SARATOGA COUNTY – Shelby Schneider, a veteran of more than two decades in Saratoga County economic development, will be leaving her current role as president and CEO of the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, as conflict over who handles economic development continues.
The pending departure was mentioned briefly at Tuesday’s meeting of the county Board of Supervisors and Schneider confirmed it, saying she was leaving for a “great opportunity” that she wouldn’t yet specify, other than to say she will still be working in economic development.
Schneider has been president and CEO of the Prosperity Partnership since February 2020 – a period that coincided almost exactly with the COVID-19 pandemic and caused a devastating blow to the finances of an organization that relies for revenue on the county’s room occupancy tax. Those revenues plummeted last year with the plunge in leisure travel due to the pandemic.
The Partnership, which at one time had as many as five employees and an office suite in Malta, moved to smaller quarters in Saratoga Springs. Most recently, the staff has consisted of Schneider and one economic development specialist, Aimee Johnson.
“It’s been a challenging time, but there is nowhere else I would rather have been during a challenging time,” Schneider said.
Underlying the departure is the ongoing dispute over who manages the county’s economic development efforts. Since it was created by the Board of Supervisors in 2014, the Prosperity Partnership has covered much the same ground as the Saratoga Economic Development Corp. – promoting business retention and expansion within the county, trying to attract new business to the county, and helping communities prepare for development.
Talks aimed at merging the two organizations and divvying up responsibilities collapsed last year. Officials this week were leery of talking about whether Schneider’s departure might revive those conversations.
“Shelby has been an asset to the community and of course the board wishes her much success in her future endeavors,” said Maria Moran, chairwoman of the Prosperity Partnership board since March, when there was a leadership shakeup within the board.
“The board will be examining options in the future,” she said in an email.
County Board of Supervisors Chairman Todd Kusnierz, R-Moreau, who is also secretary of the Prosperity Partnership board, did not respond to a request for comment.
Kusnierz became chairman of the board in January, as a group of large-municipality supervisors outvoted those from smaller communities, manifesting a split within the Board of Supervisors that continues, and also underlies some of the tensions over economic development.
“I have known Shelby Schneider since the early days of her career having sat on the Empire Zone Board when she was the zone coordinator for Saratoga County,” said Northumberland Supervisor Bill Peck, a fellow Republican who is among those who has been critical of the replacement of the county administrator and other recent personnel changes orchestrated by the large towns.
“Shelby has always been the consummate professional throughout her career,” Peck said. “Shelby is bright, articulate and hard working. Her leaving the Prosperity Partnership will be a great loss to the residents of Saratoga County. I wish her great success in her future endeavors.”
Schneider has been with the Prosperity Partnership since 2016, first a director of business retention and expansion, and later as vice president. She became president after the Partnership’s first director, Marty Vanags, left in January 2020. Earlier in her career, she spent 13 years as an economic development specialist with the Saratoga Economic Development Corp., and several years as director of marketing for Schmaltz Brewing in Clifton Park, before coming to the Prosperity Partnership.
The Prosperity Partnership was created by the Board of Supervisors following a falling out between the county government and SEDC, which at the time was receiving county funding, but is a private non-profit agency controlled by businesses interests. SEDC officials resisted county efforts to seek more say in its management.
With Saratoga County consistently among the few growing counties upstate since World War II, its past economic development efforts have brought dozens of new businesses to the county – the most notable success is the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in Malta and Stillwater.