Four local projects named economic development priorities

A man looks through a telescope in August as thousands flocked to the Adirondack Public Observatory to view the solar eclipse. The observatory has been named one of four local projects that are economic development priorities by the North Country Regional Economic Council, improving their chances for state grants in a contest between New York’s various regions.
(Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

A man looks through a telescope in August as thousands flocked to the Adirondack Public Observatory to view the solar eclipse. The observatory has been named one of four local projects that are economic development priorities by the North Country Regional Economic Council, improving their chances for state grants in a contest between New York’s various regions. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

Four Tri-Lakes enterprises have been named to a list of “priority projects” by the North Country Regional Economic Council, improving their chances for state grants in a contest between New York’s various regions.

These include almost $300,000 toward an Astro-Science Center at Tupper Lake’s observatory as well as three businesses projects in the Saranac Lake area seeking a little more than half a million dollars in total: a biotech firm, a restaurant renovation and a bug repellant maker.

Two Hamilton County projects are also on this year’s list, along with three in eastern Essex County, one in Clinton County, three in St. Lawrence County, three in Lewis County and five in Jefferson County.

These applicants will find out in December if they get the grants.

Priority projects

The Adirondack Public Observatory in Tupper Lake seeks $299,600 toward its $1.5 million project to develop blueprints and engineer schematics for a LEED-certified Astro-Science Center. The museum, situated in the heart of the Adirondack Park and boasting some of the darkest skies on the East Coast, has designs for a sprawling, multi-use museum complete with a planetarium, lecture hall and many telescopes. Observatory President Carol Levy and Vice President Seth McGowan have said they hope the museum would be a place for kids in the Adirondacks to connect with the universe, a tourist destination similar to the Wild Center nature museum and an astrological research hub in the Northeast, all in one.

Bionique Testing Laboratories, located in the Harrietstown business park in Lake Clear, is seeking to upgrade existing equipment to improve their mycoplasma testing services. Mycoplasma is a type of bacteria that lacks a cell wall, so it is unaffected by common antibiotics. The smallest bacteria yet discovered, it can change shape and pass through a cell wall. Mycoplasma is involved in antibiotic-resistant or atypical strains of diseases from pneumonia to lung cancer. The laboratory project is expected to cost $1.5 million. Grant funding recommended by NCREDC is $300,000.

Chicota Inc., owned by Calli Shelton and Randy Coles, is seeking $198,972 toward a total project cost of $2.2 million to renovate the former Dew Drop Inn building at 27 Broadway, on the Saranac River in downtown Saranac Lake. The company expects to create 36 jobs by reopening the downtown landmark, which will include short-stay apartments upstairs, a restaurant-bar, an event space and a cooking school. The village plans to reroute its River Walk alongside the new restaurant’s dining patio.

Carpe Insectae is upgrading machinery and equipment used to manufacture its insect repellents, made from natural oils. NCREDC recommends state funding of $13,880 toward the total project cost of $69,400.

“We’re expanding; we’re growing,” said owner Randy Cross. The business opened four years ago and says it currently exports 50 percent of its product to Canada. Cross said it has five part-time workers.

The biggest grant request in the North Country comes from Blue Mountain Lake in Hamilton County, where Schroon Realty seeks $5.9 million toward building a $20 million four-star hotel with 51 rooms and 24 adjacent “glamping” (glamor camping) units.

Farther south, Adirondack Hamlets to Huts Inc., which has a storefront in downtown Saranac Lake, is requesting $365,000 toward a $1.825 million project to establish a hut-to-hut circuit between Indian Lake and North Creek. The idea is to give travelers “various accommodation options, including a 48 person eco-lodge hostel,” according to the NCREDC’s 2017 progress report.

Other seven-figure grant requests in the North Country this year include $3.3 million to improve Lowville’s wastewater treatment plant and $2.6 million to do the same in Ogdensburg, $1.46 million for a sewer connection and $1.25 million for a business complex at Watertown’s airport, $2 million toward building a hotel at Plattsburgh’s airport, $1.7 million for new equipment at International Paper’s Ticonderoga mill and $1.32 million toward building an affordable resort in Louisville.

Lower priorities

Many other grant requests are included below the level of priority projects in the North Country REDC’s request, but they would only be funded if the region wins more than the basic amount of money. The NCREDC progress report glosses over them rather than listing them.

They include money to help Lake Placid host the 2023 World University Winter Games and 2021 Special Olympics Winter Games, both of which it is bidding for, and to further upgrade the Adirondacks’ Olympic winter sports venues. Two years ago, the North Country made Lake Placid Olympic sports venue upgrades a bigger part of its bid and did not win funding for it.

Also in the Adirondacks, the REDC would seek money to implement the state’s controversial 2016 unit management plan for the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor, where 34 miles of tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake would be replaced with a multi-use trail and 45 miles of track between Big Moose and Tupper Lake would be upgraded for passenger train service. A state judge recently shot this plan down by ruling in favor of a lawsuit by the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society.

These lower priority projects would also include more broadband internet cable in the North Country, more investment in and around the Fort Drum Army base, rehabilitation of the bridge between Ogdensburg and Prescott, Ontario, and road improvements in downtown Malone.

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