Checking on the progress of Regional Economic Development grants

By Jillian Marshall

February 19, 2014 Updated Feb 20, 2014 at 1:53 PM EST

(WBNG Binghamton) In 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo divided the state into ten regional councils and awarded the Southern Tier close to $50 million for 58 projects. Three years later, majority of the projects are still on track for completion.

The state awarded $49.4 million for 58 projects to the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council, or STREDC, in 2011. The projects all aimed to grow the economy and create jobs in the area.

"Many of these businesses are struggling and we're trying to give them some help, but this is not a grant. Its not like they can just walk away from this if they aren't successful," said co-chairman of the STREDC, Harvey Stenger.

In 2014, 55 of those 58 projects are completed or still in progress.

One of those is Norwich Pharmaceuticals, which is using $2 million for a new laboratory and equipment, allowing it to test and develop drugs on site. It also keeps about 350 jobs in Chenango County.

In Broome County, $495,000 was awarded to the Greater Binghamton Airport to improve the terminals. The county said the project will be completed in April.

2011 was the first year for this Regional Economic Development Council program. That year, the STREDC collected ideas for proposals, but the flood in September 2011 threw off the focus on the projects.

"We were unable to come up with really good specific projects, because we were still digging out from the flood," Stenger said.

This led the council to come up with three funds: Shovel Ready, Community Revitalization and Rural Initiative.

The goal for the Southern Tier Regional Infrastructure Fund for Shovel Ready Sites is to lower the cost of site and business development, assisting with NYS Shovel Ready Site certification and re-develop Brownfield sites. In round one, this fund received $2.5 million. Stenger said this fund works best for industrial plants.

"An industrial park may want to expand and a key thing is getting water and sewer to them and that's a very difficult thing to pay for before you have clients, before you have people that are leasing space," Stenger said.

The Southern Tier Community Revitalization program is a low-interest loan program to help financing for projects that will redevelop key buildings and downtown areas. The council gave $5.8 million to this fund.

"Some of the buildings are abandoned, are vacant, or falling down, and they're too expensive to tear down and too expensive to fix," Stenger said.

Lastly, the third project is the Rural Initiative Venture Fund. $3 million provides start up and expansion money through loans and grants. The goal is to increase local agricultural ventures.

The three projects that are no longer going on are the expansion of the Ametek facility in Binghamton, a $1 million loan to Blue Hill Partners LLC, and a rehabilitating rail spurs in Chemung County.

All three of those projects were terminated before the projects began by the companies.

The money they were awarded was reallocated into one of the three funds.