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‘Economic diversity’ is goal of Saratoga County plan

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
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— Pursuing advanced technology companies, more sports and recreation facilities, and offering better incentives to come to the Luther Forest Technology Campus are among recommendations of Saratoga County’s new strategic economic development plan.

The plan was adopted unanimously by the Board of Supervisors when it met Tuesday in Ballston Spa.

The plan also calls for setting up a new organization — tentatively called the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership — to coordinate the county’s economic development efforts.

“This is what will be the true north for Saratoga County’s economic development efforts for many years to come,” said county Economic Development Committee Chairman John E. Lawler, R-Waterford.

The plan was developed by TIP Strategies of Austin, Texas, after the county’s break last year with the Saratoga Economic Development Corp., a private nonprofit that did the county’s marketing for 35 years. County officials contend they had only limited input in SEDC’s work.

The county hasn’t previously had an overarching plan. TIP Strategies was paid $95,000 for the plan, which recommends the county build on its existing strengths of technology and business, tourism and agriculture.

A large crowd of economic marketing and business leaders — including the presidents of both the county’s chambers of commerce — turned out to hear the plan unveiled.

TIP Strategies is led by Jon Roberts, a former business development director for the states of Oregon and Texas.

“The goal of the plan, in a nutshell, is economic diversity,” he said, noting that Saratoga County is one of the few counties in the United States with a widely recognized identity.

Even though the county successfully landed the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant less than a decade ago, Roberts said its marketing until now has been fragmented among numerous organizations.

“Economic development needs to be under a broader umbrella than it has been in the past,” he told supervisors.

The proposed Prosperity Partnership would be structured as a local development corporation, with an executive director, program manager and administrative assistant. The annual budget is estimated at $450,000 to $500,000.

The partnership would coordinate with the existing economic development organizations, businesses and municipalities to organize all economic development efforts around common goals, county officials said. Its board would include representatives from the private sector, higher education, economic development organizations and other stakeholder groups.

Lawler said a vote on actually creating the local development corporation could take place as soon as the April county board meeting.

“This is not a study that will sit on a shelf and gather dust,” he said. “We have identified specific target industries to pursue that are best suited for our area, specific infrastructure improvements that will help existing and future businesses and specific strategies to help local entrepreneurs succeed.”

The plan recommends pursuing industries based upon the county’s strategic assets. Targeted industries include advanced manufacturing, research and development, clean technology, financial processing for businesses and specialized warehousing and distribution.

Among the other recommendations:

• More effectively connecting recreational activities, destinations and events through tourism promotion.

• Working with the private sector to increase workforce training in manufacturing technology.

• Supporting better access to natural gas.

• Establishing a more comprehensive inventory of available buildings and industrial sites.

Even with GlobalFoundries having located in the Luther Forest Technology Campus, the plan said there’s no guarantee that semiconductor manufacturing support industries will follow. It said major new incentives — even an effort to be part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s START-UP NY incentive program — should be offered to try to bring more businesses to the technology campus, which is vacant except for GlobalFoundries.

 
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