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Request for Project Proposals Supporting New American Initiatives in Agricultural Business Development and Job Skills in the Appalachian Region of New York State


A. Background

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is a regional economic development agency that represents a partnership of federal, state, and local government established by the Federal Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965. Its goal is to improve the economy and quality of life in Appalachia by providing funding and technical assistance for projects in areas such as business development, education and job training, telecommunications, infrastructure, community development, housing, and transportation. The Appalachian portion of New York State contains the following fourteen counties: Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins. This region is most commonly known as New York's "Southern Tier."

As a special initiative of the ARC Area Development Program, New York Department of State (DOS) would like to call attention to the economic potential of immigrants in the Southern Tier. Like previous waves of new Americans, these newcomers are engines for economic growth in our state.

That is why Governor Cuomo established the Office of New Americans (ONA). This new office will focus on promoting U.S. citizenship and civic involvement, expanding access to English language education services, and supporting new Americans as they realize their entrepreneurial dreams.

In collaboration with the ONA, the ARC Area Development Program will support projects that expand opportunities for new Americans in New York’s Southern Tier. This memorandum describes potential business and workforce development projects, including agricultural entrepreneurship programs and English language training opportunities, that the ARC is interested in funding through this special initiative. We invite organizations to work with their Local Development Districts to build on the ideas presented here, and design projects that will help new Americans contribute to the Southern Tier economy.

B. Areas of Interest: Business and Workforce Development

The following are potential themes that project sponsors may consider. This list is not exclusive, and there may be other creative projects that link the needs of Appalachian New York with the potential of the region’s new Americans.

1. Agriculture: There is substantial economic potential associated with agriculture in the Southern Tier. According to recent forecasts, an agricultural boom over the next decade will be driven by multiple factors, including global population growth, the development of middle classes in emerging markets, and sustained demand for bio-fuels. Throughout Appalachia, farms and vacant farmland are increasingly recognized as vital community assets, and keeping farmland in production can strengthen rural communities and the region’s food system as a whole.

Initial research has shown that new Americans are an untapped resource to help expand agricultural production in the Southern Tier. New Americans often have unique agricultural skills, but may lack English-language ability or familiarity with agricultural or business regulations. By working with this population to fill education gaps, locate capital, and identify property suitable for agriculture projects, new Americans could increase employment opportunities in the region, provide food products that meet the anticipated demand of the increasingly diverse population, bring high quality, locally-grown farm products to market, and preserve the region’s agricultural lands.

The ARC has increased its focus on technical and financial assistance for agricultural development. Through this special New York State initiative, ARC will fund pilot projects that help realize the promise that new Americans and agricultural expansion bring to the Southern Tier.

A model of considerable interest is GrowNYC’s New Farmer Development Training Project (http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/nfdp), which educates, and supports immigrants with agricultural experience to establish their own economically and environmentally sustainable small farm businesses. Modeled after this project, New York’s ARC program could provide new Americans

• farm business planning courses;
• technical assistance to start independent farms;
• technical assistance to identify markets for home-grown products;
• assistance identifying viable farmland in the region that is for sale or lease;
• access to credit to purchase or lease farmland; or
• mentorship connections to other small farmers in the region.

2. Workforce Development:
New Americans are an asset to the state and provide an opportunity to reverse the impacts of the negative migration trends felt in the Southern Tier. Although businesses in the region have job openings, they often find that eligible employees lack necessary skills. New Americans in the region can be an exceptional resource for employers, but many lack sufficient English language skills to get them in the door.

Through this special initiative, ARC resources could be used to provide new Americans with English-for-speakers-of-other-languages (ESOL) training focused on communication in the workplace, particularly in agriculture and other economic growth sectors.

C. Funding

This ARC special initiative will support between one and three projects focused on building agricultural business opportunities for new Americans in the Southern Tier, or helping new Americans to develop English language and other skills required to work in the region’s growth industries. It is expected that these projects will total less than $300,000, with up to $100,000 allocated to each winning project.

D. Timeline

Applicants for funding for this special initiative are expected to consult with the appropriate Local Development District (LDD) listed below to assist in the development of a project. All proposals must be submitted to DOS by July 6, 2012. The LDDs will advise DOS on applications from their regions. We expect to make project awards in late August 2012.

E. Program Information and Eligibility

The ARC provides support to communities and not-for-profit organizations in the Southern Tier of New York State to promote economic development, including workforce development partnerships. ARC funds are made
available to projects on a 1:1 matching basis and can be matched by local cash or in-kind services. For more information on applying for ARC funds, project applicants may contact the following organizations.

General Information and State Contact:

Kyle Wilber
New York State Program Manager
518-473-3355
http://www.dos.ny.gov/lg/arc/index.html

Regional Local Development Districts:

Southern Tier East Regional Planning and Development Board
Erik Miller, Director
607-724-1327
www.steny.org
(Schoharie, Otsego, Delaware, Chenango, Cortland, Tompkins, Broome and Tioga Counties)

Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board
Marcia Weber, Executive Director
607-962-5902
www.stcplanning.org
(Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben Counties)

Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board
Richard Zink, Executive Director
716-945-5301
www.southertierwest.org
(Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Counties)