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OCC, SUNY-ESF win $20 million grant for water-research center at Inner Harbor

By Eric Reinhardt


SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) and Onondaga Community College (OCC) have won a $20 million grant as part of the NYSUNY2020 program.

The schools will use the funding for a SUNY Water Research and Education Center in Syracuse’s Inner Harbor.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement Tuesday morning inside a packed boat house at the Inner Harbor.

The local grant announcement is part of $55 million in state funding that will benefit a total of five projects statewide in the third round of NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant program.

“The competition is basically about what school can come up with the most creative plan to advance their educational agenda, but also create jobs,” Cuomo said in speaking to local reporters after the Inner Harbor event.

As part of legislation Cuomo signed in August 2011, the NYSUNY2020 program “will help New York’s public universities become a leading catalyst for regionally-focused economic development while maintaining affordability and improving academic quality for all students,” his office said at the time.

The SUNY Water Research and Education Center will bring research, educational opportunity, tourism and sustainable development to the shores of Onondaga Lake, Cuomo’s office said in a news release announcing the grant.

Scientists from SUNY-ESF, the DeWitt–based Upstate Freshwater Institute and the Syracuse–based Onondaga Environmental Institute will monitor changes to the lake ecosystems.

“This SUNY2020 Challenge Grant investment will make a substantial difference in research, education, and economic development in the lake and region,” Quentin Wheeler, president of SUNY-ESF, said in his remarks.

The project is a 34,000-square-foot building that the developer will target for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification, Cuomo’s office said. The project is part of the ongoing Syracuse Inner Harbor revitalization initiative.

The state projects the short-term economic impact of upcoming center at $37 million with the creation of 532 temporary jobs.

It also projects the long-term economic impact at an estimated $11 million annually, as the state expects the new center to create and sustain 186 permanent jobs, according to the news release.

The grant award will also include a new tax-free zone through the START-UP NY program.

START-UP NY is Cuomo’s offer to new or expanding companies and business ventures to operate completely tax-free in areas on or connected to SUNY campuses.

“The concept is most of the jobs are coming out of higher-educational facilities, so there’s a partnership between the startup program [and SUNY schools] … this puts it all together,” Cuomo told reporters.

Cuomo’s office contends that companies will be attracted to the center in connection to the START-UP NY program and on-site research allowing for future expansion and job growth.

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