An outside economic development consultant is recommending that a new quasi-independent entity be set up to handle Saratoga County’s economic development activities.
The county should have a three-person economic development office, set up as either an authority or a local development corporation, according to a draft strategic plan prepared by TIP Strategies of Austin, Texas.
The firm also says the county has economic strengths in tourism, agriculture and high technology, and the plan will recommend strategies for enhancing each of those areas.
“This is a comprehensive, well-thought-out plan that can guide our economic development efforts for the next five to 10 years,” said county Economic Development Committee Chairman John E. Lawler, R-Waterford.
Creation of a new authority would require approval by the state Legislature, while an LDC could be established by supervisors. Either would have more flexibility in negotiating with businesses than the county would. In either scenario, supervisors would appoint members of the governing board.
A budget for the office is still being developed, but Lawler said it would be less than the $500,000 available for it in the county budget.
Lawler on Wednesday refused to release the 130-page strategic economic development plan on the ground that it remains a draft document, not yet county policy and subject to change until adopted by the Board of Supervisors. He did, however, answer some questions about the plan.
TIP Strategies was hired for $95,000 last September, following the county’s break early last year with the Saratoga Economic Development Corp., an independent corporation that had done the county’s business marketing for 35 years.
“We need a fresh approach,” Supervisor Alan R. Grattidge, R-Charlton, said Thursday.
Lawler, who chaired the board in 2013 when SEDC was cut and TIP was hired, said the county itself needs to take a more active role than it has in the past, when proximity to the Northway and major cities, along with low taxes, drove residential and business growth.
“At one point our advantages were so strong we could take a passive role,” Lawler said.
“We’re not there anymore. It’s very competitive.”
The greatest coup of recent years was the attraction of the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in Malta, but the draft plan says the county should keep looking to expand the sector.
“They suggest looking beyond chipmaking,” Lawler said.
Expanding the county’s high-tech vision would fit with one of the largest issues now facing the county — what to do about the financial struggles of the Luther Forest Technology Campus, the industrial park that hosts GlobalFoundries. It has drawn no other tenants, leading to financial troubles for the nonprofit corporation that owns it.
The county has proposed that the town of Malta expand the definitions of allowed uses beyond chipmaking and related businesses, as part of an agreement in which the county would take ownership of 5.5 miles of road in the campus now owned and maintained by Malta. No deal has come together, however.
“We’re still working toward that goal,” said Grattidge, who is on the county’s LFTC subcommittee.
The draft plan also calls for better coordinating all the various local government agencies that are involved in economic development, said Ryan Moore, the county’s management analyst.
“We’re not just horses, we’re not just GlobalFoundries, we’re an incredibly diverse county,” said Supervisor Anita M. Daly, R-Clifton Park, a member of the Economic Development Committee.
Lawler said nothing proposed in the plan will be able to be implemented without future action by the Board of Supervisors.
“All it does is give us a road map,” he said.
TIP Strategies, whose principal is Jon Roberts, a former business development director for the states of Washington and Texas, will make a presentation to the supervisors on March 18 in Ballston Spa.