FULTON — Government and business leaders left Fulton’s Municipal Building Wednesday with renewed faith in the future after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the city by the little lake will receive $10 million for economic development projects.
Officials packed the city’s Municipal Building for the governor’s latest announcement on Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) contest winners and praised the city’s perseverance after coming up short in three previous applications, calling it a “fantastic story” for Fulton.
“We are excited,” said a beaming Joe Fiumara, director of the Fulton Community Development Agency. “The perseverance paid off with four years of trying to win this grant.”
Fiumara, who sits on the committee that crafted Fulton’s “Blazing New Trails” DRI application, also congratulated the team of seven other local officials who helped complete the winning plan.
“As you can see by this turnout, we had a great team of eight who has worked together and put this plan together, and it was the community support that really put it over the edge,” he said.
Support from residents and members of the business community were integral to the success of the application, Fiumara said.
“We just had so much support from business owners and residents and visitors coming through Fulton,” he added. “We are just so happy that it all came together.”
The current application — which consists of 26 projects meant to reinvigorate Fulton’s downtown — will undergo further review in six months from a committee of state and local officials and a private consulting firm, to be announced. The committee will determine funding for different projects, but officials were quick to note projects are subject to change and new projects may also arise.
“We submitted 26 [projects], but our team of appointed members — along with members of state agencies — will get together and review these projects before they are funded,” Fiumara said. “In the next few weeks we’ll try to hone in on those projects.”
Operation Oswego County Executive Director Mike Treadwell said he is excited to see the process move forward and observe the evolution of the DRI, pointing to the addition of the Litatro building to Oswego’s DRI plan as one of its strongest assets.
“In about six months, a consulting firm comes in and the projects will be reviewed and looked at and there are opportunities for projects that did not show up to develop and come in,” he said. “Allocation of those dollars will be based on the nature of those projects.”
Fulton city councilor Sam Vono, R-4th Ward, had a colorful way of describing the city’s trajectory.
“We’ve gone through a depression again and now we’re climbing out of the ashes,” he said.
Treadwell, a member of the central New York Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) who contributed to Fulton’s application portfolio, said the city could model itself after surrounding communities Oswego, Auburn and Cortland that have already won DRI awards and are now years into carrying out the projects.
Having been involved in all four rounds of the DRI application, Treadwell said Fulton finally found the right combination of proposals for projects.
“Fulton had an extremely strong application this year because of the diversity of projects they had — the bed and breakfast, the Nestle site and projects associated with quality of life in the city and with manufacturing,” Treadwell said.
Aside from private investment, Oswego County Director of Tourism David Turner said tourism could see a boost and could benefit from projects such as the proposed café and coffee house that could be built on South Second Street and the proposed construction of a new brew pub in downtown Fulton.
“Little amenities like that can create a destination,” he said. “Not every place is a Disney World or a Saratoga Springs, but every place is unique. It’s small amenities like that that make people stay here and spend money.”
Katie Toomey, executive director of the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, said the gears toward the DRI award were already turning thanks to renewed confidence among Fulton’s private businesses.
“At the end of the day, there are a lot of projects that are coming to fruition, no matter what,” she said. “There is already a lot of investment and a lot of funding and that is really going to help us out.”
Oswego County Legislature Chairman James Weatherup was hopeful the DRI funding would “spur further growth, bring more visitors and solidify Fulton’s role as a jewel on the waterfront.”
"Thanks to Governor Cuomo's Downtown Revitalization Initiative and the work of the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council, Fulton is looking at great things in the future,” Weatherup said.