Capacity challenge for economic development council

Nov 17, 2014

Through the Buffalo Billion and a number of other programs, there is a lot of state money pouring into Western New York . But there is a problem for small local governments without the staff to look for cash.

WNY Regional Economic Council
Credit WBFO News file photo

Officials of the Empire State Development Corporation and the Regional Economic Development Council have been sweeping around the region talking to local government officials and finding there is a problem.

Not only do many local governments lack planners or economic development officials, they often don't have local development corporations. That's leading to huddles among state officials on how to help, even considering asking universities to have graduate students handling grant applications.

ESDC Regional Director Christina Orsi said it's a problem.

"It really is a capacity challenge for them because they don't have full-time dedicated staff or the full-time economic development professionals to be able to do the complex work around pulling together projects and there's a lot of work that goes into getting a project ready before you can even apply for state funding, whether it's a, you know, major road infrastructure project or rehab of a basic historic property," said Orsi.

In the Southern Tier, local governments are running training programs so village and town officials can understand what the rules are and how to seek cash. It's also a problem in larger counties, with Niagara County Legislature Chairman Bill Ross saying county officials are helping small governments, which just don't have that capacity.