The cities of Niagara Falls and Lockport finally have something good in common.
Both communities recently received $10 million in state funding apiece to support various revitalization efforts.
For the Falls, Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds will be focused on spurring sound development on and near the Main Street corridor, with an emphasis on ways to better capitalize on the ongoing removal of the northern section of the Robert Moses Parkway and the recreational benefits offered by the natural wonder that is the Niagara Gorge.
In Lockport, state dollars from the same initiative have been earmarked for a series of projects aimed at better utilizing significant properties, including the former Spalding Mill, the Historic Post Office building and the F&M building, just to name a few.
There are arguments to be made that communities like Niagara Falls and Lockport would be better served by the state government staying out of their business and creating a more welcoming private-sector investment environment by cutting costs and lowering taxes.
While the position has merit, under the current Democratic administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo the state has chosen a different path, one that involves various communities and regions competing for available state dollars by putting forth ideas that offer the “best bang for the buck” in terms of economic redevelopment potential.
For the first time in what seems like a very long time, both the Falls and Lockport have been able to not only demonstrate their need but also their ability to put forth projects that are worthy of state support.
Whenever big announcements about “game-changing” efforts are made, there’s an unfortunate tendency locally to look forward to the next big disappointment, not the next big success story.
Given the unfortunate history of local failures, in the Falls in particular, the depressed mood is understandable.
Still, in light of the recent announcements about the renewed state support in both communities, there’s clearly reason for more optimism moving forward.
During a visit to the Falls on Wednesday, Cuomo made a point to suggest that his administration has provided more support for improvement efforts in Western New York in recent years than any other administration has in decades.
While these are the words of a self-promoting politician, there’s no arguing the potential benefits a total of $20 million in state investment can have on both the Falls and Lockport.
Now is the time to capitalize, to put the funding to proper use and to turn all the talk and all the plans into tangible, completed projects that can restore confidence in both communities.
Another opportunity like this may not come anytime soon, if at all.
Leaders in the Falls and Lockport must make the most of it.
The City of Buffalo has demonstrated, through the wise of use of public resources and sound “community first” decision-making, that places where failure and disappointment were the norm for decades are capable of change.
Residents in the Falls and in Lockport, while unfortunately accustomed to having things fail to turn out as promised, should look upon Gov. Cuomo’s recent announcements about Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds with gratitude and hope for a brighter future.