Murphy outlines actions in 2021

James Murphy, executive director of the Massena Business Development Corporation, highlighted some of the organization’s work to the Massena Town Council during a budget workshop. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — When the executive director of the Massena Business Development Corporation appeared before the Massena Town Council to request funding for 2022, he had a long list of activities taken on by the BDC this year.

James Murphy requested and received $75,000, which he said was a 25% reduction from their traditional funding from the town.

“The BDC did work at a deficit this year because of the loss of town and village funding. We’re hoping to recoup some of that in fees and other ways. My board has voted again for next year to absorb any of the deficit that comes beyond the $75,000,” he said.

But, Mr. Murphy said, that didn’t deter the organization from taking care of business.

“What I always look at is the return on the investment for the $75,000. I think you can see we administered two major and complicated grants for the community in 2021, which brought nearly $500,000 in for the community,” he said.

Among the programs that Mr. Murphy said was “highly successful” was a microenterprise grant program.

“This week I gave out $108,000 to five businesses that were either very small or just getting started,” he said.

Among them was a new business on Small Road which will end up as a $300,000 to $400,000 business when it’s up and running.

“What the microenterprise grant did is it planted that seed that allowed this guy to get started. He’s been working very hard, and if you go by his place, you’ll see giant grain storage containers. Well, this grant paid for that. It paid for eight washing machines and other things that really helped his business,” Mr. Murphy said.

He said, within two to three weeks, all the microenterprise grant money will be distributed in the community. It has to be completed by Dec. 10.

He said an asbestos abatement effort at the former Schine Theater was $300,000, and the BDC was a part of that. Now the Massena Arts and Theater Association is working to restore the marquee and have that placed back in front of the building.

“That is now ready to take the next stage forward. I think that was central to the downtown DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) to develop this cultural center downtown, and I think that’s going very well,” he said.

Mr. Murphy said that, because the town had never had the types of grant funding that are now coming in, he had to rewrite some laws to include areas such as the town’s procurement policy, equal opportunity legislation, fair housing policies and limited English proficiency policies.

“I had to write these for the town in order to access the funding. The good news is we will never have to do that again,” he said.

He has also been involved with the town’s fishing initiatives. The BDC has been requested to apply for a $186,000 Market New York grant.

“Basically, this is how I work, if somebody needs something or if there’s a problem to be solved, all you have to do is ask, and that covers a wide range,” Mr. Murphy said.

“The $186,000 grant if we get it will go a long way toward a very aggressive marketing plan that Jason Hendricks and I put together with Sam (Carbone). It will also provide funding for operations, pay some of the fees that we had to cover as a town. And the thing I’m most excited about is a portion of the grant will be used to do a true measure of the economic impact that these events are having because that’s critical as we go forward to get more funding and support to show other than just anecdotally what the impact is,” he said.

He said the BDC also worked with the Massena Electric Department on a $24,000 grant for two additional electric vehicle charging stations, and he’s currently working with Brenda Mossow, the town bookkeeper, to get reimbursement for a grant for the dog park near the Massena Intake. He’s also been involved in the coordination of grant funding for infrastructure at the Massena International Airport.

“It would be great if we would get that,” Mr. Murphy said.

He said he has also worked with at least 45 to 50 businesses “on all sort of things, and has been asked to work with the county on a housing rehabilitation home ownership program, as well as St. Peter’s Outreach Ministry to help them find a space where they can run their Christmas program.

“They know that I keep an inventory available of commercial space, and we’ve been going around trying to figure that out,” he said.

Former Councilor Robert Elsner said he appreciated the BDC and Mr. Murphy’s efforts.

“I appreciate you and your board’s efforts to work within our limitations. I think it was a bad thing that we lost the funding from the village. But I think we recognize as a board that for every dollar that you give us for that grant, that’s one less dollar that we have spend on something and we’ve made significant improvements in this town,” he said.

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