Gov. Cuomo checks progress of northern NY grant winners - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Gov. Cuomo checks progress of northern NY grant winners

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo boards a bus in Plattsburgh, but he's not here to leaf peep. He's continuing his statewide Regional Economic Development Council Progress Tour to see firsthand how the competition has impacted the North Country. Last year, it took second place out of the 10 regions, grabbing $103 million to spend on 70 projects to create jobs and revitalize communities.

"These are investment opportunities," said Cuomo, D-New York. "We are rigorous to make sure the taxpayers are getting their money's worth."

First stop-- the Strand Theater which received close to $400,000 to nearly complete its $4 million fundraising goal.

"A lot of times you wouldn't think about this as an economic development project, but if you are thinking about really restoring the overall community and revitalizing the community," Cuomo explained.

The Strand is scheduled to reopen this spring for the first time in nearly a decade.

"Maybe I'll perform," Cuomo said. "I sing and dance, that's my day job."

The governor also visited the Bombardier rail car plant in Plattsburgh, which is in the midst of a $25 million expansion project-- $2.5 million of that is being funded through the competition. Company officials say without the expansion, they could not stay competitive or guarantee continued employment for the plant's 400 workers. Now, they are looking to add another 100 jobs in the near future.

"We are looking to expand to doing business with other cities; from Los Angeles, Miami, Boston to Seattle," said Bob Furniss of Bombardier Transportation. "This will be our base to build and assemble these vehicles. We need to be competitive, we need the space, we need the quality workforce."

This year, the council has 21 priority projects, including a new slaughterhouse in Ticonderoga. Also on the list-- a natural gas pipeline from Vermont to the International Paper Mill in Ticonderoga.

"It would save employment," said Donna Wadsworth of International Paper.

Right now, the plant relies on fuel oil for energy. But with soaring fuel prices, IP says it has become very difficult to remain competitive. So they are working with Vermont Gas to extend a pipeline underneath the lake to ensure the plant stays open.

"There are about 600 employees at the plant and an additional 600-700 independent truckers and loggers all throughout the Adirondacks and Green Mountains who earn their living by bringing timber to the mill," Wadsworth said.

A region seeing investments paying off and hoping they continue to revitalize the North Country.

The winners for this year's prizes will likely be announced in November.

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