November 30, 2021

Status of REDC grants up in air

No word, little hope, on funding from state for 2020 or 2021

Kevin Conlon/city editor

City of Cortland firefighters return Thursday afternoon to the main fire station on Court Street after hazardous materials training at the city-owned former armory on Wheeler Avenue. The city received more than $400,000 in state economic development funds last year to help pay the cost of replacing windows in the station. The city will use that money and a similar state grant to fund the work next year after a bidding process.

Although the state hasn’t announced it won’t award any grant funding through the Regional Economic Development Council for 2020, or whether there will be an announcement in 2021, officials are pessimistic.

The greater Cortland area received nearly $4.8 million in funding in 2019, $3.3 million in 2018 and $5.2 million in 2017.

“There is no official word to the REDC that funding for the program will not be available for 2021, but obviously with a multibillion dollar budget deficit it wouldn’t be a surprise if it is not in the state budget next time around,” said Garry VanGorder, the president and CEO of the Business Development Corp. and Industrial Development Agency. “It’s a fluid situation, though, with a lot depending on federal stimulus for hard-hit states like ours.”

The greater Cortland County area, along with the rest of the state has the potential to lose out on millions in funding. Last year, for example, Marathon Boat Group in Marathon got $870,000 to allow an expansion creating 20 to 40 jobs; the J.M. Murray Center in Cortlandville got $800,000 to consolidate services; and Dryden in Tompkins County got $705,000 for buffers along Lower Falls Creek.

“We’ve done well with the process over the last 10 years, so not having those resources to lean on would be disappointing,” said VanGorder, who sits on the REDC. “The good news is, from a competitive standpoint, is that everyone is in the same boat.”

“It’s really a bummer,” said Homer Village Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe, who is also the executive director for the Commission on Rural Resources.

McCabe said Tuesday the village had an application ready to submit for funding for phases one and two of a river trail project that would open access to the Tioughnioga River.

The village got more than $315,000 in funding for two projects in 2019: a dam along Route 11 that needed to be removed on the Tioughnioga River and for a salt storage facility.

VanGorder said many elements will play into the final decision.

“If organizations are considering projects, they shouldn’t assume that the REDC program won’t be active in 2021, but given the state’s fiscal situation there is a very good chance that it won’t be,” he said. “No way to predict at this point. Typically CFA (Consolidated Funding) applications aren’t even available until spring/early summer, after first quarter budget negotiations. A lot can happen between then and now (election, potential for new stimulus aid to the states, etc.), so there is no way to predict what will happen at this point.”

The governor usually announces the awards in late December, VanGorder said.

Cortland City Director of Administration and Finance Mack Cook said that the city doesn’t really seek grant funding through the REDC.

“The primary funding that comes out of REDC are private-sector economic development grants,” he said.

He said the grants the city deals with come from other state agencies. Such is the case for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative money the city was awarded in 2017.

Projects related to that funding are still under way. However, Cook said that the state has not withheld any reimbursements related to that funding.

“I have had no official notice that the state is withholding payments,” he said, noting the the city received some DRI reimbursement payments on Oct. 5.

“We’ll be putting together another reimbursement request,” he said. “It may be a little slower than normal, but the state has not noticed they are reneging and I do not expect the state will renege on prior state awards.”