From Andrew Harris, 10/23/21
The first meeting of the Wellsville Downtown Revitalization Initiative(DRI) took place in the Exhibition Room at the David A Howe Library on Wednesday October 20th. Many of the usual characters were in the room, Mayor Randy Shayler, Chamber of Commerce Director Bruce Thomas, Wellsville Brewery co-founder Tom Reuning, Texas Hot owner Mike Raptis, community matriarch Wanda Dean, and even the Dr. and Mrs. Felsen came learn about the possible opportunity. “MK” Kellogg, DRI committee member, worked hard promoting the event that drew a bigger crowd than any public meeting in recent memory.
The opportunity is, on paper, one of the most intriguing economic stimulus opportunities to come from New York State since the wild promises of the “Buffalo Billions.” Perhaps the most intriguing part of the 10 million dollar incentive plan is it’s ambiguous nature. As, John Simmins, Phd, the presenter from Alfred University repeatedly underlined, the plan has very few concrete requirements except asking investors and entrepreneurs to, “dream big.”
Don’t think grants for food trucks, think about million-dollar startups or public access projects. Think about “transformative projects,” as DRI Committee Chair Mike Raptis explained. During the meeting, dreaming big wasn’t hard to do for that crowd. Dr. Felsen talked about how we should consider investments in our medical infrastructure through Jones Memorial Hospital. A couple who just moved into Wellsville thought we should consider the future of the railroad.
Alfred University has been selected to act as a facilitator and portal for those interested in access to the Wellsville DRI. The college and Dr. Simmins will not be making decisions about the ideas or the funding, their role is to help investors and communities capitalize on this incentive program.
The next step in the process is to brainstorm and dream out loud. By nature this initiative is to pursue projects that normally would be economically unrealistic, so think big. This is a matching funds grant, providing applicants 25% of the overall project cost. Should Wellsville be awarded the full ten million dollars, that would equate to forty million in total investments.
The general outline of the program allows Wellsville, both village and town projects this twenty five percent grant funding for almost any project, public or private. Those projects must have a clear benefit to the community; be it development, business creation, jobs, housing, or cultural enhancements. Some of the examples that the DRI fund has already inspired include brownfield reclamation, craft breweries, and public art projects.
If you didn’t attended the first meeting, please come to the next!! If you and have some big dreams or just want to learn more about this initiative as it progresses, the next meeting is November 17th at the David A Howe.