Delaware County makes an elevator pitch to Cuomo

Above: MARK Project director Peg Ellsworth, who serves on the Southern Tier Regional Economic Council, presents Gov. Andrew Cuomo with a gift basket of Delaware County goodies during the Governor's visit to the Southern Tier on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Peg Ellsworth.

This week, New York State's ten new economic development regions are doing their best to impress, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo makes a statewide tour. The ten regions were created by Cuomo's administration in 2011 as public-private partnerships to plan economic growth in the state.

On Wednesday, Cuomo paid a visit to the Southern Tier Economic Development Region, a region that includes rural Delaware County as well as Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins County. Last year, in a round of competitive grants to the state's ten economic development regions, the Southern Tier won a total of $49.4 million in state grants -- an infusion of cash into the region's economy, but also the lowest award made to any of the regions.

On Wednesday, members of the Southern Tier Economic Council hoped to impress the Governor with both progress reports on last year's grants, and a presentation of new plans that they hope his administration will fund in a new grantmaking round in 2013.

The Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin has some details on the Southern Tier's pitch for $38 million in state funding, which will include some large projects: $7 million for a high-technology incubator in Binghamton, $5.2 million for urban redevelopment in Elmira, $4 million for a transportation hub in Ithaca, $3.3 million for a manufacturing partnership between Endicott Interconnect and Binghamton University.

As a rural Catskill Mountain county at the far edge of the Southern Tier -- which touts itself as the birthplace to IBM and the home of universities like Cornell and Binghamton -- Delaware County isn't a place that tends to land these kinds of multi-million-dollar projects.

Peg Ellsworth, director of the Margaretville-based MARK Project, serves on the council along with several other county residents: Board of Supervisors chairman Jim Eisel and SUNY Delhi president Candace Vancko.

Ellsworth maintains that the big-ticket projects that make headlines in places like Ithaca and Binghamton don't serve Delaware County as well, because the county's economy is driven by its Main Streets -- for the most part, the habitat of small businesses that benefit from community revitalization projects or comparatively low-key small business grants.

"Our Main Streets are the backbone of our economy," Ellsworth said. "Some people look at small business as 25 employees or less. We look at small business as five people or less. These are the people who are rooted in our community, the entrepreneurs that take a chance."

In the picture above, Ellsworth said, she's handing Cuomo a few samples of local industry: A ceramic bowl from the Catskill Mountain Artisan's Guild, an autographed copy of a book by local historian Bill Birns, maple syrup from Shavertown Farms, and honey from Ballard's, as well as some brochures about the MARK Project's local grantmaking.

"Because Delaware County can't necessarily put forth the really sexy $3 milion projects, we can put forth several smaller projects that are proportionally equal with the bigger projects, compared to population. So it is comparable," she said. "That provides a leg up for our smaller downtowns, and that's where Delaware County is going to come out ahead."