One more sign of returning normalcy is the return of the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA), a process to apply for various New York State funding resources. This process allows projects, from arts and tourism to business development and energy efficiency, to apply for multiple grants and tax credits through a single online application. Central New York has consistently been a top contender for these funds, and Cayuga County projects have been awarded over $62m in grants and tax credits. Another $750m are available again this year, including $225m in funding for business and economic development projects through grants and tax credits. Applications for programs that are available only during the CFA round are due Friday, July 30, 2021 at 4:00pm. However, this year the timeline for business projects has changed significantly as those funds are no longer limited to the CFA round.
Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s economic development department. One of their more popular incentives for businesses is the ESD Grant Funds program. This grant has the ability to incentivize a business investment by offering funding, typically 10-20% of total eligible investments, which is reimbursed to the company in part at the completion of the project and the rest once job creation goals are met. Eligible investments include equipment; building and land acquisition; construction and renovation; and site and infrastructure development, along with covering a limited amount of the project soft costs (engineering, architecture, etc.).
Any costs included in the application’s budget cannot be incurred until an award is announced. In previous years, that meant submitting an application in July and then waiting until the award announcement in December to start the project. This year the timeline has been streamlined significantly. Applications received by the end of June will start to be reviewed early, with an initial round of awards anticipated in August or September. Then additional reviews and awards will happen every few months until all of the grant funds are allocated. This new process will make the process quicker for businesses that are ready to go with their projects, and will relieve some pressure for businesses that need more time to fully develop their project plan. Plus, if a project isn’t initially funded, they will be able to address any issues and reapply as long as there are still funds available. ESD Grant funds can also still be paired with Excelsior Tax Credits where eligible, which are also available year-round. Businesses looking to apply for ESD Grant Funds and/or Excelsior Tax Credits can contact CEDA (www.cayugaeda.org/contact-us) for guidance on eligibility, guidelines, and what to expect from the process, as well as some assistance in ensuring their applications include the right information.
Businesses of all sizes may be able to access ESD grant funds. What matters more than the size is the level of investment and projected job growth associated with the project. A number of locally owned businesses have received ESD grant funds over the years with total project costs ranging from $450K to over $100M. This is not to say that accessing ESD grant funds is easy. The application process is substantial and the requirements to get from award to reimbursement are no joke, but ESD grants are often the incentive that fills the financing gap that would normally keep a local business from growing at a pace they need to stay competitive and successful.
If you are interested in learning more about ESD funding, CEDA is hosting a presentation by Daniel Kolinski, Central New York Deputy Director for Empire State Development, today (June 3) at 11am. This presentation will be virtual and recorded. If you miss the presentation, the video will be available to view later at cayugeda.org/nysesd-funding/ and on CEDA’s YouTube channel. There are also a number of other informational resources regarding the CFA, including the 2021 CFA Available Resource Guide outlining all of the different funding programs and the 2021 CFA Application Manual describing the technical aspects of how to apply. These manuals, as well as a link to the application portal, are available at www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov. And you can of course always reach out to CEDA staff for free and confidential assistance.
Our role at CEDA is to assist you with the technical side of the CFA process and help guide your business through any other local, state, or federal assistance that could be helpful to your business. Once again, please reach out to us if you are interested in applying for ESD incentives this year. We can help make sure that your application includes the right information to be competitive in the CFA process. These grants are funded by our taxpayer dollars and will be awarded to businesses across the State. We want to bring as many of those dollars as possible back to Central New York and Cayuga County!