The Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership on Tuesday announced the launch of Business First Saratoga, a program to assist existing local businesses.
Officials with the economic development organization and both of the county’s chambers of commerce said economic developers need to work more on retention and expansion of existing businesses.
“When people think of economic development, they often think about the big attraction projects. While that’s incredibly important, we also need to pay attention to the businesses that are already here in Saratoga County,” said Marty Vanags, president of Prosperity Partnership.
The plan is to interview existing businesses about their needs, and use the information to assist them in such areas as workforce development, financing, international market access, government regulations, resources for small businesses and utilities.
“Sometimes it takes a third party to recognize the need and sometimes it takes a third party to organize,” Vanags said during a press conference held at Schmaltz Brewing Co., a growing small brewery in Clifton Park that needs to hire more trained brewers.
“It’s going to be critical for us, really,” said Shelby Schneider, Schmaltz’s marketing director. “We ship to 37 states, but it’s the local connections that make us grow.”
The company is working with Schenectady County Community College on developing a training program.
Business retention was one of four priorities set forth in a strategic plan that Prosperity Partnership announced last December.
The partnership is revealing its plan amid competition with the Saratoga Economic Development Corp. to be the county’s key economic development organization. Prosperity Partnership was established in 2014, after the county government split with SEDC over questions about control of economic development planning.
The SEDC, which has been in business since the 1970s, last week launched a “Saratoga Advantage” advertising campaign highlighting businesses it has assisted over the decades. Those businesses have invested $12 billion, and created 17,500 jobs.
While the partnership was created by the county Board of Supervisors, no supervisors spoke at Tuesday’s event.
The heads of both the Saratoga County and Southern Saratoga chambers spoke. Each chamber has signed a cooperation agreement with the partnership.
“We need to make sure we’re providing all the support and assistance we can to local businesses,” said Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.
“We will go out there and talk to businesses and find out what their needs are and then make some smart decisions,” said Peter Bardunias, president of the Southern Saratoga Chamber.
Cottrell Paper in Rock City Falls recently sought help from Shimkus to get new natural gas service to its factory, and the company is supporting the new program.
“If Business First is going to be action-oriented, it should be worth it,” said Ben Cottrell, vice president and general manager of Cottrell Paper, which has 42 employees.
The partnership also announced it has also finalized an agreement with Luther Forest Technology Campus that designates the partnership as the leading marketing agent of the 1,414–acre site in Malta.
“Future success in Luther Forest Technology Campus is imperative to the economy of Saratoga County and the entire region,” said Prosperity Partnership Chairman John E. Lawler, R-Waterford.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.