GUEST VIEWPOINT: Don’t Let Rockland Become the County of ‘No’
Richard Struck | July 2016
I want to share the perspective of someone who has practiced professional economic development in Rockland for over 30 years, including in my current role at Rockland Economic Development Corp.
We all understand that Rockland can be an expensive place to live. While not a panacea for all financial concerns, there is a means available to mitigate at least some of these costs: attract more business taxpayers to the county to help relieve current tax burdens we all bear. New or expanding businesses create new jobs for our residents—yes, the sons and daughters of Rockland residents who are seeking to build rewarding careers close to home. Unfortunately, we have seen several recent examples of emotion overtaking reason, as personified in the examples reported in a recent article about proposals stuck in the approvals process.
Rockland must not become known as the county of “No.” This can be very destructive to our economic future and send an unproductive, negative signal to businesses and investors considering Rockland as a location in this very competitive New York metro marketplace.
Business growth and economic development need to be viewed as a positive thing, not something to be feared or protested. Why? Because our future depends upon it! That is not to blindly say that every project ever proposed is a good one. It is to say that each project needs to be evaluated on its own merit. There are mechanisms and procedures in place to do that in every town and village in Rockland. I am not an attorney, but I surely know that our country is a nation governed by laws, not by individual opinions. This concept extends to municipal zoning and planning regulations. To the credit of most of our towns and villages, zoning and building codes have been established after many painstaking years of effort by officials elected by our citizens to do this, often with significant public input. Virtually every municipality has zones for business ranging from retail to manufacturing, since their officials recognize the need to have areas for business tax ratables to provide a balanced operating environment for their communities. Bringing new business investment to the zones designated for this purpose is a partnership between communities, businesses and economic developers.
REDC and our economic development colleagues in this work strive to find the right match between businesses and communities, always seeking to bring new investment to the zones that were created for that purpose. I think it is worth noting that many of the businesses employing Rockland residents today have been brought here by the combined efforts of the REDC, the Rockland IDA, New York State, Orange and Rockland Utilities—all in partnership with Rockland municipalities.
For example, during the late 1980s and 1990s, REDC and its partners attracted more than 4,400 new jobs to the county, including Verizon Wireless, Nice Pak, Star Kay White, Clarins, Intercos, Aluf Plastics and more. From 2000 through 2009, more than 4,300 new jobs were created by the partnerships between economic development efforts and local communities, including attractions or expansions of Euromed, Zagwear, Avon, Nice Pak, Portables Unlimited, ADH Health and others. From 2010 through 2015, 2,042 new jobs have been created, including Bloomberg LP, Hunter Douglas, United Structural Works, Par Pharmaceutical, Aerco, Raymour & Flanigan, Protein Sciences and others. So far, during 2016, our efforts have resulted in a projected 400 new jobs from such firms as Golden Krust Bakery, Warby Parker, Pearl River Pastry and more. It is so easy to forget the focused efforts made to bring these companies here, companies that serve everyday to give us our income, to pay our bills and to sustain our quality of life in Rockland County.
Let’s not stop progress by just saying “No” to projects where Rockland residents, their children and grandchildren can find jobs here, thrive here, raise their families here, and yes, even retire here to stay close to family and friends. We need these jobs to sustain our communities and we need these business taxpayers to keep Rockland from becoming a less and less affordable place to live.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Journal News.