Fulton Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. said he wished he was in better health to celebrate his city’s $10 million win in the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative competition.
“If I could, I would do cartwheels down the middle of the street,” he said, pointing to the road in front of City Hall. “It’s a great day for Fulton.”
Fulton, a city with a long history and storied manufacturing background, will receive $10 million as the Central New York winner of the fourth round of the DRI. Fulton’s DRI win entitles the city to receive $10 million to revitalize its downtown neighborhoods and generate new opportunities for long-term growth.
Fulton now joins the cities of Oswego, Cortland and Auburn, which were the Central New York winners in the first three DRI rounds, respectively.
Fulton submitted an application for all rounds of the DRI and finally came out on top this year. “It shows you, you should never give up,” said Woodward, who is retiring as mayor at the end of December.
Fulton’s DRI plan details $90 million of past investments, while introducing a new list of projects that would provide more than $60 million of investment with a potential to create 571 new jobs and retain 495 jobs. Job creation, small business investment and a more accessible downtown is this year’s blueprint for success, according to the plan.
“I am thrilled that Fulton was selected to receive the DRI funding this year. In recent years, I have seen resurgence taking place at the grassroots level in Fulton,” said Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-Pulaski. “The city’s robust DRI application showcased these initiatives, the city’s natural assets and the potential of viable economic development projects. This award today is a testament to those local efforts and the resiliency of the great people here in this city.”
“The DRI will accelerate the kind of economic revitalization that is needed to improve downtown, Fulton’s waterfront areas and the overall quality of life for people here,” Barclay said. “As we’re seeing in Oswego, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative has the potential to transform a city for generations to come.”
“This is a beautiful day and I hope it’s raining money soon,” said county Legislator Frank Castiglia, D-Fulton.
Cuomo told the standing-room only packed community room at Fulton City Hall that the whole idea of the DRI is to let the local communities decide what they need to succeed — not having Albany or New York City tell them what to do.
“You tell us what you need — what’s your plan and we’ll help you reach that plan,” Cuomo said. “And Fulton has a brilliant plan.”
Fulton’s downtown plan includes offering services to boaters and tourists using the Oswego River so they stop in Fulton and patronize the taverns, restaurants and other businesses in downtown. Cuomo said the Fulton plan details how to repurpose the old Nestle chocolate factory site. “Amen to that, I say,” Cuomo said.
He said the Fulton plan includes expanding the drone industry, which already is taking off in the area, especially at the Oswego County Airport just outside Fulton. And it also includes bringing fiber optic lines to the city and downtown, which Cuomo said will draw more business because of fiber optic reliability.
“This plan is brilliant, smart. Kudos for those who developed that plan,” the governor said.
But through all of Cuomo’s kind words for the folks in the community room, the biggest hurrah came with his last sentence.
“With that, I want to announce Fulton has won $10 million,” he said.
The room erupted in applause, hand shaking, hugging, smiling and overall joy.
Fulton Common Council President Donald Patrick thanked the governor and everyone who worked on Fulton’s DRI application.
“The governor saw the same potential for downtown as we do,” he said. “We just needed a spark to reignite our efforts.”
When done with his talk, Patrick told Cuomo now he just needed to hand over the check. Cuomo laughed, saying the people of Fulton obviously don’t trust him to present the money.
“I was going to put it in the mail,” the governor joked.
The Central New York Regional Economic Development Council went through a competitive review process of proposals from communities throughout the region and considered all seven criteria below before recommending Fulton as its winner:
n The downtown should be compact, with well-defined boundaries;
n The downtown is able to capitalize on prior or catalyze future private and public investment in the neighborhood and its surrounding areas;
n There should be recent or impending job growth within, or in close proximity to the downtown that can attract workers to the downtown, support redevelopment and make growth sustainable;
n The downtown must be an attractive and livable community for diverse populations of all ages, including existing residents, millennials and skilled workers;
n The municipality should already embrace or have the ability to create and implement policies that increase livability and quality of life, including the use of local land banks, modern zoning codes and parking standards, complete streets plans, energy efficient projects, green jobs, and transit-oriented development;
n The municipality should have conducted an open and robust community engagement process resulting in a vision for downtown revitalization and a preliminary list of projects and initiatives that may be included in a DRI strategic investment plan; and
n The municipality has identified transformative projects that will be ready for implementation with an infusion of DRI funds within the first one to two years.
As in the first three rounds of the DRI, one municipality from each of the state’s 10 regional economic development regions is selected as a $10 million winner, marking another overall state goal to target $100 million in funding and investments to help communities boost their economies by transforming downtowns into vibrant neighborhoods where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise a family.
“We challenged local governments through the DRI process to propose innovative ideas to create jobs and drive economic growth,” Cuomo said. “Fulton proposed a strong and feasible plan, and with this award they will be able to unleash the full potential of this unique location on the Oswego River, revamping the waterfront and downtown corridor to make this city more prosperous for residents and for visitors.”