One of the first things travellers arriving at Albany International Airport’s busiest concourse now see is a display of reasons to do business in Saratoga County.
The newly installed wall and banner display outside the Southwest Airlines gates is part of the Saratoga Economic Development Corp.’s plan to keep marketing the region’s fastest-growing county, despite the end of its official relationship with Saratoga County government.
“When you come down from the plane, you see Saratoga County pretty well displayed,” said SEDC President Dennis Brobston.
The Saratoga-oriented economic development messages are wrapped around the airport’s business center, where travelers can work, hold small conferences — or consider the appeal for their business of the Capital Region’s emerging high-tech economy, and Saratoga County in particular. It’s in a spot where people of influence are expected to see it as they fly in or out of the region’s main airport.
“These are business travelers, these are decision-makers,” said Scott A. Maltzman, an account executive with Lamar, the airport’s advertising marketer.
The SEDC display opened just before Halloween and will be up for at least a year.
“We expect to have phone calls from people considering moving here,” Brobston said.
The display cost SEDC $50,000 — though about 80 percent of the price has been offset by SEDC in turn selling small window display ads to its member businesses, companies like D.A. Collins Construction, Cascade Tissue and Palio Communications.
Brobston said the high-profile display is an example of how SEDC plans to continue marketing Saratoga County as a business destination, even though its official and financial relationship with the county is being severed Dec. 31. County officials are ending a 35-year relationship with SEDC when the current $200,000 annual contract expires.
When the split was revealed last spring, county officials said they wanted more input than they were being given into the operation of SEDC, a private, nonprofit corporation managed by its 390 member businesses.
Since then, the county has hired TIP Strategies of Austin, Texas, to write an economic development strategic plan for the county — a kind of plan it hasn’t had before. TIP Strategies officials were in the county last week and are expected to have a draft plan ready for review early next year.
Despite the split, SEDC has no plans to back away from its traditional role in marketing the county — one that has played a role in creating or retaining 17,000 jobs since 1978.
While the SEDC has not yet identified a new source of funding, the organization collects dues from members. And SEDC gets funding from the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency whenever it brings project that gets approved by the IDA.
SEDC leaders jumped at the opportunity when Lamar, the airport’s advertising marketing company, approached them about advertising on the outside of the business center. There’s been advertising there in the past, but not recently.
“SEDC continues to market the area because that’s how we attract new businesses,” Brobston said. “It also raises the awareness factor, that someone is paying attention to this.”
The region’s emerging identity as a high-tech hub is built largely around activities at the College of Nanoscale Sciences and Engineering in Albany and GlobalFoundries, the computer chip fabricator earlier SEDC efforts helped bring to Malta.
The new technology destinations have changed the kinds of people traveling through the airport, which is used by about 4.4 million travellers a year. About 42 percent fly on Southwest, the airport’s most popular airline, meaning they will be exposed to the Saratoga County ads.
“We’re becoming more global, and the numbers reflect that people are flying into the airport from all over the world. A lot of them are from the high-tech sector,” said Maltzman, Lamar’s local transportation account executive. “It’s the first and last impression travelers have of the region.”
Others entities advertising at the airport include GlobalFoundries, the Center for Economic Growth, the nanocollege and MVP Health Services.
The prominent role of technology companies is new since Lamar took over airport advertising less than two years ago.
“Lamar has taken advertising here to a new level,” said airport spokesman Doug Myers.
Myers said there have been economic development ads in the past for Herkimer and Greene counties, but nothing on the scale now being done for Saratoga County.
The airport’s service area extends from Utica to southern Vermont and includes about 1.3 million residents, Myers said.
Lamar guarantees the Albany County Airport Authority at least $1.8 million annually, revenue Myers said offsets costs for the airport’s airlines.