A long-abandoned railroad right-of-way between Fonda and Johnstown could play a role in Fulton County’s economic development plans.
Following three years of austerity under “survival strategy” budgets, the county’s 2014 spending plan includes $300,000 in county spending aimed at a new strategy: Jumpstart Fulton County.
The money is earmarked for two major initiatives the county will pursue in the coming year: development at the Tryon Technology Park and creation of a new business park on the border with Montgomery County.
Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon R. Stead said that since 2011, the post-Great Recession strategy has been to stabilize the county’s budget. The $85.2 million budget for 2014 cuts taxes and maintains a comfortable $11 million fund balance, so now, the goal is to boost the county’s tax base to allow for reduced taxes in the future.
Half the money earmarked for 2014 will be put toward a branding and marketing effort for the Tryon site, a former youth detention facility in Perth that once employed more than 300 people before the state shut it down in 2011.
The other $150,000 will be directed toward the two-county business park envisioned on the Mohawk-Johnstown border but only in the conceptual stage.
Studies will consume the bulk of that money. They include wetlands mitigation plans, rail access to the nearby Johnstown Industrial Park and options for acquiring the land.
Stead said the ultimate goal is to create a site that could attract a major business capable of employing 200 to 300 people — development that would be considered a “game changer.”
The idea to use the rail line sprang from a visit by Mike Mullis, of Tennessee-based J.M. Mullis, a firm that researches and recommends sites to major businesses looking to locate a facility.
“A lot of us don’t think about rail service being that critical, but with the cost of fuel, major, large industry still relies very heavily on rail lines, so that is one of the components we are going to look at,” Stead said.
There’s been discussion for years about turning the southern end of the old Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad into a recreational path. Parts of the northern end of the right-of-way already are paved over and used as a recreation trail
But work may win out over recreation if the rail line could be brought back to life.
“Trails are very popular, but we all know that jobs, jobs, jobs are really what we need,” Stead said.