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Bent’s in Medina makes regional council’s funding list

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 October 2013 at 12:00 am

Site is lone Orleans project recommended for state dollars

Photos by Tom Rivers – The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council recommended state funding for the Bent’s Opera House, a building in Medina that is mostly vacant but is eyed for offices, a restaurant and performance venue.

MEDINA – A nine-county council has reviewed projects throughout the Finger Lakes region, which includes Orleans County, and recommended the state help pay for a new roof for the Bent’s Opera House in Medina. That is the lone project from Orleans to make the list.

The Orleans Renaissance Group wants the Main Street building, built during the Civil War, to have offices on the first floor, possibly a restaurant on the second floor, and a performance hall on the third level. The ORG applied for $500,000. The council didn’t specify a dollar amount when it recommended funding for the project.

Albion sought state funding to upgrade Bullard Park, while the county applied for state dollars for the Orleans County Marine Park. Other communities also sought funding for infrastructure projects. None of those were recommended for funding by the regional council.

The state is pressing communities to come up with projects that would create jobs. Just because the regional council didn’t recommend funding doesn’t mean the other local projects will be denied. And, just because Bent’s is on the list doesn’t mean the state will approve the funding. That announcement should come in December.

The Orleans Renaissance Group wants to restore the Bent’s Opera House, which includes a performance hall.

This is the state’s third year since it established 10 regional councils for municipalities and counties to first submit economic development projects. Orleans County, per capita, has not fared well in the new system. It has received the least state funding the first two years, $716,000, of the nine counties in the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.

On a per capita basis – the amount per resident – Orleans has been awarded $16.70 per person ($716,000 divided by 42,883 residents). I did a story about this last December when I was at The Daily News in Batavia, comparing how each county fared since the councils were created.

Genesee County actually ranked the worst of the nine counties in per capita funding through the council over the first two years: $15.27. Genesee has 60,079 residents and has been awarded $917,330 in state funds for economic development and community projects.

Genesee, however, could be a big winner this round.

The council has listed the STAMP project in the town of Alabama as a priority. Genesee is working to create a shovel-ready Science Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park. The 1,250-acre site would be used for nano-scale manufacturing.

Orleans County folks should be rooting for this project to come to fruition. If it happens, it would attract hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new high-paying jobs. Some of these new people may snatch up all of the grand old homes in our villages that could use an infusion of dollars.

These new people, with their high-paying jobs, would pump dollars into our businesses. We get the benefits of the STAMP without outlaying any local dollars to make it happen. Thank you, Genesee County, for working on this and investing millions of your own money. If you need water for this site, I think the folks in Medina would be willing to talk.

The regional council also wants to help make the Genesee Agri-Business Park “shovel ready.” That 211-acre site is in Batavia and already is home to two yogurt plants. That project has provided jobs to some Orleans folks while increasing demand for milk from our dairy farms.

Some local officials, including Orleans County Legislature Chairman David Callard, believe the new approach for doling out state dollars hurts the small, rural communities.

The money tends to go to mega-projects that tend to be few and far between in a rural area. The smaller communities also don’t have millions of dollars to plow into infrastructure, land acquisition, engineering studies, etc. (Genesee can pull it off because they get so much more sales tax than Orleans due to the Thruway and all of the Big Box stores.)

In Orleans, we don’t have grant writers on staff and enough other people to help put together projects, and move them along, while also working to line up local dollars.

We could use a community development director in Orleans County to help put together projects that excite the regional council. We need to spend a little to bring in more state resources to move the community forward.