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SEDC regaining role as economic development marketer

SEDC regaining role as economic development marketer

Prosperity Partnership will handle different aspects of economic development
SEDC regaining role as economic development marketer
Global Foundries' Fab 8 complex in the Luther Forest Technology Park is seen from the air in January 2013.

SARATOGA COUNTY — The Saratoga Economic Development Corp., which once looked to be the loser in a power struggle, will again play a central role in marketing Saratoga County to new and existing businesses.

An agreement approved Thursday by the Board of Supervisors' Economic Development Committee will have both the SEDC and Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership will play roles in the county's economic development efforts, with SEDC doing most external marketing and the Prosperity Partnership working to help communities prepare.

The Prosperity Partnership will see a $230,000 cut in its annual county funding — about 30 percent — but its administrators said they expect to be able to adjust.

County officials acknowledge that confusion about the roles of the competing economic development organizations has hindered the county's efforts to attract new businesses into the growing county.

"There's been a growing concern that the current situation is confusing, duplicative of efforts and frustrating for businesses," said Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett, chairman of the board's Economic Development Committee.

Subject to approval by the Law and Finance Committee on Wednesday and the full Board of Supervisors on June 18, SEDC — a private non-profit economic development agency — will be paid $150,000 annually for marketing the county and wooing prospective businesses, starting in 2020.

The new organizational roles would take effect immediately, though the proposed funding changes wouldn't take place until 2020, Barrett said.

The agreement would give county funding to SEDC for the first time since 2012, when supervisors voted to cut ties after the SEDC board wouldn't give supervisors control of a board seat. The split was acrimonious. The supervisors then set up the Prosperity Partnership — whose board members they appoint — to take over economic development marketing activity.

But SEDC — whose board is self-appointed private business interests — continued to do the marketing work it had done since its founding in 1970. It made up the loss of $200,000 in county funding through spending cuts and increased private support.

County leaders acknowledge a new arrangement was needed to address many business' frustrations with having two economic development agencies competing with each other in the county, creating uncertainty and confusion for companies looking for a new place to locate.

"In conversation with my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors and people in the business community over the past year, there was a strong, growing frustration with the economic development structure in Saratoga County, and change was necessary," said Board of Supervisors Chaiman Kevin Tollisen, R-Halfmoon.

Over the last year, the two organizations, recognizing there was a problem, have had talks about ways to increase cooperation. That led to an agreement they reached and brought to the committee Thursday.

"As long-time supporters of economic development benefiting Saratoga County and its residents, we are pleased to have worked out a fair set of complementary roles and responsibilities for SEDC and SCPP," said John Munter, the SEDC's board chairman.

Under the new structure, SEDC will lead marketing and business attraction and retention efforts, including advertising, attending trade shows and conferences, and being the primary contact with any businesses considering locating in the county.

The SEDC would be the agency negotiating and bringing prospective incentive deals to the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency, and bringing projects to municipal review boards for approvals. The IDA could a significant source of revenue, since the IDA pays half of any application fees, up to $50,000 per application, to the economic development organization that negotiates the deal.

"We'll have an organization that has been successful for decades working, through a services agreement with the county, to do [the marketing] they've been successful at for decades, and we'll also have a resource for our municipalities," Barrett said.

The Prosperity Partnership will focus on its Next Wave Communities initiative, which works with cities, towns and villages on their local economic development strategies. The Partnership will help them develop local marketing efforts, including conducting planning studies and helping them obtain funding for any needed infrastucture improvements.

The Prosperity Partnership will also continue to market the county to the semiconductor industry. One frustration for county officials has been the inability to build significantly on the foundation laid by the $12 billion GlobalFoundries computer chip factory complex in Malta and Stillwater, which opened in 2011.

Under the new arrangement, the Prosperity Partnership see its funding cut starting next year from $775,000 annually to $543,000, which is half the county's receipts from its room occupany tax — the amount it is entitled to by legislation.

Prosperity Partnership board Chairman Kevin Hedley said the organization will make up for the anticipated funding cut through reduced spending on costs like travel, and it will also be able to seek private support or sponsorships. It doesn't plan to charge towns for any services it provides, he said.

"Smaller towns have needs, but they don't necessarily have the resources to meet those needs," Hedley said.

The county has also discussed creating an annually replenished $150,000 economic development planning fund, to aid individual municipalities' improvement efforts. The fund would be managed by the Prosperity Partnership board.

The agreement calls for joint meetings at least monthly involving the two organizations' leaders and leaders on the Board of Supervisors, and for each organization to hold one seat on the other's board. The meetings will be used to share information and provide oversight and guidance to the two organizations' efforts, according to county officials.

"I think [the agreement] creates something much more beneficial for the entire county," Hedley said. "At the end of the day, we both want the same thing."

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