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Archive for February 5th, 2010

I had forwarded a digital copy of the AIDA strategic plan that was established last January to our Common Council and new AIDA Board. I expect that the new board will review the document and decide what is pertinent and what is not. It is a necessary tool for AIDA board members and the Council to evaluate staff performance. It is important to determine what parts of the organization are highly functioning and what is lacking. I posit that the grant writer, Nick Zabawsky, has been extraordinarily successful in garnering funds for economic development for the City. Unfortunately, the new board has decided to retroactively eliminate the grant writer as of January 1, 2010.

Economic development in this City is the reason AIDA was formed.

My concern is that we have nineteen open grants at various stages of implementation totaling $9.6M. Grants have been instrumental in driving projects as diverse as storm/sewer separations, street reconstruction, park enhancements, brownfield redevelopment, neighborhood revitalization and marketing. These initiatives would be facilitated by a Community and Economic Development Department, but since the former administration decided to eliminate the CEDD, we have no one to shoulder this responsibility. These grants would not be written or administered by any current department head as the grants are not specific to any particular department, not to mention the fact that most department heads lack the expertise to simply take off where this experienced grant writer has left off.

AIDA is the City’s only existing economic development arm.

Additionally, there are three upcoming grants that should be worked on now including the HOME program ($400,000), the CDBG program ($400,000), and the NYSERDA program ($500,000). The three grants alone represent $1.3M in funds that the City could very likely garner. Amsterdam has had great success with the HOME and CDBG programs in the past, and there is every reason to believe that there would be future success. The City has been averaging over $2M a year in new grants over the past 4 years and golden opportunities are being lost.

All of these grants required complex interim and final reporting, tracking, and project management. It is essential to note that for every one dollar spent to hire this grant writer, we receive approximately $74 in awarded grants. While I appreciate the budget difficulties AIDA may be having, I feel they should have had a discussion with the Council before making this decision as it has far reaching consequences operationally for the City.

It is my hope that the Council may meet with the AIDA Board to discuss their strategic plan, our symbiotic relationship, and how we will move forward. I am waiting to hear back from AIDA Chairman Dan DeRossi as to when we may hold a joint meeting. Perhaps an alternative scenario that is advantageous for all can be worked out. This is vitally important to the taxpayers of our city as we try to figure out how the City will emerge from this difficult economy.

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