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Finger Lakes Region Awarded $80.5 Million for Local Projects

Rochester New York SkylineLast Thursday, the Finger Lakes Regional Council was awarded $80.5 million in the state’s annual competition for economic-development funds and tax breaks.

Ten regions across the state were competing for $750 million at the Regional Economic Development Council award ceremony in Albany, and the Finger Lakes emerged as one of New York’s top performers.

In the Rochester area, the award will go towards job training programs, business incubators in under-served areas, and upgraded infrastructure. Plans are underway to renovate the lobby of The Little Theatre, to replace the windows at the George Eastman Museum, and to revitalize the Sonnenberg Gardens’ rock garden.

Local leaders also plan to use the funding to help Rochester’s most vulnerable residents break down barriers. Many of the projects address economic development, both directly and indirectly through efforts to increase tourism and improve education.

“We’re thankful to the governor and his team for recognizing that it’s just not about the businesses, but it’s also about our people that have to work at these businesses and how they get to work and how they are able to elevate themselves in their community,” said Mayor Lovely Warren.

Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair Danny Wegman added, “It won’t do us good to just create the jobs if we don’t have the folks to fill them. On the other hand, we can’t help those folks who are there in poverty if we don’t have those jobs either. So it’s a combination here. I think it’s the balance between these two that is the reason why the state actually supported what we’re all about.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo launched the Regional Economic Development Council process in 2011. Since then, the unemployment rate has dropped all across the state of New York. Despite claims made by president-elect Donald Trump, Cuomo has been clear that manufacturing jobs have not been lost to immigrants or foreign trade deals. Instead, the greatest threat to factory workers has been the automation of many manufacturing tasks.

For example, in 2011, the North American construction equipment market was the second-largest in the world, generating revenue streams of roughly 25.8 billion U.S. dollars. While the market is expected to grow, it appears that it will run on less and less human labor.

With this in mind, Cuomo has focused efforts towards creating more jobs all across the state. The Regional Economic Development Council was launched as one solution.

While critics have voiced concerns that the annual awards benefit only a “politically connected few,” Cuomo argues that the process helps all New Yorkers.

“No one region can do well unless the adjoining regions are doing well,” he said. “So it brings that point home. And I like the competitive aspect.”

By focusing on tourism initiatives and transportation, leaders hope to boost the local economy throughout the state. Motorcoaches, for instance, are known to infuse tourism dollars into every community, with a single motorcoach spending one night in a town generating up to $11,660 for that destination.

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