Thursday, 09 May 2013 21:05

County Cuts Ties With SEDC

By Patricia Older | News

BALLSTON SPA — After 35 years of a successful relationship with the Saratoga Economic Development Corp. the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors decided this week to end that relationship and strike on its own to draw companies and investors to the region. 

“Saratoga County has experienced significant growth since our current marketing strategy was put in place 35 years ago,” said Supervisor John Lawler, who is chairman of the Economic Development Committee for the county, adding that the county would “be remiss as elected representatives if we did not take a fresh look at the county’s economic development programs.” 

But, the SEDC countered that the move was political and not based on sound decision-making for the benefit of the county and its residents. 

Dennis Brobson said last week that the SEDC “has generated more than 17,500 jobs, $12 billion in investment and $34 million in annual tax revenue for Saratoga County,” and the relationship was ended by the Board of Supervisors “by SEDC’s rejection of the request by the Board of Supervisors to include a member of the of the Board of Supervisors on the SEDC Board.” 

Anita Daly, Clifton Park’s supervisor had expressed an interest in being on the SEDC board, but the request did not state specifically who would serve in that capacity. 

Brobson said that when the county and SEDC first formed their partnership—SEDC gets $200,000 annually from Saratoga County—it was agreed that an elected official would not serve on the board to ensure the organization remained free of political influence. 

He added that the County Administrator, a non-elected official, already serves on the SEDC board “for the strict purpose of keeping the Board of Supervisors apprised of economic development activities for the past 13 years.”

He continued, “The request was also rejected on the grounds that it could imperil confidential talks with prospective businesses. The appointment of an elected official to the SEDC Board could trigger sunshine laws that could endanger the often sensitive nature of negotiations. In an independent report titled “12 Mistakes to Avoid in Site Selection,” global consulting firm Deloitte Consulting listed project confidentiality as one of the most important aspects of finding a suitable site—especially for large projects with political ramifications.”

But Saratoga County seems to stand behind their decision, instead citing they plan to explore more aggressive strategies from their decision. 

“Over the course of the next several months, the Economic Development Committee will develop a new marketing strategy to take effect in 2014,” said Lawler in a press release. 

The contract with SEDC will remain until the end of 2013. 

The contract with the county represents only 25 percent of SEDC’s budget. 

The county accused SEDC of focusing more on the needs of its contributors, rather than the county. 

“SEDC has steadfastly and unequivocally committed itself to furthering the economic development needs of Saratoga County,” said Brobson. “From its inception SEDC has been a membership based organization created to leverage funding from both private and public sources. Our members believe supporting the economic growth of our county is critical to the overall success of the business community and their partnership has provided more than financial support. The only objective SEDC believes in is its mission statement: To create jobs and diversify and increase the tax base, while improving the quality of life for the residents of Saratoga County. We accomplish this through the retention of existing businesses, attraction of new industries, and improving our product—Saratoga County, New York.”

SEDC has been responsible for bringing a number of large businesses and jobs to the county including Luther Forest Technology Campus, GlobalFoundries, Quad/Graphics and Ball Metal. 

“In 1978, SEDC was tasked by the Board of Supervisors to spearhead economic development after the County had shed more than 10,000 jobs,” said Brobson. “SEDC was charged with retaining existing businesses and attracting new industry to Saratoga County. Since then, SEDC has been the first point of contact for business development in Saratoga County, providing business and real estate development services as well as project management from start to finish.”

SEDC said they planned to continue on with business as usual. 

“SEDC will continue to operate on behalf of the businesses and residents of Saratoga County exclusively through private funding, including from more than 400 members, and will actively endeavor to develop additional sources of revenue,” said Brobson. “We stand ready to assist the full Board of Supervisors of Saratoga County in any way possible for the economic vitality of our County. For nearly 35 years, SEDC has worked tirelessly to bring businesses, jobs and tax dollars to Saratoga County—a mission that will continue in 2014 and beyond.”

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