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ALBANY – The state on Wednesday awarded a five-county economic development program in Western New York $60.8 million. That’s $8 million more than last year’s incentive package of cash and tax breaks – but millions of dollars less in funding given to areas in the northern, central and southern regions of the state.

The $716 million worth of incentive packages for 10 regions of the state were announced during an event at a state theater near the Capitol, the third year in a row in which local officials come to Albany to hear their annual allotment from a pot of money ostensibly controlled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Long Island, awarded $83 million, received the highest level of funding.

The money for the Western New York region will be spread around Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties.

In 2011, the first year of the program, Western New York received $100.3 million in cash and tax subsidies.

Earlier this fall, the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council submitted to the state a wish-list of what it identified as 16 priority projects for the funding program. The list included requests for money for infrastructure projects along the Metro Rail line in Buffalo, helping Erie County buy 94 acres on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel site, converting a shuttered Niagara Falls fire station into a trades job training facility and providing funding for advanced computing systems at the University at Buffalo’s Center for Computational Research.

The governor used the event to tout the different regions of the state.

“Buffalo has a totally different energy about it, totally different outlook,’’ Cuomo said.

The other nine regions received the following financial packages: Finger Lakes ($59.8 million); Southern Tier ($81.9 million); Central New York ($66.9 million); Mohawk Valley ($82.4 million); North Country ($81.3 million); Capital District ($82.8 million); Mid-Hudson Valley ($59.6 million); New York City ($57.4 million); and Long Island ($83 million).

Other projects the Western New York council envisioned for state financial assistance included rebuilding the Lakefront Boulevard Seawall in Dunkirk, converting the former Rushford Elementary School in Rushford into housing and commercial space, improving the water system in northern Chautauqua County, creating a Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Center at Alfred University, relocating the Flying Bison brewery to downtown Buffalo, creating a center at Roswell Park Cancer Institute to developer a comprehensive gene test, and assisting the first Rare Earth Recycling Center in partnership with TAM Ceramics Group and several area colleges.

In September, the regional council also proposed spending money on restoring the original Allan Hershell Co. office building, demolishing a vacant supermarket in Lockport and replace it with a hockey arena and retail space and money for interior improvements at the Darwin Martin House.

It was not immediately clear which projects might have to be shelved or if the money can fund them all.

The regional council approach, in which 10 areas of the state compete for economic development assistance from Albany, is described by the Cuomo administration as a “bottom up’’ approach in which local officials and business leaders, with input from the Cuomo administration, pinpoint an area’s economic development needs. The overall funding levels are approved by the Legislature in the budget each year, but the specific levels are approved by the Cuomo administration.

“The process is an important part. It’s not just someone in an office in Albany or New York City making decisions,’’ said Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican.

The annual December event, much-hyped by the administration and complete with standing ovations, teleprompters and videos that promote everything from the governor to destinations in the state, again was hosted by business-television anchor Maria Bartiromo, who called Cuomo “our fearless leader.’’

The event each year allows all regions to walk away with money. Some are dubbed “Top Performers” and receive sizeable infusions of cash while others get amounts about two-thirds of the largest amounts.

In all, 824 projects around the state will get funding.



email: tprecious@buffnews.com