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Growing Saratoga County plans for its future

Saturday, July 20, 2013
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You might think one of New York state’s fastest-growing counties would have a good handle on its destiny. Or maybe not.

Thirteen national consulting firms are considering bidding to help Saratoga County write an economic development plan, with a selection expected in September.

County officials want an outside firm to write up a development and marketing plan in the wake of the county’s split earlier this spring with its longtime marketing partner, the Saratoga Economic Development Corp.

The responses are due by Monday.

You might think such a successful county would already have a plan, but it doesn’t, at least not one that was developed in public.

Plans for the Luther Forest Technology Campus were initially hatched in private talks inside the SEDC, which is controlled by business interests, and for a couple of years, they were secret.

All levels of government later signed on, and now we have GlobalFoundries at the campus and a regional commitment to a high-tech economy. But the initial plan didn’t come through public deliberations.

The consultant will be asked for ideas to revive interest in the technology campus in Malta and Stillwater — but county officials say it will be more than that, too.

“It’s more than GlobalFoundries and Luther Forest. It’s a county-wide effort to look at the county’s strengths and weaknesses,” said county Economic Development Committee Chairman John E. Lawler, R-Waterford.

Lawler said tourism — including the track’s visitors — is going to remain vitally important to the county’s economy. “We’ll be asking how we can do a better job promoting tourism,” Lawler said. “But that’s just an example.”

Then there’s farming, including the region’s thoroughbred horse farms — an industry that has the benefit of providing green and open vistas in the countryside. County officials will be promoting horse farming with a drive-yourself tour of four farms on July 28, part of the county’s effort to get in on the Saratoga 150 celebration.

Lawler said he expects that the consultant applicants will be interviewed in August and that there will be a recommendation for the county Board of Supervisors in September.

The plan is supposed to be ready by the end of the year for implementation in 2014.

Batchellerville Bridge

The new and improved Batchellerville Bridge across Great Sacandaga Lake, which will celebrate its first birthday in November, is now an award-winning bridge.

The $46.8 million project just won project of the year honors from the Eastern New York Chapter of the Association for Bridge Construction and Design.

As bridges go, the Batchellerville is spectacular: It stretches more than 3,000 feet across a long arm of the lake. It took three years to build, and it fascinated passing motorists and sidewalk superintendents far more than the decade of debate about the need, design and financing that preceded.

It should have had a high-profile grand opening ceremony after all of that effort, but any hope of involving state officials was quashed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Someone made the decision that state leaders shouldn’t be seen cutting a ribbon in a remote corner of upstate while their downstate constituents were surrounded by devastation.

The new bridge was simply opened on a Thursday afternoon, with a press release and barely an hour’s notice. It was frustrating to local officials who had hoped for something a little grander.

At least now they have a plaque to go on the wall.

Allerdice replaces Wait

Wallace Allerdice, owner of Allerdice Hardware, will replace Adirondack Trust Co. President Charles Wait on the board of the Saratoga County Water Authority.

Wait had been on the authority board since it was formed in 2006 and resigned due to other commitments, said Lawler, who is also the Water Authority chairman.

“His business skills and leadership and participation were invaluable to us,” Lawler commented.

 
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