North Country Regional Economic Development Council Holds Public Meeting in Watertown
The North Country Regional Economic Development Council (NCREDC) today held its public meeting in Watertown in a show of support for the long-term viability of Fort Drum ahead of the scheduled rally and listening session about the military base’s impact on the region. The meeting provided the Council with the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to helping to retain and grow Fort Drum as a national defense asset and the region’s largest employer. Council co-chairs Garry Douglas, President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, and Tony Collins, President of Clarkson University, shared a joint statement of solidarity with the Fort Drum community during the meeting.
“From day one, Fort Drum was embraced as a top priority by all interests and leaders across this vast region, not only because of our understanding of its economic importance to northern New York but more importantly because of a strong sense of shared responsibility for the well-being of our troops and their families and for the defensive posture of our country—making support for Fort Drum and its people a special priority unlike any other,” said Garry Douglas, President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.
“In each of the last four years, the entire region has exhibited immediate consensus around the identification of key projects in support of Fort Drum as high priorities for state funding. The creation of additional quality, affordable housing for Fort Drum personnel and their families was identified early on as a key need, and the Governor’s new approach to economic development provided us with an opportunity to do things that had been difficult before then. Specifically, the ability to help direct major state investment into housing development as an economic development endeavor because we had strongly identified the needs of Fort Drum as a high priority,” said Tony Collins, President of Clarkson University and Co-Chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.
To date, the North Country Regional Council has made several key efforts to secure the future of Fort Drum:
- The NCREDC helped direct $11.1 million in state funding, leveraging $175 million in private investment, for the construction of 954 new housing units at Beaver Meadows, Preserve at Autumn Ridge, Creekwood Phase II and the Mercy Hospital redevelopment site currently underway.
- The NCREDC supported the ReEnergy Black River project, obtaining $30 million for the priority project to retrofit the plant to provide secure, renewable electricity to the base now backed by a 20 year contract from the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency.
- The Council also took the lead in working with New York State on the Army Compatible Use Buffer Program (ACUB) at Fort Drum, which will establish buffer areas around the base by acquiring easements on farms to prevent development outside the base that could impede training, such as helicopter landings, which require adequate space.
- Additionally, the Council also supported the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, which ensured that Fort Drum soldiers, their families, and the residents of the community have access to high quality health care services on a regional level.
Fort Drum is a major economic engine for the local North Country. It reported contributing nearly $1.3 billion to the economy of the surrounding community in 2014. First installed over a century ago, Fort Drum now is the largest employment site in Upstate New York with 17,269 soldiers and 3,799 civilian workers (including contractors). Approximately 60 percent of the military personnel who work at the base live off-site and receive services such as health care and education in the community. Also, the U.S. Department of Defense estimates that there are more than 2,600 retirees from all branches of service living in the immediate area that receive a total of more than $52 million per year, all of which flows directly into the local economy.
During the meeting, the North Country Regional Economic Development Council also heard presentations on several matters including additional details on the Upstate Revitalization Fund and the Governor’s proposed New NY Broadband Program, which will address broadband gaps and needs in rural areas in the North Country and across the State. The presentation will help the Council begin its planning in anticipation of the state funding to support broadband development.
Finally, the Council heard a special presentation from Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who joined the meeting to discuss economic development matters including issues related to the northern border, U.S.-Canada relations, transportation and Fort Drum.
The Council also passed a resolution reaffirming its support for enactment by the State Legislature of an Occupancy Tax for Franklin County to help grow the county’s tourism economy.
The NCREDC, which is composed of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, is one of 10 regional councils across New York state that serve as a single point of contact for economic activity in the various regions. The NCREDC was awarded $63.4 million supporting 69 projects in 2014. The Council was named a “Top Performer” in 2013 and 2012, in addition to its Strategic Plan being named a “Best Plan Awardee” in December 2011. There are 291 projects across the region that have been awarded a total of $338.1 million in state support through the Regional Economic Development Council initiative and Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process in the statewide competition.
About the Regional Economic Development Councils
The Regional Economic Development Council initiative (REDC) is a key component of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's transformative approach to State investment and economic development. In 2011, Governor Cuomo established 10 Regional Councils to develop long-term strategic plans for economic growth for their regions. The Councils are public-private partnerships made up of local experts and stakeholders from business, academia, local government, and non-governmental organizations. The Regional Councils have redefined the way New York invests in jobs and economic growth by putting in place a community-based, bottom up approach and establishing a competitive process for State resources. After four rounds of the REDC process, nearly $3 billion has been awarded to job creation and community development projects consistent with each region's strategic plans, supporting the creation or retention of more than 150,000 jobs. For more information on the Regional Councils, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov.