Warren Washington IDA names permanent CEO

Chuck Barton, newly appointed CEO of the Counties of Warren & Washington Industrial Development Agency.

Chuck Barton, newly appointed CEO of the Counties of Warren & Washington Industrial Development Agency.

GLENS FALLS — The state’s only two-county industrial development agency has its first-ever CEO.

The Warren Washington IDA announced the appointment of longtime mining executive Chuck Barton on Thursday.

The organization was formed in 1971 but has always had a de facto leader, said David O’Brien, who volunteered in that role for several years and is also chairman of its board of directors.

The board wanted a greater presence in that role, which gave it two options, O’Brien said: Formally appoint a CEO or hire a consultant to serve in that capacity.

The preference was to bring on someone involved with the local community and familiar with the pillars of the two counties’ economies — agriculture, industry and tourism. That closely described Barton, O’Brien said.

“Chuck has a great background in engineering, background in project management, background in finance, he understands companies,” O’Brien said.

Barton was, until earlier this summer, chief operating officer of Barton Mines, the garnet mining and abrasive manufacturing company founded by his great-great-grandfather in 1878.

Barton’s project management experience will boost the IDA’s efforts to develop its two industrial parks, O’Brien said, and Barton’s understanding of the challenges facing businesses will help the IDA better serve the two counties’ business community, helping encourage companies to relocate here or not relocate away.

If they are to grow, the two counties need to attract more businesses and provide local opportunities for young adults ready to enter the workforce, O’Brien said.

“We have some stable industries here but also, in order to grow, we need to have more jobs,” he said.

But he’s optimistic: Economic activity in the last two years surpasses the preceding decade, he said.

Challenges, he added, include retaining those young people but also attracting newcomers and providing good housing at a price they can afford.

Unemployment in Warren and Washington counties was estimated at 3.2% in July and dipped as low as 2.9% and 3.0% in May, according to the state Department of Labor.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports Washington County’s population shrank 3% from 2010 to 2020 and Warren County’s was almost exactly unchanged.

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