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Region prepares for round three of state funding

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Applications are open for the third round of Regional Economic Development funding from the state, and the north country once again will try to come away as one of New York’s big winners.

This year’s competition puts an existing $550 million pool of funds on the line, plus an extra $150 million for priority projects. The top five regions will receive $25 million each toward these projects. The bottom five must share the remaining $25 million among them.

The north country has been among the top regions for the first two years of the program, scoring $193.4 million, second only to Central New York.

Funding proposals opened Monday, and will be accepted through Aug. 12.

“We’re interested in helping as many people as we can,” said council Co-Chairman and Clarkson University President Anthony G. Collins.

The council will choose its priority projects from the applications it receives in the coming weeks. The council’s input is worth 20 percent of the approval needed to earn funding, with the remainder coming from state officials. The council has created a strategic plan to help outline which projects are most likely to get priority status.

“If you’re in line with the strategic plan you are ranked higher, and will have a better chance when you go to Albany for that final 80 percent,” Mr. Collins said.

This year’s contest includes two new aspects: the Innovation Hot Spot competition and Opportunity Agenda funding.

Ten high-tech business incubators across the state will be chosen as “innovation hot spots,” and will receive funds for business development. Startups within innovation hot spot incubators will not be subject to real property, business or sales taxes.

Economically distressed regions will benefit from Opportunity Agenda funding. Each council will focus on a poverty-stricken region, and present plans to help boost the area’s economy.

The council will hold a series of meetings to educate the community about how to apply for funds. The state money will be put toward businesses, community development, education, energy and sustainability.

The first public meeting will be at 1 p.m. today at SUNY Potsdam’s Barrington Student Union.

With two years of experience behind it, the council is poised for another success, according to Mr. Collins.

“The region now knows each other much better, and people are meeting more frequently and collaborating,” he said.

The state may be inclined to favor communities that have yet to win a large amount, so the competition will be steep, Mr. Collins said, but the region has shown from its previous success that it is up to the challenge.

“I actually think that the north country resonates with begin competitive,” he said.

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