The Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation's Local Economic Development Committee is pleased to share that in 2013 a solid foundation was laid for Northern Chautauqua's economic development. There is promise of continued progress, driven by partnerships that have been forged between citizens, communities and the public, private and education leaders of our region.
For example, on Sept. 28, 2013, approximately 80 citizens joined WNY Partners for a Livable Western New York, an invited group of visiting experts for a "Walk Around" analysis of the waterfront neighborhood. This has generated follow-up meetings, attracting new people each time. The group "Revitalizing Dunkirk" has formed networks to sort out answers to key questions such as, how can we make our community a better place to live and to attract businesses?
At the same time, we see active participation of Jamestown Community College and SUNY Fredonia in the Start-Up NY initiative. This will provide tax-free areas and support to businesses that create new jobs within one mile of the campuses and locations the colleges have established in the area (such as the SUNY Fredonia Incubator in Dunkirk and College Lodge near Brocton).
The community made a major impact on the NRG resolution. In the end, our voices were heard, resulting in plans for NRG to invest $300 million in its plant, converting units from coal to natural gas. This 10-year proposal, reached between NRG and National Grid, and facilitated by the state Public Service Commission, "will create [construction] jobs and stabilize the local property tax base," according to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In December, three major economic development grants were announced to boost Northern Chautauqua County - all a result of applications made through the WNY Regional Economic Development Council. They included:
$1 million for the Northern Chautauqua water district, coordinated by the Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation. Major water users in the region have already pledged funding and resources for the project.
$65,000 in planning funds to start formulating a new Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan. This Plan, to be coordinated by the county's Department of Planning and Economic Development, will assist communities along the Lake Erie waterfront to plan projects that have local and regional benefits.
$540,000 for work on the Dunkirk harbor seawall, combined with completion of the Lakefront Boulevard Bike Path, and additional recreational opportunities.
The Concord Grape Belt Heritage Center hosted enthusiastic visitors to its grand opening outside Westfield, and major infrastructure projects are planned for the Barcelona Harbor. The Routes 5 and 20 corridor in the town of Hanover will be transformed by a new hotel and water park. New businesses have been attracted to the region.
These projects are examples of regional public, private and community collaboration. But Kathy Tampio, executive director of the Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corp. had it right when she referred to the good news of funding and said, " now we've got our work cut out for us."
As Northern Chautauqua County grapples with tough issues like jobs, housing, transportation and the environment, concerned citizens are stepping up to provide talent, energy and resources to help turn the tides and influence positive change for our region.
Supporting all of this are private sector leaders of the LED Committee of the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation. The committee is part of the network working with governmental officials and educational institutions to confront our region's economic and competitive challenges.
Many hands and communities are coming together as part of an integrated network that involves citizens and members of the public sector, the private sector and our educational institutions. When this happens, each community gains from the others' strengths. We are all part of a much greater whole that involves all of Chautauqua County, and all of Western New York.
John Ames is a member of the LED Committee, which was formed by the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation in 2011. It is composed of private-sector leaders from communities within the Lake Erie watershed, from Ripley to Hanover. Since its inception in 1986, NCCF has distributed over $9.4 million in the form of grants and scholarships within the community. For more information, visit www.nccfoundation.org.