Final call made for state funding applications

Several visionaries recently came together with the same goal of bringing success to their communities.

The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council met at SUNY Fredonia and made a final call for businesses, educational institutions, local governments, not-for-profit groups and other stakeholders across the five-county Western New York region (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara), to apply for state funding through the New York State Consolidated Funding Application.

Up to $750 million in economic development resources from 33 state agency funding programs is available. The deadline for CFA submissions is 4 p.m. on June 16. The CFA is available at

As part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to improve the state’s economic development model, a New York State Consolidated Funding Application was created to streamline and expedite the grant application process. The CFA process marks a fundamental shift in the way state resources are allocated, ensuring less bureaucracy and greater efficiency to fulfill local economic development needs. The CFA serves as the single entry point for access to economic development funding, ensuring applicants no longer have to slowly navigate multiple agencies and sources without any mechanism for coordination. Now, economic development projects use the CFA as a support mechanism to access multiple state funding sources through one application, making the process quicker, easier, and more productive. The CFA was recognized with a Special Award for Excellence in Business and Economic Development in 2012.

The Regional Economic Development Council initiative is a key component of Cuomo’s transformative approach to state investment and economic development. In 2011, Cuomo established 10 Regional Councils to develop long-term strategic plans for economic growth for their regions. The Councils are public-private partnerships made up of local experts and stakeholders from business, academia, local government, and non-governmental organizations. The Regional Councils have redefined the way New York invests in jobs and economic growth by putting in place a community-based, bottom-up approach and establishing a competitive process for state resources.

After three rounds of the REDC process, more than $2 billion has been awarded to job creation and community development projects consistent with each region’s strategic plans, resulting in the creation or retention of more than 100,000 jobs.

WNY Regional Council Co-Chairperson Howard Zemsky said he wants to attract more young people to western New York.

“We want to create dense, viable cities and towns, improve quality of life and attract more people to Buffalo and all of western New York,” he said. “We want to focus on jobs.”

Henderson-Woods Managing Partner Pam Henderson wanted to emphasize the importance of small businesses in western New York.

“Small businesses are job creators,” she said. “The community asks how they can be part of the leadership development. We should put together an exhibit booth so people can see what is out there. People who aren’t certified and need a job should come, so they can bring service to a new business. No one invests in small businesses in the area and we really need that.”

Jackson Parker Commun-ication President Jennifer Parker agreed with Hender-son, stating how important it is to provide leadership to the community.

“We listened and it was encouraging; our plan is working,” she said. “People are getting engaged in the ‘new’ Buffalo. We want people to know we are open for business and truly living. They saw an open opportunity in finding out more about how the state is run. We have a great foundation here, but there is still a lot more to do.”

SoLEpoxy President Jeff Belt gave his own story as an example about the hardships of small businesses.

“Small businesses are very fragile, especially in the financial department,” he said. “We want what everyone else wants. We want clean air, water and facilities. New York City is the number one business capital in the world, and that is the reason people come here. We need an advocate for business people. As a result of greed, we almost plunged into bankruptcy twice. We took care of it. We want enforcement, but at the same time we don’t want 50 jobs in peril because of someone not understanding.”

WNY Regional Director Christina Orsi went on to explain how the process of funding is done.

“We pay at the end of the project, and by the time it is done, it is anywhere from two to three years later. Most projects have a long life cycle. We pay on major milestones or completion dates,” she said. “We hold a contract until they meet goals or see an extensive waiver on why they didn’t do goals.”

Parker believes the community becomes really inspired if it knows a company that is seeing growth. She said people will come if they see a great project.

“Businesses are growing because of what we do around this table,” she said.

Orsi wanted updates from Economic Develop-ment SUNY Fredonia Vice President Dr. Kevin Kearns on what he is planning to do for the SUNY 2020 Challenge Grant and Start Up NY Plan.

“Power Fredonia has a clear plan,” Kearns began. “Agriculture business is primary for the local community. Local fruit and vegetable facilities create millions for economic development. The arts has a big impact, too. SUNY has a mission for foreigners to come to our college, which is significant every year. The final start-up cluster relates largely to tourism. Tourism is the fifth-largest employer in the state. It is the key to economic recovery. Our Great Lakes project for the Lake Erie waterfront will cause job growth through tourism.”

Kearns went on to talk in-depth on what the SUNY Fredonia Science Depart-ment is coming up with.

“We want to create a science museum and deep water research vessel. This will bring hundreds of jobs to the area,” he said. “This will potentially transform the local community.”

Empire State Develop-ment Deputy Director Ryan Silva discussed the importance of providing jobs to veterans.

“Coming off the heels of Memorial Day, it is unacceptable to have such low numbers of employed veterans,” he said. “We want to promote job opportunities for veterans to get into the job market when they come home. We want to keep the project pipeline flowing. Workforce development is vital for any economy.”

Empire State Fellow Ana Liss worked with Silva on presenting an international growth idea to the board.

“I would love to see the REDC link arms with one another,” she said. “We want snapshots on how the projects will create growth, international tourism and marketing strategies. The large international student population is a rich re-source.”

Buffalo Niagara Enter-prises President Tom Ku-charski agreed, saying it is all about people, and what WNY will look like in the future.

“We have people visiting the community every week looking at the colleges. We are going to take advantage of that,” he said. “We need to ask where can we grow, what are our activities and what can we do in the future.”

Orsi concluded his remarks on the CFA timeline.

“We have a busy summer ahead of us. There is a lot we need to do to get across the finish line,” she said. “We need a good opportunity to understand projects and work to meet state deadlines. This is a good way to market ourselves, and bring tourists to the region, not just one county. You have all done a fantastic job.”

Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau Director Andrew Nixon gave the final presentation, and tied everything together. He began by pointing out the town of Chautauqua is the number one small town in America.

“I want to create a tourism brand for the region that attracts visitors for a long time,” he said. “Once this brand is established, the visitors of the area don’t want to change this down the road. Our primary objective is to make whole region an extensive tourism region.”