WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (WENY) -- New York's Department of State held a forum in the Seneca Lake Event Center at Clute Park earlier today to promote two of its flagship economic development programs to local communities. Previous program participants gathered to provide some insight and advice for future applicants and awardees. 

The Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Forward program has helped communities transform and improve the conditions of several downtown locations across the Southern Tier, including Watkins Glen.

"Yeah, the DRI has really been the economic engine for this community, we're thriving because of it as well as all the other state entities that have provided funding for places like this building that we're standing in and parks," said Laurie DeNardo, Mayor of Watkins Glen. "For our local downtown it has been an amazing asset for us."

The forum being held in the Seneca Lake Event Center at Clute Park was appropriate, as it showcased the funding in action. The facility itself along with the skating rink and splash pad outside, were built using $10 million awarded by the DRI to Watkins Glen. This, however, is just one example of local change. Many buildings and facilities are being revamped because of this funding.

Kisha Santiago, the New York State Deputy Secretary of State said, "The former VFW building now transformed into the Harbor Hotel, Fitness Center, and Village Lofts on North Franklin Street is an extremely beautiful example of turning a former unused building into a vibrant mixed-use facility."

Along with state officials, local officials and awardees in the Southern Tier are seeing these significant changes in their towns and encouraging other nearby communities to apply and potentially see similar growth and development. They believe the improvements made possible by DRI and NY Forward funding will provide many benefits to the community. 

"We want to have an evergreen renewable workforce that has opportunities for career growth, continuous learning, longevity, inclusiveness and diversity," said Judy McKinney Cherry, Executive Director of Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development and Co-Chair of the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council. "And to be known as a fabulous place to live, play, work, grow, and make a difference in the community, and this is for the whole Southern Tier."

Other communities in our area that have received DRI funding include Elmira, Owego, Hornell, and Penn Yan.

The next round of applications for the Downtown Revitalization and NY Forward funding will be kicking off soon. More information for communities looking to apply can be found on New York Department of State's website alongside webinars and application guidebooks.