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State contest for S. Tier green companies has $1M top prize

The governor’s office is launching a four-year business competition in the state’s Southern Tier with an annual $1 million top prize for companies that promise to create jobs and help build a clean and reliable energy system.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday announced that the $20 million business contest, named 76West, is accepting applications now, with a deadline of March 15 and with the first six winners announced in July.

A total of $2.5 million will be awarded for each of the four years of the contest, with the remaining $10 million dedicated to the program covering business support, marketing and administration costs.

The 76West program covers 11 counties of the Southern Tier — including Chautauqua, Cattauraugus and Allegany counties in Western New York — and its name refers to a longitudinal line that passes through the region. It stretches from Chautauqua in the west to Broome County in the east, an area that gave birth to leading companies such as IBM and Corning and that is home to colleges such as SUNY Fredonia, St. Bonaventure University, Alfred University and Cornell University.

Cuomo said in a statement Sunday the contest will leverage the region’s strengths and will boost its economy.

“The 76West competition will bring unprecedented entrepreneurial attention to the Southern Tier and add further momentum to New York’s rapidly growing clean energy sector,” he said.

The contest follows the format of Buffalo’s 43North contest, which started in 2014. Last year, 11,000 43North registrants from all 50 states and 117 countries vied for $5 million in prizes. In that competition, winning companies agree to move to, or stay in, Buffalo for one year.

In the case of 76West, winning out-of-state companies as a condition of receiving their awards must move to the Southern Tier or establish a “substantial business presence” in the region, according to the governor’s office. The companies must maintain that presence for two years.

Companies already located in New York must either relocate to the Southern Tier or build a connection to the region that creates jobs or wealth there, such as by establishing a supply chain.

The contest will run each year from 2016 to 2019. Every year, one company will receive $1 million, the runner-up will receive $500,000 and four companies will receive $250,000 each.

The 76West winners also will have business support for up to two years after receiving their awards, and can move into one of six incubators run by the Southern Tier Start-Up Alliance, a network of incubators at Binghamton University, Cornell University and the Incubation Works in Alfred.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA, will administer the competition. An application and contest details are available online at