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Assemblyman Proposes Development Agency For Rural Areas

At least one state Assembly member thinks New York should do more to help rural communities find economic development dollars.

Assemblyman Robert Smullen, R-Herkimer, has introduced legislation (A.8136) to amend the state Urban Development Corporation Act to establish a Rural Equity Assistance Program to promote and facilitate community and economic development in small towns and rural areas of New York state.

“New York’s communities are as diverse as the people that live in them and require different approaches to meet their unique needs. While statewide economic development services have the potential to provide valuable resources to all areas of New York, the return on investment shows that we must alter our current approach. We must allow localities, specifically those in our rural areas, to access the tools and capital vital to accomplishing their homegrown goals without Albany getting in the way,” Smullen wrote in his legislative justification.

The program would include recommending available funding opportunities and assisting in the completion of the application process for grants and other funding opportunities. It would coordinate with the existing state Regional Economic Development Councils to avoid duplication of services.

Smullen wants to establish 10 Rural Equity Assistance Centers, spread across each of the economic development regions in New York. Each. center will be responsible for providing information on available funding opportunities and provide the technical assistance necessary during the application process. The state Empire State Development

Corporation is responsible for staffing each of the rural equity assistance centers with existing resources.

Beginning January 1, 2025, and annually thereafter, the president of the corporation would be required to submit a report detailing for legislators and the governor the program’s activities.

“The Rural Equity Assistance Program created in this legislation seeks to connect rural communities with available resources that have gone unutilized in New York’s current top-down approach due to lack of awareness of available funding, or lack of proper staff to manage applications. Through the rural equity assistance centers spread across the State, New York’s.rural communities and not-for-profits will be able to collaborate with state, federal, and private entities for funding that best suits the needs of their home,” Smullen wrote.

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