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Most state grants stay on ‘right track,’ development group says

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POTSDAM - All but two of the 60 projects that received $103 million in competitive state grants last year are “on the right track,” according to a progress report from a development organization’s co-chairman.

“I think we’re being noted,” said Anthony G. Collins, the co-chairman of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council, after a meeting with state leaders on Tuesday. “And that was our problem in the past. People weren’t sure where we were or what impact we’d have. I think we’ve managed to turn that perception around.”

In 2011, the Legislature passed a bill proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that created 10 regional economic development councils. The councils evaluated economic development projects and ideas from around the region, and then competed among one another for a share of state funding. The north country’s region was one of four top recipients in 2011, and hopes to repeat the performance in 2012.

Mr. Collins, whose day job is as president of Clarkson University, said the progress made in the north country bodes well for the region’s hopes at winning another large sum of money when the state’s 10 regional councils compete for grants.

“We felt that our projects were at least as far along or further than all of the other projects,” Mr. Collins said.

The two projects that didn’t get funded were based in St. Lawrence County. C Speed LLC, which rents office space at Clarkson University, was awarded a $1.35 million grant to expand its operations in Potsdam, which could have created 200 high-tech jobs there. But the company ended up turning down the money, and will instead expand in Central New York, a region where the economic development council also gave it a state grant.

The company, an electronics manufacturer that makes equipment to lessen the disruption from wind turbines on air traffic control and radar systems, said it wasn’t able to strike a deal on a radar test site property in the north country.

“C Speed is disappointed in its loss of the grant opportunity. However, it looks forward to continuing its engineering work in the north country from its leased laboratory space in Peyton Hall in Potsdam until it can pursue a future grant opportunity,” wrote David L. Colangelo, a company official, in an email message.

The $1.35 million will go toward other projects in the region, said Jason R. Conwall, a spokesman for the Empire State Development Corp.

“The funding has been repurposed to support other businesses in the north country region,” Mr. Conwall said. “However, we are currently in negotiations with the companies, and therefore cannot comment further at this time.”

The North Country Housing Council also had to decline $300,000 to help repair 40 properties in Fowler, Rossie and Norwood. Alan S. Hipps, the group’s executive director, said the nonprofit housing organization could only take the $300,000 in state grants if a separate grant came through, which it didn’t.

The organization is reapplying for another round of grants in the next cycle, Mr. Hipps said. The money would go toward first-time home buyer education and counseling in St. Lawrence County, he said.

Mr. Collins said Mr. Cuomo was impressed with the group’s progress. Ten of 15 “priority” projects have a contract to proceed already, Mr. Collins said.

Major initiatives through the development council include nearly $10 million to rehabilitate 46 miles of rail service to Newton Falls Fine Paper, a $30 million loan authorization to a biomass plant at Fort Drum, $1.5 million for a new airport hangar at Watertown International Airport and $2.4 million for a new housing complex in Watertown.

“The governor seems very pleased with the efforts of the north country, really, to develop a plan and implement it,” Mr. Collins said.

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