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Saratoga County creating new economic development agency

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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— Saratoga County supervisors have begun creating a new local development corporation to handle the county’s economic development activity.

The move, started at a county board meeting Tuesday, will give the county two potentially competing economic development marketing organizations.

The county’s creation of an LDC follows its split a year ago with the Saratoga Economic Development Corp., an independent organization that did the county’s marketing for 35 years.

Meeting in Ballston Spa, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to set up the LDC, although it may not be operating for months.

SEDC, meanwhile, continues to work on business development projects, and says it isn’t going away.

“SEDC is going to be continuing to do economic development with the support of the business community,” said President Dennis Brobston when contacted after the county board meeting.

But it won’t be the county’s official business marketer, as it was in the past for a compensation of $200,000 to $350,000 per year.

“We wish them luck in whatever role they define for themselves,” said county Economic Development Committee Chairman John E. Lawler, R-Waterford. “That’s all for now.”

The vote taken Tuesday starts the legal process to establish a local development corporation. Lawler said there are still “legal hoops” to jump through, including selecting a board of directors, which must be in place before incorporation papers can be filed.

“I’m asking for suggestions and recommendations. We’re trying to cast a wide net,” Lawler said.

The new LDC was recommended in a recently adopted county strategic economic development plan that was commissioned after the break with SEDC. The plan says the county can promote more development in high-tech manufacturing, tourism and agriculture, and it recommended creating an LDC to follow through.

The LDC directors would be appointed by the Board of Supervisors. At the heart of last year’s break was SEDC’s refusal to let supervisors pick one member of its board of directors.

Lawler said the new organization will be “focused on creating a true countywide entity that represents all businesses and entities equally.”

It’s too soon to know when it will be up and running, he said.

It isn’t yet determined whether the LDC will have its own offices. The county’s planning consultant recommended a three-person staff, with a budget of $450,000 to $500,000 annually.

SEDC is based in Saratoga Springs, in offices adjoining those of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. Its budget was once close to $1 million per year, but it has made cutbacks since its county funding was reduced in 2012 and then eliminated last year.

SEDC continues to work on putting together incentive packages to expand existing businesses or attract new businesses. It still has a contractual relationship, in place since 1984, to do marketing for the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency. It receives half the IDA fees generated on successful applications, up to $50,000 per application.

Brobston said he is close to bringing two business expansion applications before the IDA, while continuing to work on attracting the high-tech businesses SEDC has been courting since the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant was first announced in 2006.

“Our goal remains the same, to bring jobs here, good-paying jobs that benefit the taxpayers of Saratoga County,” Brobston said.

Brobston said SEDC would be willing to work with the county in the future. He added, however, that he sees no point to creating the LDC.

“Two organizations is a waste of money, but we can’t stop them from doing that,” he said.

 
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