The New York State Legislature awarded the Southern Tier $500 million for a number of endeavors, some of which will go toward strengthening the bond between Binghamton University and the local community.

The Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) named the Southern Tier region as one of three recipients of the funds, in addition to the Finger Lakes and Central NY region. The URI designated the Southern Tier as a “Best Plan Awardee” for giving the most compelling case of how the money awarded will help fund revitalization projects.

The money will be split into four categories, each focusing on different projects. The four initiative categories include making the region a place for innovation and branding it as such, advancing manufacturing, improving agriculture and developing urban centers.

BU President Harvey Stenger is a co-chair of the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council, a regional council focused on developing long-term strategic plans for economic growth. During a recent luncheon, Stenger said that he wants to see this initiative bring back some of the vibrancy that urban centers like Johnson City, Endicott and Binghamton once had.

“We want to make them cool again,” Stenger said. “We want to make them a place where people want to live and to work.”

With this state funding, BU will be branching out to Johnson City. Not only will BU’s new School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences be located in Johnson City, but $21 million will be designated to move the Decker School of Nursing across the street from the Pharmacy school on Corliss Avenue.

Stenger said he hopes that the development of the Nursing and Pharmacy schools will turn Johnson City into a health and cultural district, helping turn the local economy around by supplying jobs making pharmaceuticals, a new direction for the area once known for the shoe factories operated by the Endicott-Johnson Corporation.

“Instead of making shoes, we will be making drugs there,” Stenger said. “The researchers that they will be hired in a way that supports the industry’s development of new important drugs and new important active ingredients.”

Other projects include the funding of Route 434 Greenway, a bike and pedestrian path to take people from Downtown Binghamton to BU’s campus, as well as funding for a battery dry room where distinguished BU Professor M. Stanley Whittingham and his team will test and conduct battery research before the projects begin this year.

Initiatives also included in the winning plan are investments in local start-up companies, branding initiatives for agriculture and finding ways to attract and maintain talent so that students will stay in the University area, investing in Cornell’s agricultural research and investing in expanding crops and agricultural sustainability in the area.

Emily D’Emic, a senior majoring in English, said she is optimistic about the state aid and the revitalization efforts it carries.

“I think it’s very exciting because Binghamton is already such a great city with so much to offer,” D’Emic said. “Hopefully this money will do a lot to attract students, both current and prospective and benefit those people who live here year around and have already seen Binghamton grow.”

Stenger said he also believes this money will revive the economy and spirit of the Southern Tier.

“I do believe that were at a turning point,” Stenger said. “The money is going to be good, we’re going to take great care of it as a council and invest in strategic projects. It’s got to be a turning point.”