Revitalizing southern tier with ARC

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a series of commentaries from governors of states comprising the Appalachian Regional Commission, an economic development agency for the region.

New York’s Southern Tier region is part of the rich, geographically diverse fabric that makes up New York State. It is home to highly sought-after educational institutions, a mix of innovative industries, more than 5,300 farms and nearly 5 million acres of forestland that contribute to climate mitigation and the State’s $22 billion forest industry. The largely rural Southern Tier has been experiencing a resurgence over the past several years ä a resurgence that has been fueled in part by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

The ARC was established in 1965 to help stimulate rural economies across the 13 states that stretch along the Appalachian region from the northern parts of Alabama and Mississippi to the Southern Tier of New York. New York’s ARC region, comprised of 14 counties largely in the Southern Tier, stretches from the Catskills to the Great Lakes. It represents 20 percent of the state’s geography but only 6 percent of the state’s population.

Over the past decade, New York’s ARC Program has awarded more than $36 million in ARC-sponsored grants for Area Development and Local Development District operations, as well as other ARC-related initiatives. It has helped to address the region’s shortage of health care professionals, to foster regional tourism, to encourage students and teachers to engage in STEM programs, and to abate the insidious crisis of substance use disorder.

As we continue our efforts to combat the impacts of COVID-19 and rebuild New York, ARC will continue to make a difference across the region by bolstering our bold agenda.  

New York State will continue to lead as the green energy capital of the nation through the ambitious goals we have set as part of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.  Arc’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative will help us build a bold green economy. The program will offer grants to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities by cultivating economic diversity, enhancing job training and re-employment opportunities, creating jobs in existing or new industries, and attracting new sources of investment.

New York is also working to ensure universal broadband access for all, especially in our rural areas. We learned through the pandemic that the key to success is about access, which today is attainable through broadband and the Internet. We will continue efforts to establish the first-in-the-nation requirement for affordable Internet for qualifying low-income families. As part of its broader goals, New York’s ARC Program is also focused on supporting projects to facilitate the expansion of internet and broadband access.

Responding to COVID while increasing community connectivity is not done in a silo. We will only be successful through the continued cooperation of federal, state and local government and private industry. The ARC supports Local Development Districts that work tirelessly to strengthen regionalism in planning to ensure that economic opportunity reaches all parts of New York State. The ARC program has been instrumental in upstate revitalization initiatives, including supporting downtown revitalization initiatives in several cities and towns to bring new business across the state’s ARC region. 

A perfect example of the Arc’s impact is illustrated in the revitalization of Watkins Glen, which first received an ARC grant in 2004 to develop a Business District Improvement Strategy and then in 2009 for a Lakefront Management and Development Plan for Schuyler County. These investments and strategies laid the groundwork, which led to $2.4 million in state investments through the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. This ultimately culminated in Watkins Glen being awarded with $10 million of New York’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds to accelerate the village’s economic resurgence.

As we look to the post-COVID world here in the Southern Tier, we are aiming high and dreaming big with a vision for a green economy and access for all. The ARC is an integral part of bringing this vision to life. I look forward to building a better future for this region of New York State and working together with our partners to make the ARC a vehicle to bring resources and prosperity to this region.


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