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Saratoga County supervisors hire company to write economic development plan

Tuesday, September 17, 2013
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— Saratoga County supervisors hired a Texas company Tuesday to write an economic development strategic plan for the county.

The hiring of TIP Strategies, of Austin, follows the county’s falling out last winter with the Saratoga Economic Development Corp., which has marketed the county to prospective businesses for the past 35 years.

“What we’re voting on is a plan, to say we want to have a coherent economic development strategy for the county going forward,” said Economic Development Committee Chairman John E. Lawler, R-Waterford.

The hiring was approved by a 16-5 vote at the Board of Supervisors’ monthly meeting in Ballston Spa.

“To me, it seems like this is a waste of taxpayer money,” said opponent Patti Southworth, I-Ballston. “We should be working with our partners, as we have in the past.”

County leaders decided to cut the county’s financial ties to SEDC at the end of this year after the board of the private nonprofit refused to put a supervisor on its board of directors. SEDC is receiving $200,000 from the county this year.

Subsequently, supervisors sought proposals to write a strategic plan for the county’s economic development, saying that was something the county has lacked.

TIP Strategies was selected from among nine national firms that responded to the county’s request for proposals, four of which were interviewed. The Economic Development Committee recommended the firm earlier this month.

The TIP Strategies team will be led by Jon Roberts, the company’s managing director and a former director of business development for the states of Washington and Texas.

TIP’s recent clients have included Phoenix; Fort Collins, Colo.; Las Vegas; and Clark County, Wash. It has also worked for Tompkins County, N.Y.; Houston; Seattle; and Hot Springs, Ark.

“Jon Roberts is a world-class economic development planner,” said Malta town Supervisor Paul Sausville.

Sausville’s town — as home to the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant — has been the biggest recent beneficiary of development groundwork laid by SEDC, but he called for change.

“That’s all history. ... For the last five years, we have enjoyed the fruits of that history, but nothing more has really happened with economic development,” Sausville said.

Southworth disputed that assessment after the meeting, noting re-development of the Halfmoon railroad yard and an ongoing rail expansion between Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa.

Also voting against the hiring were John Collyer, R-Providence; Philip Barrett, R-Clifton Park; Joanne Yepsen, D-Saratoga Springs; and Preston Jenkins, D-Moreau.

Lawler said the initial part of the TIP Strategies plan should be finished in January.

“The plan will identify assets and determine what industries we’re best suited to attract, and how do we approach those industries,” he said.

Board Chairman Alan R. Grattidge, R-Charlton, said getting started on a strategic plan was one of his main goals for his year as chairman.

 
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