SARATOGA COUNTY — Every morning at 3:45 a.m., Marty Vanags, president of the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, wakes up to read for 45 minutes.
“That’s the time when I’m most awake,” he said. “I read a different book every week to 10 days and sometimes I’ve started two or three books at a time.
“It’s kind of an obsession.”
Nearly three years ago, Vanags and his wife, Trish Nusbaum, moved from Indianapolis and bought a house on a six-acre parcel in Galway.
Vanags — along with the rock band Cheap Trick — grew up in Rockford, Illinois, He has been in the economic development industry since the mid-1990s.
After a recruiting firm contacted him about the job at the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, Vanags said it was the right time to expand the economic opportunities in the area.
“When they described the job to me, what made it so interesting was the presence GlobalFoundries had made,” he said. “They mentioned the future opportunities that were available in the community in regards to economic development and I knew we could leverage [GlobalFoundries’] investment.”
Vanags said what keeps him passionate about economic development is the ability to impact people’s lives.
“A job dignifies a person and gives them food and a future,” he said. “I do it for the guy or gal who needs a job.
“At the end of the day, if you do it and do it well, you’ve helped someone out.”
Question: What prompted you to enter the economic development industry?
Answer: I’ve always been involved in the community. In high school, I was student council president and in college I was a resident assistant, so I have that leadership gene to be involved and lead. I wasn’t interested in politics even though I have a political science degree. It’s not that I don’t follow politics or have opinions, but I didn’t want to work in politics.
I wanted to work in public service. When someone asked if I had thought of economic development, it sparked my interest, because you get to do everything — marketing, government, leadership, real estate, labor, workforce, and financing. There’s no other job in the world where you get to do so many cool things.
Q: What were your thoughts on Saratoga County when you first arrived?
A: It was cold, but that didn’t scare me, because I grew up in the Midwest. I think it has so much potential and it’s got a head start, because we’ve got great attractions — horse racing, Saratoga Springs, and we’re on the edge of the Adirondacks. It’s a beautiful area, but you need more than that. We’re also positioned three hours from some of the greatest population areas, so all of those are good for business.
Q: What are some challenges the county faces when it comes to business opportunities?
A: Workforce. It’s challenging trying to find enough people to fill open positions. To solve that problem, you have to make people more aware of the opportunities, and provide training and educational opportunities to move them to something more advanced. Connecting people that need the education and training is important, and while a lot of schools market what they have, there’s still a gap.
In the future, you’ll see the Prosperity Partnership spend more time connecting people to those job producers and match companies to the people who need jobs. Another challenge is getting more property sites shovel-ready, because companies coming in can’t always wait months for a piece of property to be developed. I’d like us to spend more time working with land and business owners to be prepared for more development. We’ll also be spending more time working with individual towns to understand their needs.
Q: How does the Prosperity Partnership attract new business opportunities to the county?
A: In economic development, the most effective way is meeting your potential customer on their turf. You’re selling your community and while the sale cycle is fairly long and they may not have the desire to be in Saratoga County in a month, in two years there may be an opportunity for them to relocate.
You have to build relationships internally to be able to do the job externally. And people do business with their friends, so if we can build that friendship with companies, we can be the place where they go. It takes a lot of time and, unfortunately, not every community is willing to commit the resources and time to do that, but so far Saratoga County has.
Q: Has the housing market in the county impacted the Prosperity Partnership’s ability to recruit outside companies and talent?
A: People live all over the place and drive to their jobs. There are a lot of housing opportunities across the county. The biggest issue is transportation. It’s hard for some people to find reliable transportation to get to or around the county. We’re working on things that would be helpful.
Q: GlobalFoundries has expanded the technology industry in the county. What do you believe will be the next industry to experience a boom in the county?
A: We created the Next Wave Advisory Council to determine just that. A few things that would help drive semiconductor industry growth would be autonomous driving, sensors and artificial intelligence. Those are some things we should be looking at in the future, because they’ll help drive GlobalFoundries’ growth. Logistics and agriculture are important as well, but they’re not necessarily what will drive the economy into the future.
Q: What do you think the future holds for business in Saratoga County?
A: We have unlimited and untapped potential, so there’s so much more we can do. We need to all come together — government, private sector, education. If we all align ourselves together towards the next big thing then the county can continue to grow. I don’t think we should rely so much on state and federal government. Let’s look within ourselves and see what we can do.
Q: What does 2018 hold for the Prosperity Partnership?
A: We’ve got projects in the pipeline, so you’ll hear more from us in that prospective. We’ll continue to work with property owners to make properties available for quick development, continue to develop some future scenarios with the Next Wave Advisory council, and continue to get out in the world and recruit so everyone knows who Saratoga County is.