UPDATE: Orange County IDA Board Terminates Managing Director, CEO Resigns
John Jordan | March 31, 2021
NEW WINDSOR—At a special meeting of the newly constituted Board of Directors of the Orange County Industrial Development Agency on Tuesday, March 30, the IDA Board voted to terminate the contracts of the managing director of the IDA and its Accelerator programs. On April 5, the chief executive officer of the IDA submitted her resignation.
The Orange County Industrial Development Agency is currently operating under a cloud as its operations are being investigated by the Orange County District Attorney, in partnership with the New York State Comptroller’s Office, and the New Windsor Police Department. In early March, the Orange County Legislature, frustrated over attempts to secure financial documents from the Orange County Industrial Development Agency, voted to remove the entire seven-member IDA Board of Directors.
The newly constituted IDA Board at its March 30th special meeting voted 4-1 with one abstention to terminate contracts for managing director services with Vincent Cozzolino (Orange County IDA Managing Director) and Galileo Technology Group of Kingston on a host of contracts with the agency and its affiliates. According to the resolution, approved by the IDA Board, Cozzolino/Galileo Technology Group Inc. was paid an annual salary of $70,000 a year as managing director of the Orange County Industrial Development Agency.
The IDA also terminated contracts for managing director services that paid Galileo Technology Group: $80,000 for the Orange County Business Accelerator; $72,000 for the Middletown Accelerator campus; $72,000 for the Newburgh and New Windsor Accelerator campuses; $72,000 for the Warwick Accelerator campus; $72,000 for the Highland Falls Accelerator campus and a $125-an-hour fee not to exceed $300,000 for services relating to the Accelerator’s Without Walls program. Not including fees for the Without Walls program, Galileo Technology Group earned a total of $438,000 in annual payments for managing director services for the IDA and the various Accelerator locations.
The Board also approved a resolution by a 5-1 vote to have Orange County Attorney Langdon Chapman coordinate legal services of the various legal counsels engaged by the IDA. The Board, by a 6-0 vote, approved having Orange County Economic Development Director Bill Fioravanti handle economic development responsibilities at the IDA.
On April 5, Orange County IDA Chief Executive Officer Laurie Villasuso resigned from her post after nearly a decade with the organization.
Villasuso in a statement released to Real Estate In-Depth, stated, “I have enjoyed my nearly 10 years in service to the IDA, and am deeply proud of the work I have done for the economic development of Orange County. However, in light of the recent change of direction at the IDA, and uncertainty surrounding my role within the present makeup of the organization, I have decided to resign from my position as the CEO of the Orange County IDA.”
Justin Rodriguez, spokesman for Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, said of the IDA actions in late March, “County staff will serve the IDA on a temporary basis at the request of the new IDA Board. The IDA will work to be a strong and vital partner in support of creating quality jobs for Orange County while having an efficiently run operation. Orange County is ideally situated for companies that want a high quality workforce, great transportation network and far lower costs than the immediate metropolitan area.”
The IDA Board also elected Mike Torelli as its chairman; John Douthit as vice chairman; Tyler Etzel as second vice chairman; Leslie Pierri as secretary and Vincent Odock as assistant secretary. The Board also announced assignments to its Audit, Governance, Accelerator and Human Resources committees.
Major Cannabis Project Secures Incentives
The Board also approved incentives for a $150-million cannabis cultivation, extraction and manufacturing facility project at the Warwick Office & Technology Corporate Park to be developed by Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries. The approval by a 5-0 vote with one abstention came the night before Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana for those 21 year of age and older.
Rebecca Brown, Market President/New York for Green Thumb Industries, said at the IDA session that once all approvals are secured, the firm would move ahead with the first phase of the project that will involve more than $30 million in construction costs, approximately $8 million in the purchase of equipment and fixtures, as well as the cost of acquisition of the 38.1-acre parcel.
The total project will involve the construction of more than 400,000 square feet of new industrial space. According to IDA documents, the firm expects the project to create more than 175 jobs in its first three years of operation. The IDA approved incentives as well as a 15-year PILOT for the project.
Green Thumb Industries spokesperson Linda Marsicano said of the IDA’s approval of incentives, “We are grateful for the Warwick community for their support in the approval of the proposed tax incentives for what we hope will be the future home of our New York cultivation facility. It’s especially meaningful to have Green Thumb’s Warwick facility incentives application approved on the same day the New York state legislature passed adult-use legislation that will provide New Yorkers 21 and over access to well-being via safe and regulated cannabis products while advancing social equity and criminal justice reforms.”
She added, “Green Thumb looks forward to creating more jobs and tax revenue while giving back to the community in ways that will make a positive impact. It’s fitting that a former prison that incarcerated people for cannabis during the failed war on drugs could now employ people to make cannabis products that can help people feel better and improve quality of life. We are hopeful Green Thumb will receive all of the necessary regulatory approvals to move forward.”
No timeframe on when construction on the project could begin was released.