Capital Region awarded $67M for economic development

| Times Union

ALBANY — The Capital Region will receive $67 million to fund 95 projects in the latest round of state economic development funding.

The support was announced Tuesday in downtown Albany at the Capital Center as part of the annual Regional Economic Development Council awards, which distributed $763 million to 10 regions across the state.

One of the biggest local recipients is a business park in Rotterdam, where 100 jobs are expected to be created from a $4 million commitment for a pharmaceutical & medical device manufacturing company, which will lease a 137,000-square-foot space there. The new facility will produce and package sterile injectables and specialized biomedical supplies, according to the region’s annual progress report.

In Schenectady, the city is getting $5 million toward construction of a new pump station on North Ferry Street. The existing system was compromised during recent flooding events, and the new project would reduce instances of untreated wastewater from being discharged into the Mohawk River.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy anticipated work would begin by next spring.

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center will receive $1.5 million toward a $5.5 million transformation of their concessions and restroom area with a new permanent structure, which will include classroom space, and a pavilion that can accommodate 400 people. The plan is to begin demolition in the fall and have the new facility open for the 2020 season.

SPAC President & CEO Elizabeth Sobol said the upgrade is needed to address aging plumbing and shortcomings of the semi-permanent concessions stand. She also lamented the design of the area, which will be replaced by a plaza that blends into the park atmosphere.

The second story of the new structure will include permanent classroom space. SPAC’s education program reaches 38,000 people annually, and Sobol hopes to double that number in the next 19 months.

SPAC is also receiving $195,000 for a marketing campaign in collaboration with cultural and business partners to promote the region to “cultural tourists.”

Half a million dollars is being invested in machinery acquisition for the Case Group of Green Island, where 15 jobs are expected to be created and 43 jobs retained, according to the Capital Region’s progress report. The new equipment is supposed to enable the company to take advantage of emerging technologies.

Other projects in the Capital Region include:

  • $995,000 for Times Union Center capital improvements;
  • $1 million for a regional bio-solids facility in Albany County;
  • $340,000 for Hudson River waterfront gateway improvements in Albany;
  • $262,500 for Lincoln Park pool improvements in Albany;
  • $200,000 for skyway arrival in Albany, which received funding two years ago and is scheduled to begin work in the fall of 2019;
  • $511,700 for Hudson Shores Park revitalization in Watervliet;
  • $360,000 for Palace Theatre renovations;
  • $1 million for the Kennedy Garage in Albany;
  • $1 million for Albany Water Board;
  • $337,000 for incubator project in Rensselaer County;
  • $700,000 for mixed-use buildings in Troy;
  • $1.7 million for office space and mixed-use buildings in Troy;
  • $750,000 to replace water mains in Mechanicville;
  • $400,000 for machinery purchases by Doty Machine Works in Washington County.

The full list of projects is available on the REDC website.

Is is the eighth round of funding distributed through the regional councils, which were created by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2011. Requests for money from the regional councils, which are crafted with input from municipal leaders and business interests, are awarded based on a competitive process overseen by Empire State Development.

Critics of the distribution process have compared the annual awards to “The Hunger Games,” after the dystopian fantasy series that has representatives of different communities fighting to the death.

And while the funding helps incentivize development in New York, it does little to address the underlying conditions in the state that hamper job growth, according to Ken Girardin, a policy analyst for the conservative Empire Center for Public Policy.

“Subsidies are a great way for politicians to deflect attention from the hard choices needed to improve the business climate,” he said, noting that five of the upstate regions had less economic activity last year than in the heart of the Great Recession in 2009.

Girardin also lamented the council’s decision in some cases to allocate resources for “flashy amenities” instead of long-term infrastructure projects. “Nearly $300,000 will be spent bringing a music festival to a city that can’t keep its raw sewage out of the Hudson River, and the state is giving cash to private businesses building retail space and hotel rooms instead of getting roads to a state of good repair,” he said.

According the region’s progress report in July, 83 percent of the 705 projects that received funding through the councils since 2011 were completed or are on schedule.

© 2018 Times Union