CID Holds Hudson Valley Economic Development Roundtable
John Jordan | April 21, 2016
WHITE PLAINS—The similarities and stark differences that exist in the four county jurisdiction of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors were clearly evident in the presentations by chief economic development officials from Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties at the recent Commercial Investment Division meeting held at the new HGAR offices here.
More than 60 real estate professionals attended the April 14th session at HGAR’s new offices at The Source at White Plains complex at One Maple Ave. Moderated by CID President John Barrett, the roundtable panel featured: William Mooney III, director of the Westchester County’s Office of Economic Development; Richard Struck, president and CEO of the Rockland Economic Development Corp.; Bill Fiorvanti, director of attraction for the Orange County Partnership and Jill Varricchio, president of the Putnam County Economic Development Corp.
The event was the first CID session held at the new office. HGAR relocated operations on April 1 from offices at the Westchester Pavilion, which will be demolished in the near future to make way for a new $275-million mixed-use project.
Struck, a former executive with Orange & Rockland Utilities, said that unemployment rate in Rockland County for February was 4.3%, which is a major improvement from the unemployment rate during the recession.
He said that the new Tappan Zee Bridge, along with some other positive factors, “will continue to put Rockland County on the map as a positive, competitive place to do business.”
Struck said that while the REDC welcomes any type of business, the organization is targeting data center operations to the county and has been successful in building an emerging data center cluster. Rockland was successful in convincing Bloomberg, LP to build an $800-million data center in Orangetown a few years ago. The county also has several other data operators, including 1547 Realty, which recently opened a co-location data center in Orangeburg. Struck said another data center operator “is taking a serious look” at Rockland County as well.
He also mentioned that IRG had purchased the Pfizer complex in Pearl River, but related that Pfizer is keeping a significant part of its research and development operations at the campus.
Editor’s Note: The REDC and HGAR’s Commercial Investment Division will be hosting a meeting on May 19th at the IRG complex in Pearl River beginning at 10 a.m. IRG officials are expected to present details on their plans for the property as well as discuss space availabilities at the complex. For further information contact Leah Warncke, CID Administrator at (914) 681-0833 or check hgar.com for further updates.
Mooney said that the Astorino administration has a guiding principle of the “Three Ps” that drive its economic development policies—protect the taxpayer, preserve essential services and promote economic growth.” He told the gathering, “Why is that important? Because if we do the third one right, we can pay for the first two.”
He said that it has been very important in its dealings with businesses both in Westchester and outside its borders that they view the county as business friendly. He said that the main attributes Westchester has to attract business are its access to talent, a qualified workforce, accessibility and its quality of life. The growth sectors for Westchester at the moment are in the biotech and health care industries.
Mooney said that the county has increased its marketing efforts that have included a recently released economic development guide and have also placed advertisements in 914 Magazine, the Westchester County Business Journal and Real Estate In-Depth to get the word out on what incentives the county has to offer. The county has also increased its digital marketing efforts with ads placed on the national commercial real estate website globest.com, Crain’s Digital and the Real Deal, he reported as part of its efforts to increase its outreach to New York City-based businesses. The county’s Office of Economic Development has also opened a New York City office and is participating in trade shows.
PCEDC’s Varricchio said the unemployment rate is very low there and the problem the county faces is that a majority of its residents work elsewhere. The PCEDC is now looking to bring ratables to the county, but also is seeking consensus on what the municipalities desire in terms of new business.
She said that the PEDC has been reaching out to local elected officials, conducting surveys and gathering data in an attempt to come up with an economic development strategy going forward. She said the PCEDC is now in the midst of a “listening tour,” which allows the PCEDC to identify the issues surrounding new development and what types of development each community desires.
“The reality is that in speaking with people, they want change, but they just don’t know how to go about it,” Varricchio said. The PCEDC will be looking to also bring together the county’s Department of Tourism, as well as the Chambers of Commerce to formulate what the next best economic development plan would be.
Among her items for discussion include the development of perhaps a second hospital for Putnam County, creating a group similar to Orange County’s Alliance for Balanced Growth, as well as explore how Putnam County could establish its own community college.
The Orange County Partnership’s Fiorvanti said that the organization is revamping its website, has advertised in the Wall Street Journal, which has led to several major relocations to Orange County in the past, and also has augmented its marketing with videos and a regularly distributed newsletter. It also holds a highly successful Broker Summit each year that has drawn real estate professionals from around the region and representatives of the partnership attend a number of major trade shows each year.
The county, which has seen significant commercial real estate investment, particularly by large space users in the industrial-warehouse and distribution sector, is beginning to run out of shovel-ready sites, which could impact its economic growth going forward.
He said that the Orange County Partnership, along with a very aggressive Industrial Development Agency and an engaged County Executive (Steve Neuhaus), has been very successful in attracting new business projects to the county, including Amy’s Kitchen, which is looking to build a major facility in Goshen. That project will create 700 new jobs in Orange County, he noted. The food and beverage and pharmaceutical distribution sectors are some of the growth markets for Orange County at the moment, he said.
He said that the county’s low unemployment and therefore limited available workforce, along with water availability and the lack of shovel ready sites are issues of concern at the moment. Fiorvanti said that an area of opportunity for Orange County is to foster workforce development in the county’s urban centers in Newburgh, Middletown and Port Jervis to the unemployed or underemployed there.
Jack Smoot of Integrated Financial Partners of Danbury, CT was the sponsor of the CID program.
Group shot: From left, CID President John Barrett; HGAR CEO Richard Haggerty; PCEDC President Jill Varricchio; REDC President and CEO Richard Struck; Jack Smoot, Integrated Financial Partners (sponsor of the CID program); Orange County Partnership’s Director of Attraction Bill Fiorvanti and Westchester County Office of Economic Development Director William Mooney III. PHOTO: JOHN VECCHIOLLA
Barrett Q&A: CID President John Barrett led the question and answer segment of the program. PHOTO: JOHN VECCHIOLLA