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New York State is making available up to $760 million in economic development resources, and regional officials want to ensure Western New York makes its best pitch for funds.

The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council is encouraging applicants – including businesses, nonprofits, municipalities and educational institutions – to submit their projects for the latest round of funding awards by the Aug. 12 deadline. The requests will be evaluated, and the state will announce recipients in December.

“It’s about making the best use of the state funds to advance our strategy,” said Howard A. Zemsky, the regional council’s co-chairman.

That regional strategy centers on three themes: preparing the workforce for available jobs, implementing “smart growth” rather than promoting sprawl and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship.

Western New York is targeting growth in eight industry sectors: advanced manufacturing, agriculture, binational location/logistics, energy, health/life sciences, higher education, professional services and tourism.

So funding applications would ideally match up with a theme or industry sector the regional council emphasizes, said Christina P. Orsi, the council’s executive director. Projects from the region will receive an as-yet-undetermined share of the $760 million in grants, tax credits and other economic development resources the state is making available.

This is the third year of the state’s revamped system for distributing economic development funds. The new method is supposed to streamline the process and make it “bottom-up,” allowing each of 10 regions to set their own growth priorities based on their strengths.

During the system’s first two years, 154 Western New York projects were awarded $153.1 million in funding. The Western New York territory consists of Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.

A couple of examples from last year’s recipients were $600,000 for the Finishing Trades Institute of Western and Central New York, to support training of skilled contractors, and $450,000 for a Niagara Falls initiative aimed at attracting young professionals to live in the city, an example of a “smart growth” project.

The $760 million in available statewide economic development support comes from more than 30 programs across 13 state agencies. Some programs are more restrictive than others about who can apply for the funding.

Of the $760 million, $150 million will be awarded to the state’s 10 regions on a competitive basis. The five regional economic development plans rated the best will each receive up to $25 million, while the other five will split the remaining $25 million.

“For us, it’s important to kind of shake the bushes, so to speak, and try to make sure people apply,” Zemsky said. “The more robust our applications are, the better the opportunity that we have to submit a plan that’s got projects that line up with this strategy.”

Orsi said the regional council has worked to ensure projects from all five Western New York counties benefit from funding, “but only those that align with our plan. There’s been applications that don’t, and we don’t recommend them” for funding.

Zemsky said projects seeking funds “should be kind of ready for implementation. They shouldn’t be pie-in-the-sky ideas or an inkling or something that might happen in five years.”

Information on applying for funding through what is formally known as the Consolidated Funding Application is available online at https://apps.cio.ny.gov/apps/cfa.

Workshops are planned for Monday in Niagara Falls, July 22 in Olean and July 22 in Jamestown. Details are at http://regionalcouncils.ny.gov/content/western-new-york.

Separately, applicants are encouraged to seek funding through the Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board’s regional economic development fund. Eligible projects must be in New York State within a 30-mile radius of the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston. The next application deadline is in September. Details are at http://www.nypa.gov/wnyppab.html.

email: mglynn@buffnews.com