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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 18, 2007

Schumer Announces Senate Passage Of Bill To Promote Job Growth, Tourism, And Cross-Border Commerce To Upstate NY Border Communities


Currently, Counties Across the North Country and Adirondacks are in Need of New Jobs and an Influx of Investment to Spur Local Economic Growth

Comprehensive, Regional Approach Would Bring Federal Resources and Expertise to Upstate Communities but Give Oversight for Economic Development to Local Authorities

Schumer Announces Senate Passage of Bill that Would Bring $40 Million per year for Four Years in Targeted Federal Grants To Northeast Border Communities from Maine to New York

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced the full Senate has passed the Northern Border Economic Development Act of 2007 which will fuel economic growth across Upstate New York. Schumer’s Northern Border Economic Development Act of 2007 will bring economic grants and programs to targeted border communities across Upstate New York. The Senator stressed that while the bill will inject the region with federal grants to promote job growth, tourism and cross-border commerce, it also gives local authorities oversight to manage the investment funds.  

 

The goal of the commission is to address economic distressed areas along the Northern Border. The following counties in Upstate NY are considered primary counties and will benefit under the bill: Cayuga, Clinton, Franklin, Jefferson, Oswego and St. Lawrence. Continuous counties that will also receive grants due to their close proximity to border counties are Essex, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Oneida and Seneca counties.

 

“This is terrific news for New York State’s border communities who have historically played a vital role in transforming the Empire State into a national economic juggernaut and it’s essential that we take every action to make sure they remain financially healthy and offer local citizens good-paying jobs,” said Senator Schumer. “The bill provides targeted aid to border communities, giving local authorities on the ground the power to decide the best way to ignite economic growth across the region.”

 

In counties along the Northern border from Maine through New York  that are covered under the commission, 13.1% of the population lives in poverty, median household income is $7,500 below the national average, unemployment is significantly higher than the national average.  The population in this belt has actually decreased by 0.9% between 1990 and 2000, while the U.S. population rose by 13.2%.  The region shares many common economic challenges stemming from relative geographic isolation, aging infrastructure, and a loss of natural resource based industry that has historically been an economic engine.  However, the region also has a common set of assets, as well as historical and geographic ties with Canadian businesses and trading partners. 

 

Despite a national trend toward the creation of independent entities focused on regional economic development (i.e., the Appalachian Regional Commission which has existed for 40 years, the Denali Commission, Delta Regional Authority, and Northern Great Plains Regional Authority), and despite comparative economic statistics that show equal or greater  need  in the Northern border in relation to other existing or proposed Commission areas, there is currently no single regional economic development entity focused on the needs of the Northeast border region.

 

The Northern Border Economic Development Commission would invest in economically distressed communities.  It would create and implement regional economic development plans to reduce poverty, address changing land use, and improve the quality of life for residents.  The Commission would provide funding for projects that stimulate economic development and promote the historic character, sustainable development, and industries of the region. It would add to, but not supplant, existing institutions and programs such as the Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Forest Service, state agencies, and local development organizations.  

 

Schumer announced that a key aspect of the Commission is that it is designed to give local authorities the lion’s share of power to decide how to utilize the financial grants to spur local development.

 

The Commission utilizes the successful Appalachian Regional Commission model that facilitates a “bottom-up” approach where local development districts, non-profit organizations, and others bring project ideas and priorities to the Commission from the local level.  This model helps foster improved collaboration and coordination within a sub-state region and among federal and state agencies, while also serving as a vehicle to leverage additional public and private sector investments.  Ultimately, this approach ensures that actions reflect both local needs and regional economic development and sustainability goals.

 

The Commission will fund projects that both strengthen traditional sectors in the region’s economy and lead to a more diversified economy.  By taking a regional view, the Commission can promote projects that confer a broader benefit without states having to compete among themselves for scarce funds for the Northeast. The Commission would be an independent agency.  It will not be subject to another Federal agency’s mission requirements or shared goals with the rest of the country —only a mandate to promote projects that truly benefit the Northeast border region.

 

The Commission will be comprised of one Federal representative and the designee of the governors of the participating states. This structure requires the approval of both the federal representative and the governors, resulting in a joint policy-making model, instead of a one-way directive from Washington or an untargeted block grant structure.  The program is designed to bring federal resources, expertise and oversight to the table, with states maintaining firm control of economic planning for their states.

 

The Commission will be comprised of up to four state members – the governors or their designees from New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine – and a Federal member.  The Commission will take the following actions:

 

  • Duties – The Commission’s primary responsibility will be the approval of grants and economic development plans for the region.  In general, the commission is also responsible for:
    • Developing an area-wide regional plan and priorities.
    • Performing research, evaluation, and analysis.
    • Recommending forms of interstate cooperation and coordinating regional growth strategies with stakeholders.
    • Supporting and enhancing the activities of local development districts and non-profit organizations.
    • Promoting private investment in the region.
    • Publishing an annual report.
  • Grant Programs – The Commission will provide grants for projects that are consistent with local and regional development plan priorities.  Examples of what the Commission can fund include:

o       Community and economic development projects

o       Local planning and leadership development

o       Basic public infrastructure, including high-tech infrastructure and productive natural resource conservation

o       Information and technical assistance for the modernization and diversification of the forest products industry to support value-added forest products enterprises

o       Forest-related cultural and heritage tourism

o       Assistance for the region in obtaining job training, employment-related education, and business development

o       Small business or entrepreneurial development

o       Fostering alternative energy projects and industries

  • Authorization of Appropriations – The Commission is authorized at $40 million for each of fiscal years 2008 through 2012.  The Authority will have to be reauthorized after October 1, 2012.

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