Of the 999 available seats in the Fonda-Fultoville Central School auditorium, only a dozen were filled for Tuesday night’s public outreach presentation by the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council.
Council Executive Director Kenneth Tompkins gave a short talk on the organization’s goals and what it has been up to since its creation just over a year ago.
“We want to create more jobs, more economic growth and a better local environment,” he said. “That’s the bottom line.”
The council is one of 10 recently started by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to create a “vision and strategy as a road map for state funds,” according to Tompkins.
The Mohawk Valley council consists of 30 local business owners, academics and government leaders from Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Otsego and Schoharie counties.
Tompkins ran through some of last year’s council projects and the plans they’ve been working on this year.
Two he mentioned specifically:
The council recommended the state provide $360,000 for expansions to Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, as well as $2.5 million for the possible construction of a fish farm in the Glen industrial park. Those and numerous other projects are currently awaiting state approval, set to be announced late this fall.
Last year the region was awarded $60.2 million in state funding for projects intended to expand industry and create jobs.
This year Tompkins hopes for improvement.
“We’re better prepared,” he said, explaining that since 2011 was the council’s first year, the members were still learning the ropes.
Of the handful that gathered in the auditorium, only two members of the general public, rather than the business or economic development community.
Etta Shea and her husband sat through the presentation, but were confused.
“It’s disappointing,” she said. “We only came because we thought they would talk about the fish farm.”
The possible fish farm project, like the others, could be discussed only casually.
Council member Wally Hart said in-depth discussion on specific projects was impossible because the state has not yet released a verdict on funding.
Tompkins said community outreach has always been a large priority for the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council.
Throughout the process he and other members have spoken at dozens of such meetings.
“Public participation is important to us,” he said, adding that they are always on the lookout for project ideas that could create jobs and general economic growth.
“A small turnout is always disappointing,” he said, “but we are committed to staying in contact with the area.”