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North country hoping for $25 million in state competition

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POTSDAM - The stakes have been decided for this year’s Regional Economic Development Council competition, and the north country will be vying for a $25 million cut of a $150 million pot of state money.

The north country has been a favorite ever since the program was founded in 2011, being named a top performer three years in a row.

This year may be more difficult. Instead of all 10 councils competing directly against each other, they have been split into two groups.

The top five performers from last year will compete against each other. Each will come up with priority projects it hopes will be funded in the year to come, and only the top two plans will receive a $25 million prize.

The bottom five performers from last year also will compete against each other, with three scoring $25 million.

“They’re trying to help those who didn’t do well last year,” according to Anthony G. Collins, Clarkson University president and North Country Regional Economic Development Council co-chairman.

The losing regions will split $25 million among themselves.

The total $150 million pot is for priority projects. The councils’ plans also will include applications for other state grant money, along with $70 million in tax credits.

Last year the north country won a total of $81.3 million.

The state will focus on three main points while evaluating this year’s council applications: the successful implementation of past plans, job creation and global exports.

Mr. Collins said he believes this poises the north country to have another successful year.

“We believe that we are forming strong relationships with, in particular, Canada, so we think we are well positioned for this year’s competition,” he said. Increased trade with Canada likely will be a focus of this year’s application, along with tourism, agriculture and the arts.

The application deadline is Aug. 15, and the awards likely will be announced near the end of the year.

“There are no guarantees but we’re looking for a grand slam,” Mr. Collins said.

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