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Friday, 07 June 2013 09:24

Spa City to County: Work it Out With SEDC

By Patricia Older | News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga Springs City Council passed a resolution this past week asking the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors to reconsider its decision to sever ties with the Saratoga Economic Development Corp. when the contract comes up for renewal at the end of December.

The decision to sever ties was made by John Lawler, Waterford Supervisor and chairman of the county’s Economic Development Committee. The entire Board does not need to vote on the decision since it is a contract between the two entities and budget item. 

Last month, the Saratoga County Development Committee decided to cut ties with the not-for-profit organization that has successfully brought in large scale businesses such as Quad/Graphics, Ball Metal and GlobalFoundries. Between the Quad/Graphics and GlobalFoundries, nearly 3,000 jobs were created. The organization has also helped bring in a countless number of other businesses from national corporations to owner operator companies. 

Last week, Lawler released a statement saying the county had hired E.M. Pemrick & Co. of Ballston Lake to help draft a proposal seeking an economic development consultant. Pemrick, the consultant and the long term economic development strategic plan will be paid for with the $200,000 that would have gone to SEDC. 

“The Board of Supervisors is moving forward with a new economic development program that is worthy of the unique opportunities and advantages we have at our fingertips in Saratoga County,” Lawler said.

But the county’s decision to develop its own economic plan has created a stir. 

On Tuesday, following Lawler’s announcement about hiring Pemrick, the City Council passed the resolution present by Commissioner of Accounts John Franck. 

The county has contracted with SEDC for the last 35 years to bring economic development to the area. The county’s decision to not renew SEDC’s contract followed on the heels of SEDC’s refusal to appoint a member of the Board of Supervisors to their board. SEDC has publically stated they feel the county’s decision was politically motivated. 

The relationship, said the SEDC, was ended because of “SEDC’s rejection of the request by the Board of Supervisors to include a member of the Board of Supervisors on the SEDC Board.” 

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

Saratoga City Supervisor Joanne Yepsen urged the City Council to pass the resolution.

“This cannot be a partisan issue,” Yepsen said. “We have to work together to continue the economic progress in Saratoga County and Saratoga Springs. The SEDC has done an exceptional job of attracting GlobalFoundries, Ball Metal Corporation, Quad/Graphics, State Farm Insurance and drawing many small businesses that have resulted in thousands of jobs and millions in tax dollars for our county. We should continue this relationship which has been so successful for our citizens thus far.”

Yepsen said that the county would be unable to replicate what SEDC has done so successfully for 35 years. 

“What we don’t need is another government authority. What we need is public and private collaboration with experienced and successful economic development professionals,” said Yepsen. “There is still time to do the right thing. The right thing is to have one point of contact, one strategy and one agency implementing the plan.”

But, the Board of Supervisors has felt breaking from SEDC is crucial at this point. 

“Saratoga County has experienced significant growth since our current marketing strategy was put in place 35 years ago,” said Lawler, 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.” 

SEDC has generated more than 17,500 jobs, $12 billion in investments and $34 million in annual tax revenue for Saratoga County, according to a document released by SEDC.  

When the county and SEDC first formed their partnership, it was agreed that an elected official would not serve on the board to ensure the organization remained free of political influence. 

County Administrator, Spencer Hellwig, 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.”

SEDC stated in a press release that the decision to not include a supervisor on the board was multi-faceted, and that if an elected official was on their board, it could jeopardize future discussions with prospective businesses. 

“The request was also rejected on the grounds that it could imperil confidential talks with prospective businesses,” said the release. “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.”

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

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