Will the Governor’s CFA be the Answer to Utica’s Economic Development?
July 6th 2012 · 1 Comment
As part of Governor Cuomo’s efforts to improve New York’s business climate and expand economic growth, the Governor created ten Regional Economic Development Councils in 2011 and the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA).
Once the domain of the much maligned Member Items, the CFA is intended to streamline applications and speed the process of acquiring funding for worthy projects in a more politically blind manner. A look at the online application will point out that not all worthy projects are given the option to apply. There is no place for Very small businesses or not for profits.
The City of Utica will soon submit a number of grant applications through the State’s upcoming second round of CFA’s.
The Mohawk Valley¹s Regional Council of which Utica is a part, is led by Larry Gilroy, President of Gilroy Kernan Insurance and Gilroy and Bjong Wolf Yeigh, President of SUNYIT.
Each Regional Council has developed a strategic plan according to the unique strengths and weaknesses of their region. These Regional Boards are intended to be comprised of a broad spectrum of stakeholders and business owners focused on efforts to stimulate economic growth.
Utica was successful in past years’ funding in being awarded a Main Street Grant. This grant resulted in saving of a block of Bleecker Street from the wrecking ball and the eventual development of Bonacci Architect¹s downtown business and loft apartment complex. The Main Street Grant included the developments currently underway in Black River Systems block on the Genesee Street
It was Utica¹s Municipal Housing Authority that was the actual applicant for this successful funding application. The City of Utica helped provide some of the matching funds necessary to win the grant. It has only been within the last round or two of funding cycles that has allowed municipalities to apply.
According to Brian Thomas, Urban and Economic Development Commissioner, in this round, there are two pots of funding of $150M which are available in capital grants to the Regional Economic Councils. Applications are due July 16.
Two grants of $25M will be awarded to two of the four regions selected under the first round of funding for having the best plan in 2011. The Mohawk Valley was not among the top 4 applicants in 2011.
There are three awards of $25M in competition to the remaining 6 regions of the State. This is where the Mohawk Valley¹s competition lies.
There will be the $25M remaining which will be divided up among other regions for projects that the Regional Economic Councils consider to be Priority Projects for the region.
So, the Mohawk Valley is competing with five other regions throughout the state. When asked what our odds might be, Thomas answered, “Do the math. I’d say it’s 50-50.
When asked whether proposals could be weighted as to priority he was not certain that the application made that clear.
Then there is also a second pot of money – $530M available through the CFA’s for projects that fit into the State’s various funding programs. Our Local Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Council has decided that Priority Projects shall be funded at a maximum of $2.5M and must fit the region’s Plan.
The Regional Council will package its bundle of priority projects and submit them to the state as part of the competition for the 25 million in funding.
The City will be submitting two Priority Projects, each seeking the maximum $2.5 million. The first Priority Project will request funding to undertake construction of necessary infrastructure at the Harbor. That would include sewers, roads, electrical and telecommunication lines and wiring, among other things.
The City was successful in applying for and receiving a $250,000 in the first round of CFA’s last year to develop a detailed development plan for the Harbor. The plan will maximize commercial development around the Harbor while also balancing potential recreational uses where environmental condition might limit or prevent commercial development.
Thomas added, “The plan will be in accordance with the City’s Master Plan and will provide a much more detailed plan for this important part of the City. Grant agreements for that grant were recently signed and returned to Albany and the planning work will begin very soon. This second application is requesting funds to undertake infrastructure development in accordance with the plan.”
The second Priority Project will request funds that will be focused on the downtown district. Mayor Palmieri believes that the face of downtown needs to be changed and improved to encourage more private sector investment in retail, office and residential uses. The funding will further the implementation of many of the goals established for downtown in the City¹s Master Plan and will supplement the State funding already in place to address downtown parking.
Mayor Palmieri’s goal with both of these Priority Projects is to target, build on and improve existing assets within the community, which will in turn lead to construction jobs in the short-term, permanent jobs for the future along with increased sales tax revenue and increased property tax base. Utica will become more of a destination for travelers, regional and out of State.
Beyond the Priority Projects, the City is advancing a number of other CFA grant applications that fit into the State¹s traditional funding programs. We are partnering with the Central New York Conservancy to submit an application through the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for funding to restore a number of structures within Proctor Park.
Through the same program, the city is also partnering with the Val Bialas Sports Center, Inc. and businessman Mark Ford, for funding to make improvements at the Center. This application revolves around infrastructure to make snow, and build lifts,” said the Commissioner.
Ford had approached the city early on in the administration asking them to be on the lookout for state and federal grant monies that might be available for improvements. Thomas explained that any envisioned grant for improvements for the facility would be on behalf of the project and Ford would be required to provide monies for matching funds.
This is a city owned facility and those improvements would certainly remain beyond the terms of his lease, said Commissioner Thomas.
The City is also working with Utica Municipal Housing Authority on several Main Street applications, including one for the West Utica neighborhood and a second that would be an extension of their current Main Street program further east along Bleecker Street.
MHA is currently managing the Main Street grant for the 100 and 200 block of Genesee Street.
Thomas added that at the request of the Common Council, the City is also requesting funding through the Economic Transformation program for funding to demolish the Brigham building in West Utica of the Utica Psychiatric campus.
It appears that although the Palmieri Administration spends a lot of time out on the street, especially on Wednesdays, there has been good use made of the new CFA at City Hall to secure funds by this Mayor for the City.
Statewide competition appears to be substantial but Utica’s ‘shovel ready and underway’ projects are strong weights in the overall scheme. With a Master Plan in place, the box on the state applications can be checked in the affirmative that the applied for projects fit in with the goals for the region.
Applications are due July 16 and the Mohawk Valley Regional Council and the City of Utica will soon receive word as whether or not we go forward as a region, for as goes the City of Utica so goes the region.
By Mark Ziobro