A project that aims to further higher education, offer workforce development and help revitalize Newburgh is receiving its first influx of private funding.
Utility company Central Hudson is pledging $200,000 to SUNY Orange’s Innovation Grand Street Project. The funding follows more than $1.8 million from Empire State Development Corporation in the latest round of funding announced in December, and awarded to the Orange County Community College Association through the state’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative. John Maserjian is Poughkeepsie-based Central Hudson spokesman.
“A strong employment base is good for business, quite frankly, but it’s also good for the community,” says Maserjian. “So we see it as a win-win situation.”
At the core of the project is the renovation of three historic buildings adjacent to the college’s Newburgh campus that, when refurbished, will allow for small business creation, spark economic development and blend short-term workforce training with complementary academic opportunities. Dr. Kristine Young is SUNY Orange president.
“And here we go, we’re going to make Newburgh proud,” Young says.
Set to be completed in two phases, Phase I of Innovation Grand Street calls for renovations to the Masonic Lodge and the American Legion building. The YMCA building, which sits between the two other facilities, would be upgraded as part of Phase II. Dr. Young:
“So we have the opportunity to think transformatively, and using those buildings in an unconventional way, in a public/private partnership sort of way, in a way that would spur economic development and help prepare the workforce or help change the workforce for Orange County,” Young says. “And that was the inspiration and motivation.”
Once restored, the buildings will provide space for training and programming within four targeted industry clusters: entrepreneurship, innovation and business; food, beverage and entertainment; healthcare and wellness; and creative design and historic preservation. Again, Central Hudson’s Maserjian.
“There’s always a need for skilled workers by local employers. Sometimes there is a shortage of these skilled workers,” Maserjian says. “And this facility is the solution to that problem by educating local residents to work in local businesses to help our local economy. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Young sees non-credit opportunities in the buildings.
“What we imagine is residents of Newburgh and close by saying, I want a better job, I want a better income. What kind of education might I attain that doesn’t require me to go to school full-time for two years or full-time for four years. What’s a noble job I can have after 12 weeks of 30 weeks of learning,” says Young. “And those are the sorts of hands-on opportunities we intend to provide out of these buildings.”
And there’s another audience.
“But back to your more traditional mindset of, hey, I’m going to school, I’m earning a degree, I’m going to transfer to New Paltz, you might be able to get an internship in one of the industries that are operating out of these buildings and add that to a degree program,” Young says. “And then the, my biggest vision is maybe you just come in, you’re like, that’s it, I’m only going to go to school for eight weeks and then I’m going to go to work someplace and I’m going to enjoy it, but you enjoyed learning so much and you enjoyed what the experience got you in the workplace that you want to come back to school and go ahead and earn a degree and advance in the workplace.”
She says the program is geared toward an audience that is new for SUNY Orange, at least on this scale. And here’s the timeline.
“So I would say sometime in 2019, I would say by fall 2019, we’re probably doing related programming. We’re probably offering courses, opportunities that we don’t presently have, although it might not be taking place in those buildings because they will need some work and will need renovation for sure,” says Young. “So I’d say 2019 for programming and, if everything goes really well, maybe we’ll actually be in, at least one of the buildings, by 2020, I hope.”
In addition to Central Hudson and Economic Development Corporation funding, the college within the past month also secured a $200,000 grant acquired by recently retired state Senator William Larkin.