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Governor Andrew Cuomo announced early in his term that he'd be creating a set of "regional economic councils" to build plans for funding economic development across New York, from the ground up.In the summer of 2011 he finally announced some of the details of the program, to be led by Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy. The ten councils each have dozens of members, and are charged with gathering input from the public and business leaders, and creating a plan by November 14. Those plans will be pitted against each other for a pot of $1 billion in grants, incentives, and tax relief from various state agencies. The winners will get more funding, the losers will get less.But other details - like whether funding will be available past the initial term, and who will serve on the board that decides who wins and who loses - have not been released.The Innovation Trail is looking for your feedback about what your regional economic priorities are, and what you want your community to look like once the councils have completed their task.

Finger Lakes council ranks as "best of the rest"

Zack Seward
The Finger Lakes ended up being one of the losing region's in the governor's economic development competition. Of the councils that didn't win a "Best Plan" award, it did take home the most money, however.

The Finger Lakes regional economic development council liked its odds.

The region was steadily recording the most job growth in the state, its ten priority projects leveraged lots of private investment and the guy in the charge of the governor's regional council initiative was former Rochester mayor Bob Duffy.

But on Thursday its hopes were dashed. It did not win a "Best Plan" award.

"It's always disappointing not to win when you're in a competition," Greater Rochester Enterprise CEO Mark Peterson says. "Everybody likes to win."

As one of the Rochester economy's chief boosters, Peterson was a major player on the Finger Lakes council.

When it comes down to it, he says the $68.8 million awarded to the Finger Lakes is "nothing to sneeze at."

"Obviously a little bit of disappointment," says Peterson. "But we still have a great strategic plan and some new dollars to be able to invest in our community."

Central New York ($103.7 million), the North Country ($103.2 million), Long Island ($101.6 million) and Western New York ($100.3 million) took home the lion's share of the $785 million awarded Thursday.

The low man on the totem pole was the Southern Tier, which took home just $49.4 million.

"They do seem to have invested in areas that need a little more help," Peterson says. "Probably not the way I would've gone, given our circumstances, but I certainly understand the philosophy."

Where it will go

The $68.8 million awarded to the nine-county Finger Lakes region will be going toward 93 projects. (A project-by-project breakdown is embedded below.)

The Finger Lakes regional council prioritized ten projects heavy on clean tech and green energy. Seven of those ten were at least partially funded.

The council's biggest priority project - a $300 million biofuel plant at Eastman Business Park - did not make the cut, however.


The local project that will receive the most state aid is 60 units of senior housing in the town of Henrietta.

About 30 permanent jobs are expected to be created by the $9.1 million state investment, according to the non-profit heading up the project.

The second biggest local project is the transformation of the former Seneca Army Depot into a green energy park. That project received $7 million in state funding; the regional council requested only $1 million.

"Yeah, we were a little surprised by the amount of funding for that particular project," says Peterson.

Regional councils only get a 20 percent say over how each project is scored, according to Empire State Development spokesman Austin Shafran.

The remaining 80 percent is determined by the state agency administering the funds.

The state's department of Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) is second only to Empire State Development in terms of money invested in the billion-dollar initiative.

You'll notice that 46 of the 93 Finger Lakes projects are administered by HCR - many of which are centered on improving the region's housing stock.

Finger Lakes Projects

WXXI/Finger Lakes reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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