New York State awarded $785 million for the Regional Economic Development Council initiative, continuing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's efforts to redesign the way state government works in order to drive economic growth and create jobs. Announced in July, Regional Councils represent a fundamental shift in the state's approach to economic development from a top-down development model to a community-based, performance-driven approach, which empowers individual areas to develop comprehensive strategic plans that invest in regional solutions to create jobs and economic growth. As part of the Regional Council process, a Strategic Plan Review Committee was chosen to analyze and rank the strategic plans for each region competing for $200 million in specially targeted economic development funding. The plans are the result of months of consideration by the Regional Councils and input from the public in each region. The process included holding more than 100 public meetings, forums and community workshops across the state. Thousands of New Yorkers contributed to the development of the plans through these events. Consistent with the Governor's Executive Order issued earlier this year to increase Minority and Women Business Enterprise participation in state contracting, all projects awarded grants through this initiative must use best efforts to reach the goal of 20 percent MWBE participation. Southern Tier awarded up to $49.4 million The Southern Tier Regional Council developed a vision for economic growth and job creation that builds upon the region's strengths. This includes, $1.8 million to the Wellsboro & Corning Railroad Co. for the restoration of mainline railroad track and the reconstruction of a former second main track. This project will help advance necessary improvements in transportation infrastructure, allowing the railroad to continue to provide timely, efficient and environmentally-friendly service to rail commuters in the Southern Tier. Additionally, $1.5 million will go toward the rehabilitation of the Utica line between Broome and Chenango and Bath & Hammondsport to provide timely and efficient rail service to industries in the Southern Tier. North Country was named Best Plan Awardee and will receive $103.2 million The North Country Regional Council Strategic Plan provided a long-term roadmap to attract private investment, promote and facilitate connectivity between communities and create a climate that will allow entrepreneurs to flourish. Funds of $9.9 million will rehabilitate the Newton Falls Rail Project to rehabilitate and reopen the 46-mile Newton Falls Rail Line. This project will restore and enhance the most efficient, environmentally-friendly and reliable form of transportation, at the most cost-effective price, to service the paper mill at Newton Falls and the operations at Benson Mines. Additionally, $2.5 million will support Bombardier's expansion of their main plant in Plattsburgh, which will increase their capacity for new contracts. The project includes a 57,000 sq.-ft. increase of the main plant, a 2,100 sq.-ft. expansion at the off-site testing facility and electrification of an additional half mile of railroad track at the test facility. Capital Regional was awarded $62.7 million The Capital Region Economic Development Council Strategic Plan presented a vision to collaborate locally and make the region globally competitive and economically vibrant. Funds of $2.2 million will support the development of a rail transloading facility in Columbia County, which will serve businesses in the Capital Region that do not have rail access. The project will allow businesses to transfer products from trucks to rail cars for outgoing purposes and to move incoming products. Additionally, $4 million will construct the Ronkonkoma-MacArthur Transit Hub project, providing for a new sewage treatment plant and allowing construction of a new transit-oriented, live-work-play destination in a blighted area. This project will also strengthen ties between Suffolk's busiest rail station and LI MacArthur Airport.