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Hochul REDC

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks before the Regional Economic Development Council awards presentation in Albany in December. 

After Auburn won a $10 million grant this year to revitalize its downtown, the region received more good news Tuesday: Central New York earned top performer honors at the state Regional Economic Development Council awards ceremony in Albany. 

The Central New York Regional Economic Development Council will receive $88.2 million to fund 91 projects in Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga and Oswego counties. It's the largest award given to any of the 10 regional councils in the 2018 installment of the eight-year-old contest. 

Over the past eight years, central New York has won more than $1 billion in state funding to support hundreds of projects in the five-county region. The total includes $500 million through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, a separate competition held in 2015. 

With the most recent win, the millions in state aid will support dozens of projects, including 17 in Cayuga County. Keith Titus Corporation, a trucking company in Brutus, will use in $1.2 million in state funding to establish a driver training center and open a health and wellness center for truckers. Cayuga Community College will receive a $1 million grant for a new workforce development center. A $150,000 grant will help the city of Auburn develop a marketing plan for the new Equal Rights Heritage Center. 

CCC President Brian Durant expressed excitement that the college will be able to advance its project. 

"This initiative will enhance and streamline workforce development services by bringing related agencies together at one location where they can better serve employers and the greater Cayuga County community," Durant said. 

Before central New York's award was announced, a brief video was shown that featured clips of downtown Auburn and highlighted the opening of the Equal Rights Heritage Center. The $10 million facility opened in November

The video also showcased businesses in the Syracuse area and the improvements at the New York State Fairgrounds. 

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who attended the awards ceremony alongside Empire State Development President Howard Zemsky, lauded the regional councils and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's economic development strategy. She recalled the struggles upstate faced when manufacturing plants closed and many areas suffered significant job losses. 

"We felt the pain," she said. "But we also know what a comeback feels like." 

Hochul singled out the benefits of the state's Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Auburn is one of 30 communities that have been awarded $10 million to improve downtown corridors. 

She likened the Downtown Revitalization Initiative to the Academy Awards. With the $10 million grants, the communities "are now changed forever," she added. 

Hochul and Zemsky handled the emcee and speaking duties at the ceremony. Cuomo, who appeared at every ceremony during the first seven years of the competition, was in New York City Tuesday. There were no public events on his schedule. 

More than $763.1 million was awarded to the 10 regions. Along with central New York, the Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson, Mohawk Valley and New York City were top performer award winners. Top performer winners receive a larger total than the five losing regions. The regions won between $85.4 to $88.2 million. 

The Capital Region, Long Island, North Country, Southern Tier and western New York received between $64.8 and $68.3 million to fund projects. 

"Some of you have been involved in this process since day one and you should be extremely proud of what you have accomplished," Zemsky said. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.