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Economic council outlines how to submit proposals for state funding

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A pool of $750 million in state funding will be up for grabs in 2012, and leaders of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council say municipalities in the north country are slated to get a large slice of it.

To outline tips on how to submit a winning application, the council hosted a public workshop Tuesday at the Dulles State Office Building. Council co-chairmen Anthony G. Collins, president of Clarkson University, Potsdam, and Garry F. Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, Plattsburgh, outlined what the board is looking for when it will determine a list of priority projects that will qualify for funding.

This year, municipalities will submit Combined Funding Applications, or CFAs, that simplify the process by sending information to all of the state funding agencies at one time. An online application, along with information sought for projects in the north country, is available at http://www.northcountryopenforbusiness.com. The application deadline is July 16.

Last year, the north country received $103 million of the $783 million awarded to the 10 state regional councils. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo launched the program last year as a way to offer a competitive process to distribute state funding.

This year’s criteria for priority projects outlined in the plan include a wide range of goals, such as developing more housing for Fort Drum, retaining and expanding manufacturers, promoting value-added agricultural products, using higher education facilities to spur business, supporting clean energy and broadband access and improving the region’s rail infrastructure.

Business proposals that qualify as “transformative and transformational” projects will receive extra points to improve their standing, which is also new this year.

As the council evaluates projects, board members plan to look at how they’ll benefit the region as a whole and remove hurdles to economic progress, Mr. Collins said. Projects don’t have to be large, either, to qualify as transformative.

“These can also include small projects that leverage a lot of money into the region,” he said. “We look at if it’s a creative way for us to add value to the region.”

Mr. Collins said funding for housing projects, broadband Internet and alternative energy will continue to be in high demand.

“Solar, wind, hydro and biomass projects are all in demand,” he said. The north country “could be a net provider of energy for the region.”

During the meeting, Harrisville resident William L. Alexander discussed a plan to provide municipalities in St. Lawrence County with solar power to reduce operational costs.

He’s developed a plan with the town of Pitcairn to do so, but funding has been a roadblock.

“I’d like to see every town in St. Lawrence County install some type of solar system to cut down on costs,” he said, adding he’s been selling solar systems for seven years. “It will also create jobs in the area.”

The council also will host public workshops Tuesday at Lowville Academy and Central School, 7668 State St., and June 28 at the Frank S. McCullough Jr. Hawkins Point Visitors Center, 21 Hawkins Point Road, Massena.

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