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May 7, 2014

Officials: To lure funds, region needs more ideas

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Officials from the state Department of State reviewed a slew of projects at a conference Tuesday that have helped municipalities, communities and businesses with support from various grant programs. 

About 100 people were registered for the Local Government Efficiency program presented by the Greater Oneonta Economic Development Council and Citizen Voices. The event, sponsored by Bank of Cooperstown, was at the Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center in Oneonta.

However, local officials again noted the lack of funding to the Oneonta area and Otsego County, which is part of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council. State and local officials and urged listeners to develop ideas, find partners for projects, tap into resources for information and guidance and apply for grants.

On April 28, Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched Round IV of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative, officially kicking off the 2014 competition for up to $750 million in state economic development resources.

The Consolidated Funding Application opened May 1, enabling businesses, municipalities, nonprofits and the public to begin applying for assistance from dozens of state funding programs for job-creating and community development projects. The deadline is 4 p.m. June 16.

Also, Mohawk Valley REDC officials have called on communities in the six-county region, which includes Otsego and Schoharie counties, to propose projects to compete for about $7 million recently awarded to the council by the governor. The federal Community Development Block Grant Program funds are to help with affordable housing and economic opportunities, a council media release said.

In Oneonta on Tuesday, the two-part meeting included a review of state-assisted municipal and economic development projects and a session to discuss ideas and resources for applications.

Carolyn Lewis, a Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council board member, encouraged local business owners, municipal leaders and others to consider ways to improve their companies and communities and apply for grants. She attributed lack of local awards not to “bad ideas” but to “no ideas.”

Brian Hunt, superintendent of Edmeston Central School, said his district along with at least the Milford and Laurens school districts, will apply in this CFA round for a regionalized science, technology, engineering and mathematics project in Otsego County. Such a STEM program will be important to prepare students for jobs, he said.

“We would welcome assistance,” Hunt said.

Dierdre Scozzafava, deputy director of the Department of State, said the governor’s structure of 10 regional councils has worked.

“The Regional Economic Development Councils have worked,” Scozzafava said. “Why? Because they are grass-roots driven.”

However, the councils are only one piece of the puzzle of development and available state services, for example, which can help with dissolving municipalities, setting up shared services and many other programs to reduce costs and assist communities, state officials said.

James Dean, a member of the Cooperstown Village Board, said attended the meeting because he would like Cooperstown to be a player in the larger economic development picture of Otsego County. Municipalities face providing services in an era of changing demographics, he said, and consolidating government services or establishing shared services can be difficult.

“Exactly how we do it can be challenging,” he said.

Tom O’Brien, superintendent of Roxbury Central School, said he attended Tuesday’s program to find out about different methods to increase efficiency. However, though the drive exists for greater efficiency, the vehicles offered haven’t changed, he said, and opportunities are needed that will support more innovative thinking and flexibility.