SYRACUSE (WRVO) – Central New York was a big winner once again at this year’s Regional Economic Development Council awards, announced last week in Albany.
The state will funnel more than $86 million to projects in five central New York counties. It includes things like $140,000 for a new park in East Syracuse and a half-million dollars for an expansion of the Apple Acres apple orchard in LaFayette. In all, incoming REDC co-chair Randy Wolken says there are 112 projects in line for state funding.
“Central New York has been a top performer, this year receiving the most dollars of all the regions. We’ve been the top performer five out of seven years. So the reality is we have gotten a significant benefit by really working as a community to get great projects. Because it comes down to great projects.”
There are some who criticize the state’s way of divvying up economic development money through these regional competitions. But Wolken says these awards are actually reimbursements.
“So the project sponsors and the one who do the project have to perform before they get their dollars,” he said. “So it’s not as if, ‘here’s a blank check, and we hope you get it done.’ No, no, you have to show results before you get the money.”
Wolken says central New York has gotten between a five and ten percent return on the state investment in projects from these yearly competitions. But more than that, it’s brought the community together.
As for the future, with New York State is looking at massive deficits in its next budget, Wolken is hopeful.
“We’ll start again in January to get ready to do it again with the hopes that the budget will continue to allow this to make this investment every year,” he said.