ELLENVILLE – There's nothing like a sunny day to raise the spirits. On Friday, May 12, a lively walkabout in the Village of Ellenville conducted by Mayor Jeff Kaplan served as the precursor for a presentation by Benjamin Syden of Laberge Group, in a Consolidated Funding Application workshop for the latest round of Regional Economic Development Council funding given by the Ulster County Office for Economic Development.
Mayor Kaplan was in his element, showing off the bright spots in downtown Ellenville, like the reinvigorated Cohen's bakery, and the restaurants on Canal Street. Later, the Mayor said, "I think people went away thinking that good things are happening in Ellenville, and we're not just stagnating. It's not a bed of roses, of course, but we are seeing synergies with the way restaurants have developed on Canal Street and that kind of thing, where one thing piggy-backs on another, is great."
After the walkabout, the assembled group of local business owners retired to the lobby at the Shadowland, where Syden talked about how best to compete in the grant writing world for the $800 million plus in state economic resources available to fund projects statewide.
Attendees then broke into two groups, one for the presentation and the second for a workshop on the CFA process, which opens funding streams from twenty different state entities, ranging from the New York Main Street Program, which Syden mentioned as being relevant to Ellenville, through Arts & Cultural Facilities, NYS/DEC Wastewater Infrastructure Engineering, and Green Innovation Grants to Energy Efficiency Programs, Empire State Development Grants and Market New York, which promotes tourism.
Katherine Gordon, known as "Miss Katie" for being director and head teacher at Ellenville Nursery School, took quite a few pointers. "It was extremely informative but it seems to me that something that takes as much time and effort as this could use a longer workshop," she observed. "I know I would need a little more time to work on some of these things. What I did learn, well... it seems a bit overwhelming to me, but I would need assistance with it." Gordon, however, did praise the presenters as being "extremely informational but it was light, not too harsh. I enjoyed it." And she pointed out how, with the nursery school having just received its official nonprofit status, they were open for new funding streams, including the possibility of working with other such schools around the area.
Eric Cafaro of Tony & Nicks' restaurant, meanwhile, said he was happy to see the county's involvement. "It was wonderful to see Suzanne Holt here and the county making a commitment and showing up like that, because it's often said that Ellenville doesn't get much attention from the county," he said. "The matching grants that were made available through the Ellenville million were a big help in completing our facade renovations at Tony & Nick's. I have to say, while the process can be complex, with lots of red tape, Ellenville really made it simple that time."
In the CFA workshop, Syden made several important points... particularly about the lateness of the timing for this year's funding applications. "We're on the cusp of being late for this year," he said, noting how all grant proposals have to be finished in a hurry and the application made within weeks now. Then he spoke about "building a funding quilt."
"No one source is giving out all the money for a project," he pointed out. "They want others to be part of the process." That, he further explained, means looking at your project and taking it apart to seek funding for one aspect of it here and another there, and so on. Perhaps some money could come from Market New York under the tourism umbrella, and more could be sought from the Empire State Development program, or the Excelsior Jobs Program. This is the upside of having so many faucets that can be turned on for grant money. Syden emphasized several times that "the state government wants to fund revitalization of whole regions."
Projects that reach beyond a single municipality, even a single county, will be favored. From the looks on attendees faces, not every participant came away encouraged. But it was educational, explaining the new economics to local leaders. And hopefully a boon for all our futures.