Group enlisted by Spa County for expertise in agricultural field

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
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— Saratoga County officials are considering working with a Hudson Valley nonprofit group to help develop the county’s agricultural industries.

The county’s Economic Development Committee on Wednesday heard a presentation by the Hudson Valley Agricultural Business Development Corp. and asked it to develop a proposal to work with the county.

“We see agriculture as a key component of our community,” committee Chairman John E. Lawler, R-Waterford, said at a meeting in Ballston Spa.

The corporation’s goal is to give agriculture a place in economic development discussions alongside manufacturing, warehousing, and other traditional job creators, said Todd M. Erling, its executive director.

The Hudson-based corporation already works with Washington and Rensselaer counties and five counties farther south in the Hudson Valley, helping them with agricultural business development planning. Erling said those counties pay $25,000 per year for services such as finding financing for farm-to-consumer organizations.

“What you have that a lot of our counties don’t have is a ready-made internal market, 200,000 people in the county,” he said.

Erling also sits on the board of the Capital Region Economic Development Corp., which recommends projects for state funding.

The county’s interest in agricultural issues follows last month’s approval of a county strategic economic development plan. The plan says the county should emphasize agricultural development alongside creation of manufacturing and tourism jobs.

The county has about 650 farms, ranging from large dairy and horse operations to niche crop producers.

The plan also recommended creating a new organization to handle the county’s business marketing. The committee on Wednesday decided to start work on establishing a local development corporation.

The county had to make a decision between setting up an LDC or an authority, and committee members agreed unanimously that an LDC would be preferable.

“It’s more flexible, more nimble,” Lawler said.

The county is establishing the new organization following its split last year from the Saratoga Economic Development Corp., an independent nonprofit that handled the county’s marketing for 35 years.

The new organization, unlike the SEDC, will have a board of directors controlled by the county Board of Supervisors. Committee members hope to have details of how the LDC would be organized ready for their May meeting.

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