that can attract workers downtown, support redevelopment and make growth sustainable;
• The downtown must be an attractive and livable community for diverse populations of all ages, including existing residents, millennials and skilled workers;
• The municipality should already embrace or have the ability to create and implement policies that increase livability and quality of life, including the use of local land banks, modern zoning codes and parking standards, complete streets plans, energy efficient projects, green jobs, and transit-oriented development;
• The municipality should have conducted an open and robust community engagement process resulting in a vision for downtown revitalization and a preliminary list of projects and initiatives that may be included in a DRI strategic investment plan; and
• The municipality has identified transformative projects that will be ready for implementation with an infusion of DRI funds within the first one to two years.

In the Finger Lakes Region, the city of Geneva was the first recipient of the $10 million DRI, while the city of Batavia was the recipient in 2017. Officials did not indicate when the winners would be announced, but last year DRI recipients were announced in October.

Seneca Street in Geneva, where some of the city's revitalization has occurred. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)
Seneca Street in Geneva, where some of the city’s revitalization has occurred. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)

“Winning the Downtown Revitalization Initiative has stimulated public infrastructure projects focused on making downtown public spaces and the connection to the lakefront safe, vibrant and lively for residents and visitors,” Geneva Mayor Ron Alcock said. “In addition, property owners are investing further in their buildings and businesses as a result of the DRI. All of the DRI projects contribute towards successfully forwarding our comprehensive plan’s vision of a beautiful, prosperous, equitable, connected and sustainable Geneva.”

In Batavia’s winning proposal, the plan calls for capitalizing on the economic development success the region has experienced in the last decade. The DRI will close project funding gaps, officials said in their proposal, increase project feasibility and provide certainty for private investors to move forward.

“The Downtown Revitalization Initiative has created economic development momentum in Batavia that I have not seen before in my 31-year career with the city,” Batavia Interim City Manager Matt Worth said.

Genesee County Economic Development Center officials on Thursday are planning a walking tour in the Batavia to showcase successful economic development projects, in conjunction with National Economic Development Week May 7 through May 11.

“The Downtown Revitalization Initiative has given communities across the state the opportunity to spearhead local projects that will grow their downtowns and boost the economy,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, chair of the Regional Economic Development Councils. “I’ve visited many cities that were awarded funding as part of Rounds 1 and 2 of the DRI, and they’re moving full speed ahead with exciting plans that will transform their areas.”

As part of the initiative, the state is promoting smart growth strategies and transit-oriented development, which is in increased demand from New Yorkers across the state, Hochul said.

“The investment in Round 3 of the DRI will give even more communities the resources they need to pursue these collaborative and innovative projects,” she added.

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VisualDx to expand downtown office, staff

VisualDx, a company that develops medical imaging computer software, will expand its downtown Rochester offices by 5,000 square feet with the help of $700,000 in state and regional grants and tax breaks.

Empire State Development announced the development Wednesday, Dec. 27, saying the expansion will help the company accommodate 21 new jobs, joining a current staff of 39.

VisualDx, located in the former Valley Cadillac Building on East Avenue, will receive a grant of $100,000 from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, and up to $600,000 through the state’s Excelsior Tax Credit Program.

“Companies like VisualDx are critical to the success of the Downtown Innovation Zone in Rochester and cement the Finger Lakes Region’s reputation as a national leader for high-tech innovation,” said Howard Zemsky, president, CEO and commissioner of Empire State Development.

Dr. Art Papier, CEO of VisualDx, said, “We believe Rochester is an ideal spot for technology innovation and are proud to bring two of the city’s best assets together—imaging and healthcare—to improve medical decision-making. We appreciate the support to expand our operations and retain the local talent available.”

The company plans to use the funding to develop an artificial intelligence technology that will allow home users to take a picture of a rash and get guidance on what to do. VisualDx was founded 19 years ago by doctors, educators, artists and computer scientists. Its products are used in more than half of US medical schools and 1,700 treatment facilities, helping medical providers compare diagnostic possibilities of patients’ signs and symptoms, aiming to improve care while reducing potential errors.

Several state and local elected officials offered their congratulations to the company, including Rochester City Mayor Lovely A. Warren. “The success of companies like VisualDx underscores the dramatic change taking place in Rochester as entrepreneurs continue to leverage the knowledge generated by our colleges and universities and the talents of so many young people who are eager to live in our city,” Warren said.

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