What’s the plan?

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You have been invited to apply for a state grant under a new program. Only seven applications will be allowed, and three of the seven will win awards of up to $100 million for each of five years. If the winners were chosen by lot from among the eligible applicants, each would have a 43 percent chance of winning. That’s a rich pot and pretty good odds, it seems to me.

The questions are: What proportion of the grant you are seeking is it reasonable to spend on the application and its supporting materials? How should you spend it (legally) in order to give you the greatest chance of success?

In the private sector, a business might easily pencil in ten or 15 percent to pay for application preparation. The upside potential seems considerable.

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When it comes to public-sector involvement, however, the situation is different. Strings are usually attached (as well they should be). Expenses will include not only the costs of the application and grants monitoring but also meeting the performance requirements upon which the grants are conditional. The hardest requirement to meet in this situation is a five-to-one match of private to public dollars, a long stretch for the still-stagnant upstate economy.

Let’s hypothesize that you decide to invest one percent of the potential windfall on your application, spending five million dollars to increase the odds of your success at winning a $500-million five-year payoff. I don’t know about you, but I’d take on that risk in a New York moment, especially because thinking more deeply about one’s opportunities for economic development can pay additional dividends.

 

New York State government has committed to a competition called the Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI), providing $1.5 billion in state funds over five years to revitalize the upstate economy. The URI money will supplement the four-year-old consolidated funding application (CFA) program that will continue to award up to $750 million statewide annually. Three of seven eligible economic development regions, of which the mid-Hudson stretching from the Westchester County boundary with New York City northward to include Dutchess and Ulster counties is one, will win awards.

“The Upstate Revitalization Initiative provides an unprecedented opportunity for three regions to enact plans for more concentrated enterprises that will catalyze economic activity,” a state publication explains in linguistically garbled terms. “In their plans, regions will work to identify a suite of projects and actions that, taken together, will transform the region.”

Who’ll get the awards?

The 2014 local Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) progress report was good enough to win a state bonus. Aspirationally titled “Accelerating Growth, Spearheading Success,” it didn’t properly acknowledge that propinquity to the booming New York City labor market presently provides the mid-Hudson’s greatest opportunities for economic development, however. No other upstate region shares the distinction of being next door to New York City.

For the first four years of the local REDC program, the focus has been on industry clusters, a perfectly reasonable place to start but not one likely to accomplish the goal, in governor Andrew Cuomo’s words, “to create and maintain a significant number of high-paying permanent private-sector jobs.”

So this year the mid-Hudson region is touting another level of broad-based themes “by which it believes it can transform the region’s economy yet remain true to the input received from the public over the past four years of the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) competition and the annual updates.” It’s a three-pronged overlay approach.

The first prong is a refinement of the cluster approach. It’s called “High Tech/High Salary,” described as “an industry-based initiative that builds upon the region’s existing high-tech clusters by seeking to attract and retain high-paying jobs in STEM-intensive fields, match them with the region’s highly educated workforce, and leverage existing assets in biotechnology, advanced and high-tech manufacturing, information technology and food and beverage manufacturing.”

Tourism is the second prong. Titled “Napa East,” this proposed initiative “seeks to position the region as a premier tourist location based on its scenic beauty, local agriculture, food and beverage industry, arts, culture, history, and recreational assets, as well as its proximity to New York City.”

The final prong is called Investing in City, Town and Village Centers. This initiative builds on the attractiveness of the small-town scale that characterizes the Hudson Valley. It “seeks to revitalize the region’s many river, hilltop and cross-roads urban centers, encouraging smart growth, transit-oriented development, downtown revitalization and infrastructure improvements in order to stimulate job creation and prevent youth flight.”

 

At a meeting Wednesday morning, July 22, in Putnam County, the local REDC formally farmed out much of the preparation of its URI application to Newburgh-based Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress. On Thursday afternoon, Pattern chief strategy officer March Gallagher said Pattern’s part was due September 15 (47 days from this Thursday).

Last Friday morning Pattern issued a press release saying it was “involved in compiling” the REDC plan and soliciting “big ideas to help win big funding.” Submit ideas at hvrevitalize.com.

I wanted to know about the arrangement between the REDC and Pattern. I called Pattern to get further details. The person playing the receptionist role said: “You need to reach out to Meaghan.” Meaghan Taylor is the head of the regional office of Empire State Development in New Windsor.

You’re declining comment, then?

“I am not declining comment, Geddy. You need to reach out to Meaghan.”

A person at the regional ESD office said that Meaghan Taylor was on the road, took my number, and said that she’s give Taylor the message that I wanted to talk to her.

On Friday and on Monday, Taylor didn’t call.

 

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