By Jann Wiswall

The Southern Tier West (STW) Board of Directors met on Thursday, Jan. 16, to discuss a number of issues important to its tri-county region this year.

The board spent a significant amount of time both before and during the meeting discussing how STW can build up its grant writing capabilities. Board members and Executive Director Richard Zink agreed that having grant writing services available would allow STW to help its member municipalities and organizations apply for grants for “main street” and economic development projects. They also felt that if STW secured a grant, STW might also be able to administer it for the organization. Grant administration could be an additional revenue stream for STW.

Several board members suggested that Zink and staff take some time to look at the pros and cons of hiring a full-time, part-time or contract grant writer and building its grant writing capabilities either over time or more aggressively. Board Chair Robert Keis formally asked the board to endorse the staff’s effort to that end, which it did.

During his Director’s Report, Zink briefed the board on federal legislative action that impacts STW. An increase in federal funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) non-highway work was on Congress’ docket that day.

According to ARC, on Jan. 17, “President Barack Obama signed an omnibus appropriations bill providing funding for government agencies for fiscal year (FY) 2014, including $80.3 million for ARC’s non-highway programs. This figure is $15.4 million more than the Commission’s FY 2013 post-sequester funding level of $64.9 million. The legislation specifies that $10 million of that amount is for a program of high-speed broadband deployment in economically distressed counties in Central Appalachia that have been most negatively impacted by the downturn in the coal industry, to diversify and enhance regional business development.”

ARC is the primary funding agency for STW.

Zink also reported that funding for the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration is up 11 percent from 2013, to $246.5 million. A $70,000 grant to STW from the EDA currently funds economic development technical assistance activities.

Grants Workshop: Zink said that 31 people have already registered for the March 18-19 Essential Grant Skills Workshop sponsored by The Grantsmanship Center. Three STW employees are among the registrants. The training will take place in the BOCES technology room at the Center for Regional Excellence in Salamanca.

Local Government Training: Zink also said that STW is prepared for its Feb. 12 training on the Public Employer Workplace Violence Prevention Program law, which will be presented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This session will be held at the STW offices in Salamanca. Preparations for the May 7 Local Governments Training conference are under way.

Local Foods: Zink and Local Foods Program Manager Kim LaMendola briefed the board on the recent workshop that was held for farmers’ market stakeholders such as farmers, growers, vendors, managers, board members, volunteers and market host organizations. The workshop was a follow-up to a summit held in November to bring these groups together for a day of networking, assessment and shared planning for the future.

The workshop held on Jan. 15 brought together 15 participants to work with Diane Eggert, executive director of the Farmers Market Federation of NY, to address some of the issues that came up at the previous event. LaMendola said that discussion centered on communication, collaboration, sharing resources, branding and marketing. All participants went home with homework — coming up with action steps — that will be shared at the next workshop scheduled for Feb. 21.

“Farmers and market managers are beginning to understand the importance of coordination,” said LaMendola. Board member Stephanie Kiyak, who serves on the Common Council of the City of Dunkirk, added that governments often “understate” the importance of farmers markets and “what they can do for the local economy.”

LaMendola also shared a draft of a consumer-oriented local food guide being produced by STW (see related story, page x).

STEDO: Zink noted that STW is working with its affiliate, the Southern Tier Enterprise Development Organization (STEDO), to build on its ability to pursue, obtain and administer small business loans for “main street” projects throughout the region. According to Zink, STEDO has been struggling with its current mission and loan activity has been declining. Board member Kier Dirlam, a member of the Allegany County Planning Board, commented, “There’s an opportunity here to fill a real need. Some of STEDO’s programs have been eliminated or been reduced to nothing.”

DDAA Board: The Development District Association of Appalachia, a membership organization of the 73 Local Development Districts that serve 420 counties in the Appalachian region served by ARC, has asked Zink to serve on its board of directors. Zink will begin the five-year term as secretary of the board, a position that leads to chairmanship. The STW board approved Zink’s request to serve in this capacity.

New Business: Zink and STW’s Senior Regional Development Coordinator Ginger Malak announced that STW will be establishing a permanent stormwater demonstration training site at the Cattaraugus County Department of Public Works campus in Little Valley. The training center will showcase best management practices, equipment and materials demonstrations, green infrastructure best practices and more. Construction of demonstration areas will be gradual and should begin in the spring, pending approvals.

This site, donated for use by the county, will enhance STW’s ability to provide stormwater training to municipal leaders, highway supervisors and others in a hands-on setting, Malak explained.

STW Project Coordinator Courtney Waters announced that she had just received word from the State Department of Transportation regarding Transportation Enhancement Program grant awards. In Cattaraugus County, the City of Olean received $535,516 for its Olean Creek Bicycle and Pedestrian Crossing, and the Seneca Nation of Indians received $482,206 for The Pennsy Trail. The proposed Ellicottville/Great Valley Recreational Trail was not awarded a grant.

The next meeting of the STW board is scheduled for 1 p.m. on March 20 in the STW offices in Salamanca.