Southern Tier West Hears Pre-Application Projects

SALAMANCA – Every year, the members of Southern Tier West Regional Planning Board hear proposals from entities looking to take advantage of Appalachian Regional Commission grants. This year’s crop of six were some of the best in recent years, according to one board member.

Projects centered around development of career-ready ability and job training in different aspects of manufacturing, as well a wellness, ranging from childhood to food systems, and one project looks to rebuild infrastructure that could retain major employers in one village.

Projects presented by Pioneer Central School and Alfred State College have different means in arriving to the same place. Both are looking for a pathway to better prepare their students to enter the workforce in a capacity to hit the ground running. Both programs center around manufacturing practices.

Under the project plan from Pioneer, Sharon Huff, district superintendent, said the programs already in place within the district have given Pioneer students a leg up on their competition for advanced manufacturing jobs and placement in technical schools.

“We have a baseline program that has us ranked very high, in terms of career technical education programs,” she said. “Pioneer has seven such programs. Most other districts in the region have three or four.”

The school is asking for an undisclosed amount in aid to continue to bring their students to a level of competency to be able to go into the community and fill the jobs that are needed. One such program has already aided in landing a student in the district an internship that has the promise of a job, and college assistance, from a local manufacturer, simply on his skill and work ethic, both paths that Pioneer would like to build in all students.

A project that would do the same thing, but in Wellsville, would give students at Alfred State College experience with building and installing sustainable commercial and industrial scale buildings, as well as help to build their efficiency in advanced manufacturing areas.

“We will be building a zero-energy building that will be completely offset by renewable energy,” said Craig Clark, Alfred State professor. The project would incorporate installation experience on a large scale, for such areas as photovoltaics, geothermal and others.

Creating a competent, fully equipped workforce to step into the skilled positions that will soon open as an entire generation looks at retirement form such regional industries as Dresser Rand and Koike Aronson is only one step in continuing to build a regional workforce. Part of the equation to build into a showcase region is to produce a healthier society. Two grant applications want to do just that.

Officials from the YMCA of the Twin Tiers offered an approach that would start young, with behavior modification in youth, in elementary grades. The plan, a data-driven program that has generated results in other YMCA facilities around the country, offers an after school program that gets kids out and exercise, but also to help to educate children on making healthy choices, and to be able to take the information home to their parents to make healthy choices in making meals.

The proposed project would pay for the licensing fee and staff to operate the program at six sites, two in Olean and one each in Wellsville, Hinsdale, Allegany and Portville. The program will serve about 400 children, according to Mary Miller, youth services director. The after school portion would be four times a week for about 26 weeks.

Another project, from the Southern Tier West offices, would help in bringing the fresh, healthy foods to schools and to the homes of the students that would be served in the YMCA proposal. For the past year, the Planning Board has been very active in developing a network for the 17 farmers markets throughout the three-county region. This new grant would help to grow that consortium into more of a solid network to offer cooperation between markets while still maintaining their individual identities Kim LaMendola, project director, told the board members.

“We would like to be able to generate video to highlight producers throughout the region,” she said.

The video would be a production to aid in telling the story of the food system, showing market-goers from where their food comes. The grant would also be used to maintain the network.

A project submitted by the village of Westfield would see major upgrades to their wastewater plant. The facility is oversized to accommodate use by the village’s 3,500 people, as well as three large grape industry businesses. The total size accommodation would be the equivalent of about 100,000 people, according to Michael VandeVelde, village mayor.

The plant, built in 1977, is in need of major upgrades to accommodate the increase in flow from the grape industries, who already foot about 81 percent of the bill for the facility’s operation. According to engineering estimates, the project, if done in full, would cost the village and its taxpayers $4.534 million; raising taxes and usage to an amount that the grape producers would not be able to sustain, forcing them to leave the area for better rates.

The project would be partially funded through the ARC grant, but the village has also applied for funding through the Consolidated Funding Application through Empire State Development, as well as being willing to put in their own funds to help make the project a reality.

Finally, the board heard a proposal from Jamestown Community College that would aid in partnering local businesses, through social media consultants, to help build better marketing on the Internet. The project would offer such services as website development, social media development in areas like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as consultancy on effective use going forward. The project would offer classes through the continuing education portion of the college’s mission.

Decisions on the projects, as well as final approval is not expected until later this year.