FULTON COUNTY -- Fulton County recently released details of its 10-year economic growth plan, labeled the "Vision 2026 Development Strategy."
County Administrator Jon Stead said the main purpose of the strategy is to provide a road map of steps Fulton County and its municipalities can take to improve the quality of life, increase tax revenue and grow the local economy.
"We've done economic summits that have produced small economic strategies over the years. Since I've been involved here, we've done those every seven or eight years," Stead said. "This is a much broader, longer look at a 10-year plan, and it's pulling together all of these things into one big cohesive plan.
"It's trying to identity what are the priorities, when should they be done and what local entities should be working to get them done, so we're going to try to make sure this is a product that doesn't end up on a shelf somewhere. It's actually got this implementation matrix that is one of the most important parts."
Though it was released in May of 2018, the 2026 date in the 10-year strategy references back to when the project began -- in 2016, when the county hired consulting firm River Street Planning and Development, of Troy, for $150,000 to help develop the plan. The cost of the project was split, with Fulton County paying $65,000 and the rest being paid for by grants from National Grid and Empire State Development, New York state's economic development corporation.
For its money, in addition to the overall plan, Fulton County is getting several "bound volume" publications it can use to promote development in the county, including: A complete study of the county's housing market, its capacity and a needs assessment for different types of housing; a retail study assessing the demand for different types of goods and services; and a Fulton County fact booklet that could be useful to private sector developers.
"We want to have this one-stop shopping guide that [economic development officials or investors] can use to perhaps put a company here or a housing development," Stead said. "That's exactly what they are for."
Stead said another element of the plan is a graphic conceptual design of the county's three priority development projects: housing developments in the Hales Mills and Vail Mills areas and the Tryon Technology Park, site of the former Tryon Detention Center.
"We've had those [designs] for a year that we've been using in promotional materials. That was another component that was built into this. They are pretty neat-looking, our [Fulton County] Center for Regional Growth and our Industrial Development Agency can use these high-gloss brochures to go out and promote these areas. Those are all components of this same $150,000 project," he said.
Included in the housing study are details about the age of the housing stock in Fulton County. According to the report, 85 percent of the houses were constructed prior to 1990, and 65 percent were built before 1950. The study indicates a 26 percent spike in the demand for studio style apartments.
Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Greg Young said he was impressed with the strategic vision and was glad there was a focus on housing. He said the vision dovetails nicely with the work he does with the Gloversville Housing & Neighborhood Improvement Corp.
"I was excited to see that they are projecting demand for additional housing units throughout the county," he said. "The plan confirms a lot of hunches, but you can't really base development off of hunches, so it's helpful to have this detailed plan and specific action steps."
Included in the implementation portion of the strategy are recommendations that Fulton County create the following programs:
- A countywide new housing program.
- A countywide housing rehabilitation program.
- A countywide homebuyer assistance program.
- A countywide anchor building rehabilitation/reuse program for important/key properties.
River Street recommends Fulton County seek New York state Consolidated Funding Application grants to fund the programs.
Fulton County Chairman of the Board of Supervisors James Groff said the vision plan will be a key part of the application for that funding.
"I think it will make a difference. When you go for grants and stuff like that, you need to have something to show that you're working toward a goal," he said.
Some of the other highlights of the plan include a focus on enhancing tourism and marketing the county's quality of life.
Young said one tourism enhancement idea he likes included in the plan is completion of the county's rail trail bike path.
"As of now, we kind of have two rail trails. We want to fully link the old FJ&G railway to really make it a connected trail for the eastern part of the county," he said.
Another portion of the old FJ&G railroad has been maintained as a railroad easement, and that could be used to build a railroad spur into the proposed site for a Fulton-Montgomery Regional Business Park, built on land currently in the town of Mohawk. Young said the plan to finish the rail trail would not affect the railroad spur easement.
Some other elements of development that were not part of the strategic vision include government reform and consolidation and a long-term immigration strategy for Fulton County. The Fulton County CEO Roundtable in May of 2017 discussed a burgeoning "worker shortage" for the county and suggested the county might want to try to encourage international immigration to address it.
Stead said government reform was a topic briefly addressed in parts of the strategic vision, but it was not a major focal point. He said the idea of promoting international immigration to the area has not been seriously discussed by the Board of Supervisors.
"I haven't seen any movement or traction on any of that," Stead said.
Groff said he's skeptical of the idea that the county needs an influx of workers.
"I think we've got enough people to fill those jobs," he said. "We've got to try to bring some industry in here. We've got the [Vireo Health medical] marijuana [manufacturing] plant and a few other things; we've got to try to bring in more stuff."
Fulton County is also engaged in formulating a shared services plan, to meet the requirements of a state mandate for counties to find ways of saving money. Groff said he was in favor of convening a committee of all of the heads of all of the law enforcement agencies in the county to discuss consolidating those agencies, but those agency leaders have not been willing to come together.
"People have to be able to put egos aside and talk about the facts," Groff said. "It's probably not going to happen. It takes a lot of cooperation."