Saratoga County

New Saratoga County economic development group receives $446K to start

Saratoga County is giving its new economic development organization $446,000 in start-up funding.

Saratoga County is giving its new economic development organization $446,000 in start-up funding.

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved the money and also appointed four more directors to the board of the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership. With funding available, partnership Chairman John E. Lawler said the search for an executive director will start later this month.

The vote at a meeting in Ballston Spa to approve the partnership’s funding was 19-1, with only Supervisor Peter Martin, D-Saratoga Springs, opposed. Martin, one of three Democrats on the Republican-dominated board, said the $446,000 figure hadn’t been justified, and he questioned the wisdom of having five supervisors — all Republicans — on the 15-member partnership board.

“We do not have enough information yet to prudently authorize the release of this kind of money,” Martin said.

The $446,000 is the full balance remaining in the county budget’s economic development account.

Other supervisors defended the allocation, which will be used to hire staff and rent office space for what will be a local development corporation funded by — but independent of — county government.

“The nuts and bolts of what the LDC is trying to do require funding,” said Supervisor Matthew Veitch, R-Saratoga Springs.

The allocated money won’t be spent until the partnership starts incurring expenses, he said, and then won’t be released until the county administrator approves.

Lawler defended the partnership’s accountability, saying its meetings will be public and its activities subject to review by the state Authorities Budget Office.

The organization was formed this spring, following the county’s break last year with the Saratoga Economic Development Corp., which had done the county’s economic development marketing for 35 years, helping to bring in Quad/Graphics, Ball Metal, a Target warehouse, GlobalFoundries and other businesses. SEDC had an annual contract with the county which at one time exceeded $300,000, though it was cut to $200,000 in 2013.

SEDC officials blamed the split on the county wanting more say in its decision-making, while county officials said they weren’t getting enough “bang for the buck.”

Supervisors then commissioned a strategic economic development plan, which recommended the county focus its efforts on boosting manufacturing, tourism and agriculture. The plan also recommended setting up a new marketing entity, the partnership, with a budget of about $500,000 annually.

Added to the partnership’s board Tuesday were supervisors Veitch and Ed Kinowski, R-Stillwater; Saratoga Casino and Raceway Senior Vice President Rita Cox; and Kevin Hedley, a Halfmoon certified public accountant. The appointments bring the board membership to 14. Lawler said the county is seeking a 15th member from the private sector.

Charlton town Supervisor Alan R. Grattidge, who was county board chairman in 2013, said business people told him the county’s role should be to provide the sewer, water and road infrastructure needed to support business development.

“It might require a significant financial commitment by the county, but that’s what it takes to grow the economic development pie,” he said.

Lawler, who is the Waterford town supervisor, said the partnership board expects to retain an executive recruiter when it meets July 29.

He couldn’t say how long it will take to recruit staff. “It’s more important to get the right person than to do it quickly,” he said.

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