Falls Graduate Incentive Program Inspires Others

2:25 PM, Jul 4, 2012   |    comments
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NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y.- Niagara University's Director of Community Development, David Taylor, isn't directly involved in the city of Niagara Falls' fledgling student loan repayment program; but he is inspired by it.

So inspired, he and others at Niagara University are already trying to start their own parallel program.

"We're going to be developing an application process that looks for candidates that bring something to the table, people who, what we call 'urban pioneers'," said Taylor.

This, after the city's program attracted nationwide attention and more than 200 potential applicants. From that pool, twenty college grads will be selected to have their student loans repaid on a monthly basis in exchange for bringing their talents to a select neighborhood in the Falls.

"We need them, because frankly, the jobs that are being created in the tourism industry, in the green industry, require a higher level of education sometimes," said Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster.

And the hope is, concentrating these urban pioneers in Park Place neighborhood, located between City Hall and the Niagara River Gorge, will be a catalyst for growth.

"Twenty people moving into a neighborhood, fixing up properties, having landlords fix up properties, for them to live there could make the difference in tipping this neighborhood," said Dyster, who added that he and other officials, including the force behind the program, Director of Community Development Seth Piccirillo, are hoping the young professionals will see the general quality of life and economic opportunity that will encourage them to stay.

The twenty selected will be reimbursed monthly for a maximum of $291 toward student loan payments. The money will come from a $200 thousand dollar grant.

"There are people that feel like this is a good start, there are people that feel like this by itself is not enough, which we agree with" said Piccirillo. "This is one part of a neighborhood stabilization strategy."

2 On Your Side's Sarah Hopkins asked, "What do you say to people who say this is an expensive program, and you're only bringing in twenty young people, is that really going to make that much of a difference?"

Seth Piccirillo said, "Well I would say this, putting a focus on a downtown neighborhood and revitalizing it is essential." He added, "Twenty people can lead to 40, 60, 100."

That's what Taylor and others at Niagara University are hoping. He says the university is considering investing in space downtown, and starting an incubator of sorts to piggy back off the city's program.

"Much like a business incubator or a technology incubator, the idea is how do you nurture something to fruition. Whether it's in the area of technology or business, this would be in the area of developing a neighborhood," said Taylor.

Niagara University is also in the early stages of creating a program that would encourage new faculty and staff to move downtown to a targeted area.

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