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North country comes up big in funding race

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North country businesses and government groups will receive $103.2 million in state grants after the region was a top recipient for a pile of state money, which could bring a thousand jobs to the region, hundreds of homes to the Fort Drum area and a kick-start to a flagging economy.

“Well, everybody is elated,” Anthony G. Collins, a co-chairman of the task force that put together the plan, said in a brief telephone interview from Albany. “This is huge for economic development; $103 million just by itself is going to create job activity.”

The regional economic development council competition was a syllable-heavy way of expressing one simple concept: create jobs. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s budget in 2011 authorized nearly a billion dollars in funding, some of which 10 regional councils could compete to receive. The north country’s council was one of four to receive a top prize of more than $100 million.

Mr. Cuomo, who handed out the awards at a ceremony in Albany Wednesday, said New York has to realize two things: The state has to fight to keep businesses from moving elsewhere, and a region-by-region approach is the only way to suit the needs of the entire Empire State.

“Businesses are not cemented into the foundation,” Mr. Cuomo said.

It’s a lesson the north country knows well, from Ogdensburg to Massena to Watertown.

Many of the projects that received money are typically funded on a year-by-year basis by a multitude of state agencies. This time around, they were consolidated into one funding stream. Other projects and initiatives received an unexpected boost. The projects ranged from agricultural projects to tourism boosts to rail line improvements, with plenty in between.

Some of the top-dollar projects included:

■ $4 million to help the Development Authority of the North Country build 400 housing units around Fort Drum.

■ $3 million for the Krog Corp. and the village of Clayton to develop a hotel on the former Frink America snowplow manufacturing site.

■ $10 million for rail improvements on the Newton Falls line, which serves Slack Chemical and Newton Falls Fine Paper.

■ More than $2 million in rail improvements in Massena and Ogdensburg.

■ About $3 million in sewer and water improvements in Gouverneur, part of which will help keep Kinney Drugs local.

Some projects, such as a plan to use $7 million to help market the north country as a tourism destination and a $1.1 million proposal to bring a light-emitting diode, or LED, manufacturer and 125 jobs to Ogdensburg, were rejected. But, Mr. Cuomo said, legislative leaders have agreed to go through the funding process again. Unfinished business will have another shot.

“We did extremely well on any score,” said Garry F. Douglas, Mr. Collins’s co-chairman on the panel.

Mr. Douglas is the executive director of the North Country Chamber of Commerce in Plattsburgh. Mr. Collins is the president of Clarkson University.

The north country also was allotted $15 million that it can use during the next year in tax credits for private companies that are trying to start up in the region. Unlike the shovel-ready projects listed above, these tax credits will go toward projects that are now merely the glint in an economic development specialist’s eye.

It was a rare but welcome win for a region that often has a kid-brother relationship with other parts of the state, officials said. The council included St. Lawrence, Lewis, Jefferson, Franklin, Essex, Hamilton and Clinton counties.

“How often do a group of north country people come together and do something and come home with 103 million dollars?” Mr. Douglas said. “I’ll take that any day of the week.”

Central New York was awarded the largest grant, $103.7 million; followed by the north country, $103.2 million; Long Island, $101.6 million; and Western New York, $100.3 million.

Other awards Thursday:

■ Finger Lakes region, $68.8 million;

■ New York City, $66.2 million;

■ Mohawk Valley, $60.2 million;

■ Southern Tier, $49.4 million;

■ Mid-Hudson, $67 million.

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