Citizen File Photo:  Tim Gaul speaks to members of the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council during a tour of Cayuga Milk Ingredients in 2015.

It’s State Budget time!  New York’s 2017-18 budget is due for passage by the State Legislature and for a signature from the Governor sometime in early April.  Along with that, comes hundreds of millions of dollars of State aid to municipalities and school districts, funding for infrastructure projects, and economic development incentive opportunities from Empire State Development (ESD).

Barring any significant changes over the next couple of weeks, it is likely that the current make-up of the Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) and the process through which a business seeks incentive opportunities, the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA), will remain the same.

For a little background, in 2011 Governor Cuomo established the 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) of New York State.  This regional approach to economic development is a bottom-up, community-based strategy, which guides the State’s funding decisions.   Since no two regions are alike, each region has developed its own strategic plan for spurring investment and creating jobs.  Growing businesses that are expanding, making a significant capital investment and creating jobs would apply for incentives through the State’s Consolidated Funding Application (CFA).

There are two major misconceptions that I often hear while working with Cayuga County’s businesses:

  1. Only large corporations that are politically connected can access State incentives, or
  2. There is free money that is easy to get. Where’s mine?

Politics aside, the incentives are what our lawmaker’s have given us to work with.  In an attempt to clear up the two misconceptions mentioned, I want to outline the basics of the Empire State Development (ESD) grant accessed through the CFA.

ESD is New York’s economic development department.  One of their more popular incentives for businesses is the ESD grant.  This grant has the ability to incentivize a business investment by offering funding, typically 10-20% of a total project cost, which is reimbursed to the company at the completion of the project and once the job creation figures are met.  Investments that are eligible are equipment purchases and leasing, building and land acquisition, construction (new and rehabilitation), and site and infrastructure development, along with covering soft costs (engineering, architect, etc.) of a project.

The CNY REDC has focused on a number of regional priorities and targeted industries in order to score CFA applications and rate projects in our area.  Some of the CNY REDC target industries align with a fair amount of existing businesses in our county, such as tourism, manufacturing, financial services, and agribusiness.

I encourage any business in Cayuga County to contact me to discuss opportunities for assistance with expansion projects.  Businesses of all sizes that are within the regional targeted industries have an advantage in accessing the ESD grant.  For example, we have had many locally owned, family run businesses apply for and receive ESD grant incentives for expansion projects: Aurora Shoe Co., Springside Inn, CIDEC, Currier Plastics, Bo-Mer Plastics, and Cayuga Milk Ingredients to name few!  These businesses are owned and operated by our neighbors and employ hundreds of people locally; these are not large corporations with the decision makers and shareholders living in another state or country.  Total project costs for these examples have ranged from $450K of investment up to $104M.

I do not want to mislead you that it is as easy as a phone call to CEDA to access the ESD grants.  Businesses must go through a pretty time consuming application process (the CFA), which should take place this summer, and then you are required to wait until the end of the calendar year to find out if your project has been awarded funding.  Successful businesses have to track and log some hefty paperwork, keep strict accounting over monies spent (naturally, these are taxpayer dollars), and hit their job creation figures.  Though challenging to acquire, the ESD grant is often the incentive covering the financial gap that keeps our local businesses’ projects from becoming realities.  Ultimately, this award leads to additional employment and a larger tax base in Cayuga County!

Our role at CEDA is to assist you with the technical side of the CFA process and help guide your business through any other local, state, or federal assistance that is available.  Currently, the CNY REDC is looking for businesses and non-profits with potential investment projects in the coming year to complete the Intent to Propose form online at:  Please contact CEDA so that we can assist you in this year’s process.

Bruce Sherman is an Economic Development Specialist at CEDA. (315) 252-3500 or

Published in the March 23, 2017, edition of The Citizen.