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Saratoga: a New Golden Age?
SEDC and the Partnership See Great Promise in County’s Future
This is the second in a three-part series on economic development in Saratoga County. The first in the series, "Taxpayers Triple Down on Saratoga," can be read here.
SARATOGA COUNTY – While the rest of the nation is still pulling slowly out of the Great Recession, Saratoga County has been holding its own and growing.
According to Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, the prognosis and outlook is good. “Last year was one of the first years since I have been here that everyone around the table [local CEO’s] expected growth. Anecdotally, I think every sector I’m aware of saw job growth.”
Dennis Brobston, president of the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), a nonprofit 501(c)3, agrees. “Saratoga County is known in upstate New York as one of the best counties for economic development,” said Brobston, who has been dedicated to growing the local economy for over three decades. “It has one of the lowest unemployment rates across the state across all sectors, and is in the top three fastest growing. You can see it in the boom of jobs, housing, low county taxes and more. We’re really blessed we have such great product to sell [Saratoga County], and there are plenty of ancillary jobs created because of what we do.”
Marty Vanags, president of the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, is also working to build on the strengths of the county to multiply the economic development efforts here. The Partnership’s Saratoga Strategic Plan is focused on four main objectives:
First, the Partnership will engage in a proactive, targeted and collaborative campaign to attract new business to Saratoga County in key clusters and industries, including: Advanced Manufacturing; Agriculture; Financial Business Process Outsourcing; Research and Development; and Specialized Distribution. According to Vanags, he intends to bring trade shows here so CEO’s can experience everything Saratoga has to offer, and use those events to encourage them to explore staying.
Secondly, the Partnership will engage existing businesses, stakeholders, partners and other economic development agencies in an all-inclusive, multi-year Business Retention and Expansion Campaign that will help the private sector secure new jobs and capital investment in Saratoga County. Vanags will work with local partners on branding and awareness campaigns to get the news out about the benefits of the county.
The Partnership shall leverage the investment of GlobalFoundries and the presence of Luther Forest Technology Park to attract new advanced manufacturing businesses, suppliers and allied industries to increase employment and capital investment in Saratoga County. One aspect of this is an area that SEDC is working on, too, creating a supply chain to feed the work at GlobalFoundries.
The Partnership will build and expand relationships with appointed and elected officials at the local, state and federal government levels to enhance investments in Saratoga County, and the next article in this series will touch more on the impact of state and national government on our local economy.
Both the Prosperity Partnership and SEDC are providing decades of expertise and national relationships to build on the county’s current growth and tremendous economic potential.
“The role of an economic development agency is to create jobs, good paying jobs,” said Brobston. “It enables a person to live a decent life, pay bills, and contribute to the investment in a community. And, our role is to get companies to invest in the community, because that investment brings dollars in taxes which helps our schools, existing local businesses, and more.”
SEDC’s goals for the county’s future include much of what they have been working on already – encouraging businesses to locate here that provide a supply chain for GlobalFoundries; that manufacture advanced technologies like medical supplies and sensors; building on the hotbed SEDC’s created here for warehouse distribution; and working on relocating corporate headquarters here.
“Saratoga County is a wonderful place to live and have a business,” said Brobston. It offers a lot of access to the world through Boston, Montreal, Buffalo – just jump on a plane and be anywhere. Within a day’s drive of here is 54 percent of the population of North America.”
Shimkus sees a benefit to having both SEDC and the Partnership out marketing Saratoga County to industries to relocate here. “There’s so much interest in moving into Saratoga County that having two organizations selling with more feet on the street doing sales is helpful,” said Shimkus. “When you could have a lot of demand, you want to make sure you’re doing as much prospecting as possible.”
And that double-prospecting can help fill in the employment gaps that exist in the county. Brobston acknowledged that the northern end of the county has a higher unemployment rate than the southern, partly due to access to Albany and government jobs at that end of the Northway, but he foresees change for the northern end, as well. The addition of Dollar General’s new warehouse in Wilton, should that come through, would make a big difference.
“We’re a county that’s been growing a lot later than other counties,” said Brobston. “These were bedroom communities in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Saratoga Springs was a resort that was busy only five months out of the year. We’re maturing, now. We’re less transient than when GE and the paper mill were moving their employees in and out. People are staying and we’re seeing a need for senior housing like we never had before.”
Brobston described the impact of Ball Corporation, one of SEDC’s first projects. The company is celebrating retirees now, people who moved here 35 years ago due to SEDC’s efforts to relocated Ball Corporation in Saratoga Springs.
“Now we have people who want to stay because their families are here,” said Brobston. “I was here at age 27, moved away, moved back, and now I have grandkids here. I’m never leaving – first my wife would shoot me and then my grandchildren would,” he joked. “I’m not the only one. According to census estimates, the brain drain has slowed down a bit. People who’ve left are coming back. Once you add in the GlobalFoundries personnel into the numbers, we’ve got a great mix of all ages and people are staying, aging in place. We’ve never had that before, and it began with Ball. They were a great success story. We have many of those success stories. Ball, Quad Graphics, Saratoga Eagle, Ace Hardware, Delmar Thomas, all corporations from somewhere else.”
Brobston had some thoughts about how county citizens can contribute to job growth beyond showing up with welcome signs at planning board meetings. “Local residents can help by paying attention to what the world needs,” he said. “It’s okay to say if they aren’t thrilled with a new project, but also say let’s figure out a way to do this together.”
He described the proposed expansion of Saratoga Hospital as an example, saying that community could use some of the corresponding road improvements that would go along with the project, but those improvements will be slower coming without the investment dollars a hospital expansion would bring.
“Some people are worried about traffic, others are more worried about access to healthcare,” said Brobston, “but they might be afraid to speak out in fear of being ostracized. We need to be thoughtful, vocal, and positive. Be more willing to find compromise. I believe there’s hope and ways to do this. The individual is what this country was built on, and home rule is what this state was built on, but we can’t forget that what we say and do has an impact on others. It’s not always about us.”
Shimkus adds, “It’s easy to tell people to shop and go to independent local stores, but I think the bigger issue is that we need the community to always support efforts to grow the economy. You have to always be trying to create new jobs, local jobs, so there are jobs here for their kids to come back to. We can’t be complacent in Saratoga and believe we have it all. We have to always be focused on growing the economy like what SEDC and the Partnership are doing.
The Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership is located at 2911 Route 9 in Malta. They can be reached at 518-871-1887. The Saratoga Economic Development Corporation is located at 28 Clinton St, Saratoga Springs and can be reached at 518-587-0945. The economic development plans for both agencies can be found on their respective websites.