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State preparing for fourth regional economic council competition

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CANTON - The state is getting ready for the fourth Regional Economic Development Council competition, with $150 million for priority projects at stake.

The money is included in the 2014-15 state budget.

As in past years, each of the state’s 10 councils will strive to create a spending plan deemed worthy of receiving a large cut of the money.

In addition to the $150 million for priority projects, the regions will compete for about $700 million in other grant funds.

Details of how the money will be distributed have not yet been announced. Each year’s competition is different.

The north country has done well in the first three years of the program, being named a top performer each time.

The north country council hopes to succeed again. Its members will meet Friday in Watertown.

“We will be energizing everybody to get ready,” council co-chairman and Clarkson University President Anthony G. Collins said.

Next week, all 10 councils will meet in Syracuse. The competition details may be revealed then, Mr. Collins said.

This year, the north country council will continue to focus on tourism, agriculture and the arts, while advocating for Fort Drum.

International trade also will be a focus this year, according to Mr. Collins.

“We already know that exporting is going to be a major theme, so how do we connect to the world and grow our economy by looking at exporting?” he said.

The north country has an advantage in this effort, because of its proximity to Canada and the St. Lawrence Seaway, Mr. Collins said. “It makes a lot of sense to redouble our efforts to ship goods to Canada. We’re also sitting on the St. Lawrence Seaway, so shipping goods to Europe or other locations is a possibility,” he said.

In past years, the councils have finished their plans in September. The state makes its decision on how to distribute the funds in December.

The north country won $103.2 million in 2011, $90.2 million in 2012 and $81.3 million last year.

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