Almost $150 million. That’s how much money New York state recently handed out to the two economic development councils that serve the local area.
It’s a lot of money, to be sure. And watching the awards presentations on Dec. 19, one could be forgiven for coming away with the impression that each of the 10 Regional Economic Development Councils was a winner.
Not so fast.
Sure, the Southern Tier council — which serves Delaware and Chenango counties — got a bigger chunk of change this year than last out of the $785 million up for grabs statewide.
And that seems great, until you read the fine print.
Of the $91.1 million the council received, just under $1.5 million will be shared by those two local counties.
Still, a decent sum, to be sure. But to put it into perspective, that’s about how much the village of Cooperstown asked for to complete just one project — to restore sidewalks and mitigate stormwater runoff.
The $1.49 million for Delaware and Chenango counties will fund a handful of projects, among them the restoration of several historic buildings and the creation of a yogurt processing plant.
All are worthy endeavors. But we can’t help feeling that the local area is getting the short end of a pretty long stick.
The Mohawk Valley region, which includes Otsego and Schoharie counties, fared even worse, receiving $57.9 million altogether. The two local counties came out about the same as their Southern Tier counterparts, with a total of about $1.5 million to split between them.
“We had projects that did not get funded, and we had projects that got funded at lesser amounts than they had asked,” Otsego County Economic Developer Carolyn Lewis told The Daily Star last week. “I thought we would have done better.”
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Even in these regional councils, our counties are little fish in relatively large ponds. Communities such as Oneonta and Cooperstown are competing with Utica, Rome and Elmira; the villages and hamlets of Delaware County are going up against projects in Binghamton, Elmira and Ithaca.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made much of the fact that this is a competitive process, with the best plans from among the 10 councils being rewarded with the most funds. What’s downplayed is the fact that there is competition within each council, too.
When these regional councils were outlined, we complained that our local towns were getting lumped in with metropolitan areas that had little connection to our lives here. These awards have demonstrated the folly of this arrangement.
Despite what the awards ceremony made it look like, there are winners and losers. And it doesn’t look like we’re the big winners here.