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Legislature Approves Creation Of New Rural Assistance Program

 

Albany, N.Y.-- The New York State Legislature has given final approval to legislation sponsored by Senator George H. Winner, Jr. (R-C, Elmira) to establish a state matching grants program to encourage the development of cluster based industries and agribusinesses in the rural regions of New York State.

Winner, chairman of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources (LCRR), said that the approved legislation (S.3234/A.7125) recognizes that many areas of rural New York lag behind the rest of the state in employment growth and income. His proposed "Cluster Based Industry and Agribusiness Development Grant Program" would offer grants of up to $25,000, on a competitive basis, to provide seed money to community-based development corporations that will assist industry and agribusiness development, and foster jobs and economic revitalization in rural areas. The matching grants initiative would be administered within the state’s existing Rural Revitalization Program.

"We believe the proposed matching grants program will help retain jobs, create new jobs and encourage the growth and revitalization of many rural, upstate areas," Winner said.

According to Winner, cluster based industry and agribusiness development grants would be economically beneficial to rural New York by facilitating local economic development strategies oriented towards indigenous resources in rural areas, such as the grape-and-wine industry in the Finger Lakes region. Many rural communities face special challenges including limited access to capital, technological infrastructure, and an eroding employment base. Since viable industry and agricultural businesses are the core of sustainable rural communities, financial assistance to cluster based industry and agribusiness development is critical if local economies and markets are to realize their full potential to retain and create jobs.

Cluster based economic development builds on existing strengths of rural regions by helping existing businesses grab market share in a competitive world economy through the development of new products. For example, traditional textile mills have transitioned into advanced materials, such as Gore-Tex and Palactec. The legislation envisions strategic clusters such as biotechnology, glass, energy, information technology, specialized agriculture and rural heritage trail regions.

"Investment in research to bring new ideas and opportunities is essential," Winner said. "We’re seeking to encourage regional industry and agribusiness clusters to invest in laboratories and think tanks that engage in cutting-edge research. It’s no accident that fast-growth companies are concentrated around major universities that fuel a region’s innovative culture and entrepreneurial economy. We are fortunate to have several world-class universities and related educational institutions that are helping us build innovative clusters in rural regions of the state."

The legislation must be signed by Governor Eliot Spitzer before becoming law.