- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 13, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Christmas came early for economic development officials across New York state Wednesday with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration announcing $755 million in funding for hundreds of local efforts to boost the state’s business climate.

The state’s 10 economic regions will split the money, intended to support job training, subsidies for expanding businesses, funding for community organizations and other local economic initiatives. Under Cuomo, the annual awards have become a key component of the state’s efforts to help the economy statewide - and in upstate in particular.

“New York is more business friendly than ever before,” the Democratic governor said before the awards were announced.

This year’s big winners include central New York, the Mohawk Valley, the Albany region, the mid-Hudson Valley and Long Island, which each received a bonus that pushed their total hauls to more than $80 million. The remaining regions: New York City, the Southern Tier, the North Country, western New York and the Finger Lakes each received between $64 million and $70 million.

The state has handed out more than $5.4 billion since Cuomo’s regionalized economic development awards began in 2011. Cuomo touts the program for targeting specific growth industries while encouraging local communities to come up with their own economic development plans.

Critics, however, say Cuomo forces the state’s regions to compete with each other for state help and say across-the-board cuts to taxes or regulations would be a better alternative.

Gov. Cuomo once again tossed around millions of taxpayer dollars as if he was the host of a game show,” said Republican Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo of Long Island, who said he wants to see more evidence that Cuomo’s program has worked. “Although I fully support investment in Long Island, I believe that it being done in this manner is troubling.”

Here are some of the highlights of the projects receiving funding:

- In central New York, Martens Companies will receive $1.18 million to assist in the construction of a new food processing, packaging and distribution center in Cayuga County.

- Niagara Falls will get $1.5 million for the redevelopment of a downtown neighborhood that serves as a gateway to the city’s tourist attractions.

- Golden Age Cheese Co. was awarded $2.1 million to help pay for a new production facility in the Southern Tier.

- In the capital region, Hudson Valley Community College will use $2.9 million for an advanced manufacturing training program.

- Biotech firm Celmatix was awarded $4.5 million to expand office and laboratory space in New York City.

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