Governor announces more than $2 million coming to North Country

PLATTSBURGH In his first visit to the North Country since his election to office, Governor Eliot L. Spitzer came bearing welcome news. In what is part of his City by City plan for communities across the state, the governor announced $2.25 million in funding has been earmarked for the Plattsburgh International Airport and tri-county area. The announcement, made at Plattsburgh International Airport Oct. 18, disclosed $2 million in funding for the airport alone will go toward a retrofit of one 28,000-square-foot nose-dock hangar, including the installation of insulation, electric heat and doors. The funding will transform the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base hangar from a Cold War relic into a key tool for attracting investment to the airport and the region, said the governor. One obstacle to development is the airports existing hangars are nothing more than metal shells, Gov. Spitzer said. As they are, these hangars are not marketable for modern uses... This project will enable us to continue building on the momentum that is already happening right here at the airport, and to ensure that it has the infrastructure it needs to compete for investment in the global economy. In order for the North Country to remain competitive, added the governor, the region will also need to overcome one of its largest competitive disadvantages, the lack of affordable high-speed broadband access. Small businesses, the governor said, are hurt by slow Internet service, being unable to connect to customers in real time. Research institutions such as the Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake, are also affected, with scientists unable to send research files from their homes due to the less than productive quality of dial-up Internet service. Health care facilities such as Elizabethtown Community Hospital, added the governor, have felt a real impact on patient care, while other facilities have indicated poor communication infrastructure has even caused them to lose some of their best physicians. The lack of broadband access hold this region back in countless ways, said Gov. Spitzer. In an effort to correct that problem, the governor also announced funding the governor said will essentially benefit the citizens of Clinton, Franklin and Essex counties. A $250,000 commitment from the state level will assist a commitment at the federal level for preliminary planning to create an upstate broadband network. According to the governor, the design phase will last one year. The approximately 500-mile system will take three to five years to construct, but will ultimately result in a dramatic improvement in the quality of life for residents, he said. As we move from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, we must begin to think beyond traditional forms of infrastructure, said Gov. Spitzer. Our role must be to make New York State the most connected and technologically-advanced place to do business in the world. In many of the states rural areas, including the North Country, the governor said, the state is still a long way from that goal. The governors plan is part of a four-part strategy for rebuilding the upstate economy, which includes reductions in costs, a bolstering of strategic industries, strengthening of infrastructure and a revitalization of cities. Reductions in costs already made, said the governor, include the reduction of state workers compensation rates by 20.5 percent, creating an annual savings of $1.15 billion. Those reductions, he added, laid the foundation for reducing health care costs. The states Medicaid budget was further slashed by $1 billion, reducing what had been an 8 percent annual Medicaid growth rate to less than 1 percent, and reductions in property taxes totaling $1.3 billion the largest in state history were also achieved. The governor further stated a $1.8 billion increase in aid to higher learning institutions included the establishing of a rigorous accountability program to ensure the infusion of funding produces results. Gov. Spitzer further reported Empire State Development has produced its own results, with the assistance of upstate chairman Daniel C. Gundersen. In the past eight months, ESD has received pledges to create 2,900 jobs, retain 9,400 jobs and invest $1.45 billion of private equity in the upstate economy. New York has a stronger economy as result of what has been done in past nine months, said the Governor. The survival of the North Country economy and formation of the Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corporation, following the closure of Plattsburgh Air Force Base in 1995 has served as example to the rest of the state, said the governor. The loss was felt, he added, as the base served as the engine that powered the areas economy, employing 5,000 servicepersons and 1,000 civilians. Historians, novelists and poets have all written about New Yorks character, said Gov. Spitzer. A fundamental part of that character is the ability to band together in the face of adversity to come together and through ingenuity, guile, hard work, sheer force of will, build something stronger than was before. That is what happened in Plattsburgh and what has happened over the past 12 years. One report said it would take Plattsburgh 40 years to recover, if it ever did, the governor went on to say. But Plattsburgh did not lay down and die. Instead, you staged a remarkable comeback. State Assemblywoman Janet L. Duprey, R-Peru, who was one of several local leaders to meet with the governor prior to the press conference, agreed the greater Plattsburgh area has seen a glorious rebirth, with the additional state funding only furthering the renaissance, Were very please the governor came to the North Country and that he came with a checkbook, said Assemblywoman Duprey. Certainly, the continuing development here at PARC and affordable broadband access is essential to the economy throughout the entire North Country.

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