Columbia and Greene counties received a total of $10 million from the state’s Regional Economic Development Council.
The awards ranged from $30,000 to nearly $2 million, going to a variety of initiatives such as arts programs, aging infrastructure development and Main Street revitalization.
One major award is for a new Shaker Museum for Columbia County. The Shaker Museum Library will receive $1,569,000 from Empire State Development to renovate a large 19th century masonry building in downtown Chatham into a state-of-the-art museum facility to house its library and object collection. It will provide flexible space for exhibitions, community programming and educational activities.
Other Columbia County awards include $145,000 for studio restorations at Art Omi Inc., $950,139 for performance space restorations at Basilica Hudson, $750,000 for the city of Hudson’s stormwater system upgrades, $197,000 to the Friends of Clermont for renovations at Livingston Mansion.
Funding for projects enhancing economic development in Greene County totaled $712,330 and include: Catskill Mountain Housing Development Corporation and Catskill Main Street Renovations, $300,000; Thomas Cole National Historic Site, a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Thomas Cole’s arrival in America, $52,000; Village of Catskill’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, $85,000;
Columbia-Greene Community College’s Transportation Training Program, $50,330; Columbia and Greene Counties, Thomas Cole House Skywalk Marketing Campaign and Special Events, $225,000; Catskill Gateway, $607,000 for construction of a 25-room select service hotel.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the awards allocated across the state Thursday, a continuation of a program that has been instated since 2011.
“Throughout the Regional Economic Development Council process over the past nine years, we have seen unprecedented regional investment focusing on a ground-up, strategic model that has spurred tremendous growth in every corner of this great state,” Cuomo said. “By bringing together local leaders and stakeholders who are invested in their communities we have replaced the ‘one size fits all’ approach to economic development with one that is unique to each community, creating opportunities for success all across the Empire State.”
The economic development has been clear in Columbia and Greene counties, stakeholders said.
“In the nine years that the Regional Council initiative existed we’ve received over $29 million,” said F. Michael Tucker, president and CEO of the Columbia Economic Development Corporation. “We have certainly seen the impact of the governor’s Regional Economic Council awards both in terms of leveraging private sector investment and job creation, municipal infrastructure improvements and support for cultural arts that make up the county’s creative economy.”
Of the over $5.3 million received by Columbia County, Tucker said he was particularly excited about a $334,000 award to Klein Kills Farms to support a new apple processing and storage facility “which will further strengthen the county’s agriculture business cluster.”
He also highlighted the largest award Columbia County received: nearly $1.6 million to the Shaker Museum and Library to construct an exhibition hall, which Tucker said would strengthen the county’s tourism industry.
Greene County was awarded nearly $4.7 million.
“Things like the Main Street revitalization program and community block programs on our side have been very helpful in supporting economic development projects and setting the groundwork for bigger revitalization projects,” said Karl Heck, director of Economic Development and Planning in Greene County.
Greene County, Heck said, has a long history of low unemployment rates. The economic development grants have correlated with a 5 percent increase of sales tax revenue and a rise of median household income in Greene County, he said.
“There is activity and vibrancy throughout the county,” Heck said.
Hudson Hall is one of the local organizations that received awards this year, two grants totaling $155,000. One grant is to fund an expansion of the Hudson Jazz Festival, which executive director Tambra Dylan says will generate jobs, stimulate the economy and incubate artists. The second award is to improve their Warren Street building.
It’s not the first time Hudson Hall has received grants from the state. Just two years ago the organization received another REDC grant to start a workforce development program for Hudson youth, which Dylan said was hugely successful.
“New York state has been our biggest, most ardent supporter over the years,” Dylan said. “Through various agencies we’ve been privileged to receive substantial funding from New York state that has helped us restore the building and maintain programs to fill the building with arts and activities. It’s been a game-changer for us.”
Massarah Mikati covers the New York State Legislature and immigration for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Email her at email@example.com, or find her on Twitter @massarahmikati.