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HUD No. 99-206
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685Monday
Or contact your local HUD officeOctober 4, 1999

A Progress Report on HUD's Canal Corridor Initiative

A Cornell University report concludes that the Canal Corridor Initiative led by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has created new jobs and economic development in a 32-county area of Upstate New York, and has the potential to do much more.

The report says the Erie Canal and its connecting waterways, which helped Upstate communities grow in the 19th century as centers of industry, will help transform the cities into centers of tourism in the 21st century with the help of the Canal Corridor Initiative.

The Cornell report has three main findings:

  • "Tourism expenditures in the Canal region are rising and have the potential to produce significant economic growth. The Canal Corridor Initiative's investments create the capacity to draw and serve visitors to the region." The report says evidence of increased tourism created by the Canal Corridor Initiative from 1996 to 1998 includes: a 12 percent increase in hotel taxable sales in the region, an additional 10,000 boats using a canal lift or passing under a lift bridge, and an 18.5 percent increase in visits to National Park Service sites in New York, many of which are adjacent to the Canal.
  • "Based on a conservative estimate of a 5 percent increase in tourism sectors in the region, HUD's investment in the Canal Corridor is likely to yield over 17,000 additional jobs and a $447 million (annual) increase in state and local revenues."
  • "Canal Corridor Initiative investments have provided a flexible tool that has functioned as a catalyst for economic development in Canal Corridor communities. The initiative's overall framework has encouraged regional collaboration and contributed to broader economic development goals, including the retention of manufacturing jobs."

The Cornell report points out that "Upstate New York has been struggling particularly hard during the 1990s, lagging behind the nation in employment and wage growth and losing population to faster growing areas of the state and nation."

To reverse that trend, HUD has provided $237.3 million in grants and loan guarantees, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided $160.2 million to Upstate communities through the Canal Corridor Initiative during the past three years - a total of $397.5 million.

The HUD assistance has stimulated $402.6 million in investment from the private sector and state and local governments, according to the Cornell report.

"This report tells us that our dreams for the success of the Canal Corridor Initiative are on their way to becoming a reality," said HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo. "We know there's a great deal of work still to be done and that serious problems remain, but we also know that the Canal Corridor Initiative is paying off by creating jobs and stronger local economies."

The report was prepared by Cornell's Department of City and Regional Planning. It was written by a group of respected scholars, headed by Professor Susan Christopherson. Others on the research team were Professors Pierre Clavel and Sid Saltzman, along with graduate students.

The Cornell report is the most comprehensive independent examination to date of the likely impact of the federal investments in the Canal Corridor.

The report says Upstate communities have been hit particularly hard by a number of factors, including: military base closings; company mergers and acquisitions that have moved jobs from small Upstate cities to large cities elsewhere; and deregulation of key sectors - including telecommunications, airlines, financial services, and utilities -that have sent jobs outside the area.

The Cornell report recommends increased involvement by colleges, universities, foundations and business groups in the Canal Corridor Initiative to make the initiative even more successful.

The Canal Corridor Initiative is designed to put federal resources to work as part of a long-term and coordinated commitment to Upstate New York. The locally driven initiative seeks to turn the Erie Canal and connecting waterways that make up the 524-mile Canal Corridor into a major tourism destination that will spark economic development across upstate.

The Erie Canal, completed in 1825, originally was a major link between the Northeast and the Midwest. However, railroads, modern highways and the St. Lawrence Seaway took over the canal's role as a commercial waterway.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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