Details of $2.5 million Jefferson Community College Downtown Entrepreneurship Center announced

Part of Watertown’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative to Bolster Franklin Street Corridor, Generate Investments in Workforce Development and Grow Small Businesses

Downtown Revitalization Investments Are Crucial Part of the State’s Comprehensive Strategy to Revitalize Communities and Grow the Economy

WATERTOWN, NY —  Empire State Development (ESD) and the New York State Department of State (DOS) today announced details for the $2.5 million Jefferson Community College (JCC) downtown entrepreneurship center in Watertown located in Jefferson County. This project is part of New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), a cornerstone of the State’s economic development policy that aims to transform downtown neighborhoods into vibrant centers of activity that offer a high quality of life and attract redevelopment, businesses, jobs, and economic and housing diversity. JCC’s new entrepreneurship center will redevelop two blighted downtown buildings and establish a space that will support entrepreneurs and offer workforce development training and applied learning opportunities.

ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “The JCC Downtown Entrepreneurship Center is yet another great example of how the Downtown Revitalization Initiative works to reenergize New York State’s cities. This project will renovate existing buildings as workforce development and commercial spaces, bringing new talent and vibrancy to the Watertown city center and ultimately boosting both the local and North Country regional economies.”

Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, “The partnership between SUNY Jefferson and Neighbors of Watertown serves as a creative example of the type of development activities we continue to support through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. This downtown entrepreneurship center will create new opportunities for students, residents, and businesses alike throughout the North County while attracting activity to downtown Watertown and bolstering the entire region’s future economic growth.”

Jefferson Community College President Dr. Ty A. Stone said, “The College enthusiastically supports this unprecedented investment in downtown Watertown. The renovated space will be a vibrant, exciting addition to our College and community.  Jefferson is uniquely positioned to support aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses with high-quality educational opportunities and looks forward to serving the needs of our community”

In partnership with the not-for-profit agency Neighbors of Watertown, this project will renovate the interior and exterior of two downtown Watertown buildings located at 124–136 Franklin Street, which encompasses six store fronts, to include the new JCC downtown entrepreneurship center as well as turn-key commercial space. The center will bring students Downtown, adding a new dimension to daily activity and reinforcing the City’s desire to be a center of education and employment expanding opportunities for applied learning and workforce development. The College plans to publish a survey to garner local feedback on a name for the new space.

This project will also significantly improve public perception of the Franklin Street corridor, creating an inviting space and establish a Jefferson Community College presence in downtown Watertown. Most importantly, the center will support and train entrepreneurs and small businesses in the region. The project is being supported by a $2.5 million DRI grant administered by ESD.

Reginald J Schweitzer Jr., Executive Director of the Neighbors of Watertown, Inc. said, “Neighbors of Watertown is excited to be teaming up with Jefferson Community College and Empire State Development to revitalize the Lamon & Strand Buildings. This investment will create renewed activity along lower Franklin St and will compliment other DRI Façade projects in the area.  We look forward to the energy and impact that a downtown JCC presence will have and are glad to be their partner on this project.”

State Senator Pattie Richie said, “Entrepreneurs who launch innovative businesses, create good-paying jobs and contribute to vibrant communities are the backbone of New York’s economy,” said Senator Patty Ritchie. “Through Jefferson Community College’s planned Downtown Entrepreneurship Center, budding entrepreneurs will receive the support, guidance and tools they need to be successful. In addition, this important project will also contribute to the continued revitalization of Watertown’s Public Square.”

Assemblymember Mark C. Walczyk said, “Workforce development has been among my top priorities, which is why I proudly brought our Conference’s task force to the Front Yard of America to spotlight all the good work of Jefferson Community College and other educators, employers and most importantly the students and workers themselves. Bridging the gap between our employers and our driven, hardworking workforce is vital and projects like the new entrepreneurship center in Watertown will further strengthen our regional economy and everyone’s prospects for the future. This is a great project, and I’m so proud to be part of it.”

City of Watertown Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said, “The partnership between the State, Jefferson Community College and the City of Watertown is a great example of positive change that will be a catalyst for economic growth in both Watertown and the Region. By prioritizing workforce development  and rehabilitating these older buildings, we  will help fill employers’ growing needs, bring people downtown and help restore the regional economy.”

About Empire State Development

Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency ( The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing the Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of “I LOVE NY,” the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit and

About the Downtown Revitalization Initiative

The DOS also administers the Governor’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI).  The DRI launched in 2016 to accelerate and expand the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhoods in all ten regions of the state to serve as centers of activity and catalysts for increased local investments. Led by the Department of State, the DRI represents an unprecedented and innovative “plan-then-act” strategy that couples strategic planning with immediate implementation. Most DRI communities have received funding in the past from the BOA and LWRP programs, which in turn has helped them develop and implement their successful DRI applications.  The DRI has awarded a total of $600 million to 59 communities in its first five rounds.

This year, the Governor created an innovative offshoot of the DRI called NY Forward, which will support a more equitable downtown recovery for New York’s smaller and rural communities, with a focus on hamlets and villages.  The DOS will lead the community through a planning process and provide needed technical assistance to develop a slate of readily implementable projects.  NY Forward is funded at $100 million in this year’s State Budget.

About Jefferson Community College (JCC)

Established on November 7, 1961, Jefferson Community College is the area’s first institution of higher education. Supervised by the State University of New York (SUNY), Jefferson offers 40+ associate degrees and certificates for career preparation or transfer;  local access to bachelor’s and advanced degrees through partner institutions; lifelong learning through workshops and seminars; business and industry training; community-based research and provides a forum for the productive discussion of ideas and issues of significance to the community through the Center for Community Studies; and cultural enrichment opportunities for the entire Watertown/Fort Drum region. Jefferson is accredited by the Middle States Association and currently serves approximately 2,600 students, including a significant number of service members and their families. Please visit for more information.