When the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors split with the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) and took off in a new direction to promote economic development, it said the new goal was to have more economic diversity.
But judging by the makeup of the board of the new Prosperity Partnership, it appears the new direction points down a single road.
For 35 years, the county had a successful economic development model in the SEDC. The evidence was in the variety of businesses the county was able to attract during the past three decades, the low unemployment rate, the development of the Luther Forest tech park, the growth of the suburban towns and a variety of other signs.
But after some kind of dispute with the leaders of SEDC, the county last year decided it needed a fresh approach. "Economic diversity" was the new buzz phrase. "A broader umbrella." The new approach would diversify the county's offerings to expand the focus beyond technology and include more agriculture, tourism, financial processing, warehousing and other businesses. We disagreed with the change. But supervisors had a plan, and we admire them for not being willing to stick with the status quo.
That's why the makeup of the board to run the new Prosperity Partnership is so baffling. Outside of county officials, its members are all from the technology field.
Board member Brendan Chudy is senior manager and deputy director of legal affairs at GlobalFoundries, the big computer-chip manufacturing plant. Omar Usmani is executive partner with Aeon Nexus Corp., a high-tech software and management services company. Penny Hill is associate dean at Hudson Valley Community College, where she's director of the college's TECH-SMART program in Malta. The other four members are three county supervisors and the head of the county IDA.
All of these individuals are highly qualified to serve the county's economic development needs, and their membership on the Partnership will be invaluable.
But where's the economic diversity? Where's the broad umbrella?
Where's the representative from the tourism industry, which generates tens of millions of dollars every year for the county? Where's the representative from the agriculture or equine community? How about a representative from the retail industry or low-tech manufacturing? Education? The one educator on the board is from a community college in Rensselaer County. How about a representative from Saratoga County's lucrative hospitality trade, including hotels and restaurants and gaming and entertainment venues? How about a banker or a financial services person? Wouldn't it be wise to put someone from local and county chambers of commerce on this board?
We're OK with the county taking its economic development in a new direction. But as for the much-touted diversity, this board, so far, just doesn't have it.
County supervisors have allowed for 15 members to serve on the Prosperity Partnership board. Seems like there are still a few seats left to fill.