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SPEC president Tony Collins
SPEC president Tony Collins

North Country startup fund slowed by recession

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Some three years ago, the New York Power Authority set up a $10 million venture capital fund for St. Lawrence County. The money is part of the settlement for operating the Moses-Saunders power dam on the St. Lawrence River.

It's called the Seaway Private Equity Corporation, or SPEC. Its president, Tony Collins, says SPEC invests in promising ideas to create jobs in the region.

"Where you have an idea, generated perhaps by a research project, and then there's an early investment," says Collins, "which is what SPEC has been able to provide, with outside investment in the ratio of 2 to 1, and then we grow and support these companies."

Tony Collins is also president of Clarkson University in Potsdam.

SPEC has invested in nine startups so far, using 6 of the $10 million. Those firms have created some 70 jobs, almost all of them at Fused Solutions, a call center in Potsdam. Collins says Fused would have been bought up and moved elsewhere without SPEC's involvement.

None of the others have yielded big returns for the region yet. Collins told David Sommerstein these kinds of investments are long-term. He says just that all nine still exist is good news.

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David Sommerstein
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