Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this year’s recipients of State funding from the Consolidated Funding Application and Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) process. This process included roughly $755.7M in funding from 22 programs administered by 11 State agencies. Of the total $755.7M, approximately $410.7M was awarded to specific projects and the remainder was awarded as undesignated Excelsior Jobs Credits (tax credits reserved for future projects that create and retain jobs) and Low Cost Economic Development Financing (tax exempt bond financing for eligible economic development, infrastructure, and community revitalization efforts).  The funding is distributed among 10 regions throughout the State based on a competitive process. Each region must annually submit a list of priority projects and a regional progress report. The annual reports track a series of metrics that are intended to show how successful the region has been at leveraging State funding to achieve positive growth and development, as well as regional collaboration.

The Cayuga Economic Development Agency (CEDA) plays a variety of roles in this process. First, CEDA staff, Bruce Sherman and Maureen Riester in particular, work with local businesses and organizations to answer questions about the application process and assist with their grant applications. We generally work with economic development related applications, such as those that support business expansion, job creation, or workforce programs. Second, I am a member of Central New York (CNY) REDC. This means that I review all of the regional applications and work with my fellow Council members to determine which projects best align with our regional strategies and provide the highest chance of success for all five counties in the region. REDC input accounts for 20% of the scoring for all applications. Finally, I have been a member of the CNY REDC’s writing committee for three years. This group compiles information for and drafts the annual regional progress report.

This year the CNY region, consisting of Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, and Oswego Counties, once again took home the top prize of $86.4M. This award encompasses $44.9M for specific projects and $41.5M in undesignated tax credits and bonds. The CNY region’s continued success in this process is a testament to the strength of our regional partnerships, collaborative processes, and innovative strategies.

Within CNY, Cayuga County was also quite successful. Twenty-six projects in Cayuga County were funded (27% of the projects in the region) to the tune of $12.1M. Assuming that all of these projects move forward, this $12.1M in State funding will leverage $27M in additional private, local, and federal investment for a total investment of over $39M in Cayuga County. These projects range from direct assistance to expanding businesses, to park improvements, to water quality. Furthermore, another $2.7M of State funding was awarded to six projects that will take place in multiple counties including Cayuga, and leverage nearly $860K in non-State investment. This year’s results are a testament to the quality of projects in our county and the dedication of area businesses and organizations to grow right here.

Six of these projects will directly create over 180 new jobs in our County, while a number of other projects will build infrastructure and services to support and indirectly create and retain numerous more. This growth in jobs over the next three to five years is a wonderful thing, but it also raises concerns around the availability and qualifications of local workers. In speaking with local businesses, CEDA staff has heard many times that it is becoming increasingly challenging to recruit and retain qualified workers for open positions. The reasons for these challenges vary greatly, ranging from training needs and “brain drain” to substance abuse. Our staff, board members, and partners are having an ongoing conversation about how to address some of these challenges, including how to help young people who grow up or attend school in Cayuga County understand the types of jobs available here.

To broaden this conversation, CEDA’s annual Economic Forecast Luncheon in January will feature two speakers from the Workforce Development Institute (WDI), a statewide organization that “facilitates projects that build skills and strengthen employers’ ability to hire and promote workers”. Our speakers, WDI Deputy Director Vivian Benton and CNY Regional Director David Goodness, will discuss regional workforce trends and present case studies of successful workforce programs. Their presentations will be based on their experiences working with businesses and communities across New York State to enhance workforce development, support, and enrichment.

The Economic Forecast Luncheon will be held on Thursday, January 25, 2018 at 11:30am at the Hilton Garden Inn in Auburn. CLICK HERE to register for this event. Registration is $40 and will include lunch.

Tracy Verrier is the executive director of the Cayuga Economic Development Agency and Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce.
Published in the December 21, 2017, edition of The Citizen.