OC Grant Awardees Thankful, But Hoped for More

Regional Economic Development Council grants leave projects scrambling to fill gaps
December 12, 2015 Updated: December 16, 2015

The $90.4 million that was awarded by the state to the Mid-Hudson region was a much-needed injection into the economy, and many of the awardees of the state’s Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) grants are very grateful.

But some are now scratching their heads to figure out what they are going to do to close the funding gap after their requested amount, in some cases, fell far short of what they needed.

“We are very grateful that the state of New York has been gracious enough to accept our project as one of importance. However, there is a large gap considering our ask,” said Kenan Porter, one of the owners of Heritage Restoration Properties, LLC  in an email.

The company had asked for $475,000 to renovate the Clemson building in Middletown and received about half of that, which means they are looking at how to make up the difference. Porter and his family have already put in $1.5 million of their own money, he said.

“The gap will need to be filled by our original ask in order for us to move forward in the state of New York.”

The gap will need to be filled by our original ask in order for us to move forward in the state of New York.
— Kenan Porter, Heritage Restoration Properties LLC

The City of Port Jervis is likewise trying to figure out what to do after their request for $125,000 for a sewer system study and another $100,000 for a code review and update came in much less than requested.

The $25,000 needed to complete the sewer system study will have to be “matched by cash or in-kind by the city” and they are seeking another $50,000 for the code review and update from “additional funding sources,” the city said in a release.

Zheng Da Construction LLC had asked for $300,000 to renovate New Hope Farms, a former equestrian building, into a film and television production studio in Deerpark.

After receiving just a third of that Zheng Da representative Joe Wang said they are not sure about their next move. 

“On behalf of Zheng Da Construction LLC, I would like to thank Empire State Development Fund and the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council for selecting our project for funding,” he wrote in email. “However, since the funding granted is only a fraction of what we need, we are struggling to plan our next steps. We hope to find solutions to the financial shortfalls soon.”

The amount isn’t the important part, it’s that the state has bought into the project.
— Middletown Mayor, Joseph DeStefano

Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano had a more sanguine outlook on the city receiving $500,000 of the $11 million it will take to renovate the former psych center to be a community campus.

“The amount isn’t the important part, it’s that the state has bought into the project,” he said. “I take it as a very good sign.”

With the money awarded, he said it would be enough to cover the soft costs on the project of the engineering and architect designs, and that would lay the foundation for them to apply for longer-term funding for the project next year.

“With them giving us the seed money to get this project moving, I think this is a good sign,” DeStefano said.

He was also pleased about the $500,000 the county received to extend the Heritage Trail 10 miles from Goshen through Middletown and into Wallkill. With that funding, plus the $1 million recently awarded by the Orange County IDA, “that closed the funding gap on that,” he said after speaking with County Executive Stephen Neuhaus.

Some projects did get the full funding they asked for, like Gillinder Glass Brothers, Inc. in Port Jervis that asked for and received $60,000 to expand their facilities.

They say the expansion of their space will add 15 new jobs over the next five years, an “important part of the city’s efforts to bolster economic productivity,” the company said in an emailed statement.

“This project, which Gillinder Glass could not do on its own, will create a number of opportunities for unemployed and underemployed members of the community,” the statement said.

For those projects that were not fully funded, there may be more money coming. An additional $50 million will be awarded to the Mid-Hudson region in the 2016-2017 state budget, the governor said at the Dec. 10 REDC award announcement. This extra capital was given to the four upstate regions that did not win the “Best Plan” Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) award of $500 million.

Details on that will be announced in the coming months, said an official with the Empire State Development.

To contact this reporter, email holly.kellum@epochtimes.com

Follow Holly on Twitter: @HollyGailK