Region scores grant from governor's fund


By Brian Sweeney
Local communities will reap significant benefits from the 2012 Regional Economic Development Awards announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office last week.

The Catskills are included as a part of the Southern Tier Region and three grants were awarded for local economic development. All of the applications were submitted through the MARK Project, an Arkville-based economic development agency.

• A $250,000 award will be utilized to expand the Small Business Development Fund. This program, which has been privately funded, provides grant assistance to businesses in the towns of Middletown. The new funding will expand the program to include the towns of Roxbury, Andes, and Bovina.

• A grant for $200,000 will be utilized for much needed repair and renovations to the historic Kirkside Retirement Home in Roxbury. Kirkside is listed on the State and National Registers and became the summer residence of Helen Gould Shepard at the turn of the 20th century.

• An grant of $200,000 was awarded for phase I of work to rehabilitate the Fleischmanns Theater, an historic anchor Main Street Building in the village of Fleischmanns.

In addition, the Southern Tier received a best Plan Award which will help re-fund both the Community Revitalization Fund (which recently awarded funding to the “Cheese Barrel Block in Margaretville) and the Rural Initiative Ventures Fund which is specifically designed to assist at agricultural businesses and area farmers markets. MARK is already beginning to map out applications for various ag-based projects.

Lengthy process
MARK Project Executive Director Peg Ellsworth said the awards were the culmination of an extensive application process.

“I am so pleased with these award announcements. Anyone who came into my office between June 1 and July 16 knew the kind of work that went into these applications,” she commented “Myself and my entire staff was engrossed in the process while keeping up with our daily obligations.
Ms. Ellsworth indicated that the economic benefits of the grants could potentially be expanded well beyond the initial award amounts.

“Because we included as part of Southern Tier region, we can really tap into some great resources. Because of these tie-ins, we can look toward funding for future projects in communities like Arkville, Andes, Bovina, New Kingston, Halcottville, Halcott Center and Pine Hill,” the MARK director explained.

“We anticipate that there will be another Consolidated Funding (CFA) round next spring or summer and MARK will again seek funding for more signature projects,” she added.
Ms. Ellsworth said she anticipates that the funding announced last week will become a catalyst for local communities.

She said the grant for the Fleischmanns Theater (which has not operated for about six years, and then only briefly) will help bring infrastructural improvements to the building like plumbing and heating, as well as help fix roofing issues. Ideally, the funding can also help renovate the storefronts that are part of the Main Street facade of the building.

The grant looks developing the upper story living spaces above the theater, ideally as transitional housing for our elderly population, Ms. Ellsworth explained.

“This is really phase one of a several phased project, in anticipation of a future for this signature historic structure,” she noted.

Ms. Ellsworth looks upon the Kirkside upgrade in the same manner.
“Initially, the funds will be applied to Kirkside’s infrastructure like plumbing, weatherization, energy efficiency. It’s really up to a very dedicated board of directors who will get some experts in there to address the most important issues first,” the MARK director pointed out.

Ms. Ellsworth said she’s particularly pleased that there was recognition on the state level of this importance of preserving these two landmark buildings.

In addition, she noted that the Small Business Development Fund (SBDF) was created following Hurricane Irene to assist businesses in the Town of Middletown with storm recovery.
“The fund eventually has grown into an economic stimulus for small business and general economic development and we are excited about expanding the program to include the entire MARK service area,” Ms. Ellsworth indicated.

The MARK director said that $5,000 grants are still being awarded as part of the original SBDF. She expects that the new funding will be awarded as a combination loan/grant program.
Ms. Ellsworth said there were several other combination grant applications between MARK and Delaware County that scored high in the Consolidated Funding process, but weren’t selected. But, the MARK director said she isn’t discouraged.

“You go back in, you don’t give up. I look forward to meeting with the county to talk about how we’re going coordinate our efforts to generate more competitive applications for the 2013 funding round,” said Ms. Ellsworth.