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North Country wins $81.3 million in state funds

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The North Country Regional Economic Development Council has been named a top performer for the third year running, netting $81.3 million in state funding.

The awards for all 10 regional councils were announced at a ceremony Wednesday in Albany. Five regions, including the north country, were named top performers based on their recent successes and plans for the year ahead.

The north country’s funds will go toward boosting tourism and creating jobs in bioengineering, among other projects.

According to Anthony G. Collins, council co-chairman and president of Clarkson University, Potsdam, the north country’s success has come from its focus on a series of small projects rather than a few heavy hitters.

“Investing in one or two large projects doesn’t really make sense,” he said. The large size and spread-out population of the north country mean these major projects would not have the same effect as a group of smaller, more local efforts.

“Instead of one large explosion, we’re looking more for the firecracker,” he said.

The money will be divided among 30 projects. A few of the highlights for Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties are:

n Clarkson University’s Shipley Center for Innovation was named an “Innovation Hot Spot,” earning $250,000 to expand and improve its business incubator.

n The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority will receive just under $1.1 million to launch a marketing effort to lure Canadian tourists to the region.

n Watertown’s Mercy Health Center redevelopment project will receive $2.1 million.

n Neighbors of Watertown Inc. will receive $150,000 to renovate the Lincoln Building.

n A $352,000 grant will support Ogdensburg’s Fort La Presentation Association’s plans to build a waterfront park and trail system at Lighthouse Point.

n Gouverneur will build a senior community center with $400,000.

n Doolittle Hall LLC., Watertown, will receive $250,000 for further renovations to the Lincoln Building.

n The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority will receive $225,000 to upgrade two rail bridges and add new storage facilities.

n A North Country Broadband Fund will be established, with $6 million to expand broadband infrastructure in the region.

This is the third year of the regional economic development council program, which was created to allow regions to design their own economic plans while competing with each other for the biggest share of state funds.

The north country has done well in all three rounds, winning $90.2 million last year and $103.2 million in 2011. None of this year’s awards approached these larger payouts. All 10 councils split a $715.9 million pot. The biggest winner was Long Island, which took home $83 million.

According to Mr. Collins, the gap between the winners and losers is narrowing because all of the councils are learning what it takes to craft a competitive proposal.

“Everybody’s submissions are continuing to improve in quality,” he said.

The north country’s continued success should be lauded, he said adding that “The north country should be proud of the efforts that have been put forward by so many people.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo praised the councils’ efforts so far and promised a future of job growth in New York.

“That’s what made this state the Empire State before, and that’s what will make this state the Empire State again,” he said.

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