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State economic development funding deadline approaching

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MASSENA - The north country was one of the winners in the statewide contest last year to land economic development funding.

A year later, officials hope to build off that success and come away with another winning strategy.

A public forum held Thursday evening at the Frank S. McCullough Jr. Hawkin’s Point visitor’s center outlined last year’s success and gave tips for entrepreneurs looking for a piece of the funding this year.

Last year, the north country received $103 million of the $783 million awarded to the 10 state regional councils. It was one of four regions - with Central, Western and Long Island - to receive additional funds for developing the top strategic economic development plans. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo launched the program last year to offer a competitive process for distributing state funding.

The four winning regions from last year will compete against each other, according to Anthony G. Collins, Clarkson University president and co-chairman of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council. The state will then select two of those four plans to receive additional funding for economic development this year.

Mr. Collins said the council will be judged this year on how well it used last year’s award. Most of the 2011 award money was successfully allocated to projects around the region, he said.

“If we get really good projects, we could get the lion’s share of the money,” Mr. Collins said. “There’s no limit to how much the north country could get in this process.”

There are a few weeks left to apply for funding. The deadline is either July 16 or July 27, depending on which funding the applicant is seeking. If an application does not receive state funding this year, the council may hold on to it and attempt to get it funded next year, Mr. Collins said.

“We’re welcoming people to come and talk to us,” Mr. Collins said. “If you’ve got a project, tell us about it and we can get it into the pipeline.”

The council’s strategic plan includes a wide range of goals, such as developing more housing for Fort Drum, retaining and expanding manufacturers, promoting agricultural products, using higher education facilities to spur business, supporting clean energy and broadband access and improving the region’s rail infrastructure.

Massena Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray, in attendance at Thursday’s meeting, said he hoped an entrepreneur could take advantage of the molten aluminum supply produced at Alcoa’s Massena operations. Every day, trucks carrying large vats of the product drive down to a plant in Oswego.

A businessman could apply for state funding and start an operation which would use the molten aluminum in Massena, he said.

“Hopefully we’ll see some entrepreneurs at some point get creative with that,” he said. “Somebody has to come forward with that idea and be willing to invest the time and their own effort.”

For more information and for applications, visit http://regionalcouncils.ny.gov/content/north-country.

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