Westchester County Association, HVEDC Set to Merge

John Jordan | April 2019

From left, HVEDC Board Chairman Robert J. Levine, Esq., HVEDC CEO Mike Oates, WCA President and CEO William M. Mooney, Jr., WCA Vice President Amy J. Allen, and WCA Managing Director, Operations & Events Julia Emrick.

WHITE PLAINS—The Westchester County Association and the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. shocked the region’s business community in late January when they announced their intent to merge.

The WCA, which has been a leading business advocacy organization and the HVEDC, which is the regional economic development agency for the Hudson Valley region, including Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Ulster, Dutchess and Sullivan counties, stated that the merger would be finalized sometime in 2019.

WCA President and CEO William M. Mooney, Jr.,

William M. Mooney, Jr., the current president and CEO of the WCA and Mike Oates, HVEDC CEO, made the joint announcement that their respective organizations agreed to pursue the merger of the two organizations.

Mooney, who announced in October 2018 his intent to retire, will serve as CEO of the yet-to-be-named organization until his retirement on Sept. 1, 2019. Oates will initially serve as president and then will assume the title of CEO upon Mooney’s retirement.

Real Estate In-Depth sat down with Oates to get an update on the merger deal and where the yet-to-be-named organization will fit into the pecking order of the region’s business and economic development efforts.

Oates said the two organizations expect the merger deal to close sometime this summer.

“Most of the work has been completed and the organizations are already working in essence as one,” he said. “Right now, we are doing programming together, we are doing our long-term planning together. The staffs are also working together on all of our initiatives.”

Oates added that while Mooney, who he described as a “great institutional asset for the region, will officially retire on Sept. 1, will continue to advise Oates and the new organization going forward.

“For the long-term we are excited about how quickly things have been coming together and where we are going to be headed,” Oates said.

The WCA was founded in 1950, while the HVEDC was formed in 2003 as a regional economic development agency that serves Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Ulster, Dutchess and Sullivan counties. At its formation, a primary sponsor of HVEDC was utility Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp.

The combined organization will continue to be headquartered in White Plains at the WCA’s 1133 Westchester Ave. HVEDC’s current base of operations is at 42 Catherine St. in Poughkeepsie, but Oates told Real Estate In-Depth that the organization plans to set up satellite offices in all seven counties in HVEDC’s Hudson Valley market area. He said that the organization will likely announce the new satellite locations in the summer or early fall of this year.

HVEDC CEO Mike Oates

Oates said the name of the combined organization has yet to be finalized. The WCA and HVEDC have hired public relations and advertising agency Focus Media of Goshen to assist in the new branding effort. Those providing input include board members of both organizations as well as members of outside businesses in the region as well.

“We want to make sure that we are respecting and honoring the history of the Westchester County Association, along with the critical values and assets that the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. has and try and figure out a way that we can marry that in a smart and effective way and also to communicate our goals and our programming going forward,” Oates said.

The two organizations expect to roll out the new name in May.

In terms of defining the mission of the new organization, Oates also said those efforts are in their final stages.

While the WCA-HVEDC are currently conducting strategic planning sessions to finalize the mission statement, Oates said the new mission will incorporate some of the key initiatives that have been staples of both the WCA and HVEDC for years.

The new organization will be focused on driving smart growth development in Westchester and the Hudson Valley.

“We want to do it in a way that we can attract jobs into the region, we can help businesses that are here continue to grow and be in a position to expand and we want to help with that process,” he stressed. “We want to make sure that we are working to diversify our economy, bring opportunities to our residents and help businesses here succeed and grow.”

Back in January, the two organizations announced that the merged entity going forward would also focus on real estate, housing and intends to work closely with the real estate community to advocate for smart growth policies in the Hudson Valley. The organization will also provide up-to-date information about available buildings and sites, identify available incentives and assist in the project approval process. Other core areas of focus will also involve workforce development, cluster development that will foster programming designed to support and grow key industries in the Hudson Valley including biotechnology and healthcare, food and beverage, tourism and hospitality and advanced manufacturing, as well as advance the “Gigabit economy” in the region.

“The WCA and HVEDC have always worked well together,” Mooney said when the merger deal was announced. “The strengths and programs of each organization are complementary and as a unified organization will realize incredible synergies. HVEDC’s strength in key industry clusters and their geographic reach is of enormous value to our organization. As we come together to become one organization, we will clearly better serve the needs of Westchester County and the entire Hudson Valley.”

The WCA announced last September a re-branding of the longstanding Westchester County business advocacy organization into what it termed would be Westchester’s most “powerful economic development entity.” Mooney said that the merger deal with HVEDC in fact was done outside of the rebranding initiative.

Oates was named HVEDC’s new President and CEO, effective June 4, 2018. Oates replaced Laurence P. Gottlieb in the post.

Since 2016, Oates was the Managing Partner of Bellefield Development Partners, the team behind Bellefield at Historic Hyde Park and an affiliate of T-Rex Capital Group, LLC. Prior to that, he was CEO of Hudson River Ventures, a small business investment fund that works to empower entrepreneurs and build thriving businesses in target industry sectors in the Hudson Valley.

Oates previously served as President and CEO of HVEDC from 2009 to 2013. Before his initial work with HVEDC, he was Vice President/Regional Director at Empire State Development Corp.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth