Cuomo gets taste of the Catskills

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By Brian Sweeney
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo got a taste of Catskill Mountain hospitality during a tour of the Southern Tier last Wednesday.

Peg Ellsworth, executive director of the Arkville-based MARK Project and member of the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council, got the governor’s attention upon his arrival at Binghamton Airport. She presented Gov. Cuomo with a gift “basket” that contained a small sampling of goods from this pocket of the region.

Among the items presented to the governor were: a beautifully crafted pottery bowl created by the Stupples and Lt. Governor Robert Duffy received a hand-turned bowl from the Olsens — both are husband and wife artisan teams and their work was provided by the Catskill Mountains Artisans’ Guild in Margaretville.

Chock full of goodies
Each vessel included some maple syrup and honey from local producers and a copy of Bill Birns’ recently published book A Catskills Catalog, delivered with a personal message and signed by the author.

Ms. Ellsworth also included a comprehensive collection of collateral print material that more substantially represented the diversity of this pocket of the Southern Tier.

She pointed out that the material was not “MARK Project centric,” but pulled together other organizational and small business related material intended to help the governor’s office to better understand the wealth of resources and talent available in the region and made an attempt to balance that by communicating the need for funding.

Catskill sampler
“We wanted to show everything from our historic sites to art and cultural resources to tourism-related sites and recreational opportunities to an in-depth look into our diverse agricultural micro industries to the work being done on our Main Streets,” the MARK director explained.
Ms. Ellsworth said she and her staff pulled together a wealth of information in the very short window of time between when she received approval to present the gift and the governor’s actual visit.

“Yes, I would have loved to have included much more in the actual bowls, but it simply wasn’t an option. So instead, I directed my energies to the provision of a substantial amount of information,” said Ms. Ellsworth.

“Honestly, I was thrilled that I was even given the opportunity and very pleased with both the governor’s and Lt. governor’s response—at least we are on the radar!” she added.
After the presentation by the Regional Council about the progress made on Projects awarded in 2011 and priority projects identified for the 2012 Regional Council competitive grant round, Gov. Cuomo and his staff boarded an electric/hybrid bus for a driving tour of the region.

The governor made several trips to the Catskills following devastating flooding resulting from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in August and September 2011, respectively. The governor even assisted with cleanup efforts and has continued to show strong support for the region.
During Gov. Cuomo’s visit, the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council (which stretches across 10 counties from Steuben to Delaware) unveiled a proposed $38 million state investment plan, detailing 24 projects such as downtown and waterfront renewal efforts to high-tech manufacturing proposals that would be pursued with the state’s funding investments.

A five-member panel will judge the Southern Tier’s proposal against those submitted by the state’s nine other regions. Overall, the state is preparing to invest $762 million in economic development funds.

The MARK Project has provided housing programs, economic development and technical assistance services to the Towns of Andes, Middletown and Roxbury and the Villages of Fleischmanns and Margaretville and will be celebrating its 35th birthday this spring.