SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — After an acrimonious split from working with the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors six years ago, the private, nonprofit consulting firm Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) is on the verge of once again spearheading the board’s efforts for business retention and development in the county.
The new framework for this initiative was announced by the Board of Supervisors in a June 6 Memorandum of Understanding. The MOU between SEDC, the Board of Supervisor’s Economic Development Committee, and the county’s current business development arm, the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, gave reasons for the change and the roles and responsibilities each is to be given.
Reforms proposed in the new framework include a new strategic partnership, increased coordination between partner organizations and Saratoga County, additional oversight, and increased assistance to individual municipalities. Elements of this effort will include advertising, prospect communication, site selector visits, recruitment, and trade shows.
Any project team seeking to pursue expansion or new project development is to be referred to SEDC for project support and for handling all engagements with the Saratoga County IDA and other local IDAs to attract appropriate incentives.
“SEDC will be the primary point of contact for existing and incoming businesses which are looking to expand or newly invest in Saratoga County,” the MOU stated.
SCPP will now lead, plan and manage marketing efforts for the county’s individual municipality community and their economic development. It will also act as an ombudsman between the municipalities and the development community and provide assistance to the municipalities with international trade opportunities.
The new framework must be approved by the Board of Supervisors’ Law and Finance Committee as well as the full board.
The MOU states that the level of funding for the entire economic development program, SEDC’s contract with the Board of Supervisors and SCPP’s contract, will remain at the same level as in previous years. Funding for SCPP was designated by county legislation to be 50 percent of county receipts produced by the Occupancy Tax.
In 2019 that figure totaled $543,000. According to the MOU, SEDC is recommended to receive $150,000 annually, which will be reviewed on an annual basis. Additionally, $150,000 will be used to initially fund the proposed Economic Development Planning Fund to be used by SCPP to assist the individual municipalities.
The changes to the county’s economic development and business retention efforts emerged from a Unity Committee of SEDC board members and members of SCPP’s board that was formed a year ago.
Town of Clifton Park Supervisor Philip Barrett, the chairman of the county Board of Supervisors’ Economic Development Committee, described why the new framework evolved.
”There’s been a growing frustration and concern on the Board of Supervisors and the business community and other organizations that work within this realm in Saratoga County,” he said. “There were many people, including the Board of Supervisors who would like to see a solution come to fruition. In this case, the new economic development reforms that we presented at the Committee meeting will use allocated funding more efficiently, institute additional oversight and increase cooperation between the county, the [Prosperity] Partnership and SEDC. It will eliminate duplicative efforts and establish clear goals for everyone involved.”
At the June 17 Clifton Park Town Board meeting, Barrett said the SCPP has produced “minimal results” and has not been effective or efficient with the amount of dollars spent in the county.
“The results are not up to what should be expected,” he said.
John Munter, the Director of SEDC’s Board agreed that having two entities marketing the county to prospective business was a recipe for confusion.
“By forming this agreement, where the communication is going to be open and both entities are reporting back to the Board of Supervisors, it creates a system where there is no duplicate effort and instead, good peaceful coexistence for each entity to get as much done as they can for the betterment of the county and its residents,” he said. “This is really just taking the best qualities of each entity and tasking them with what has been determined to be the best qualities of each. There’s plenty of work for both. As long as it’s defined and there’s really no confusion left, things are going to be more effective.”
County Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Kevin Tollisen, who is also the Halfmoon Town Supervisor, acknowledged the split between the Board and SEDC but said it is all in the past.
”Six years ago is six years ago,” he said. “Things change, people change, and strategic plans change. The current Board of Supervisors is a different board from the one that was in place then. The board has learned a lot in the past few years and believes having these two organizations working together will make the county even more successful. Both organizations are working on economic development and having them work together rather than separately is better for the county.”
Kevin Hedley, the Chairman of SCPP, in an email, agreed the newly defined roles will be beneficial to the county.
”Saratoga County will benefit from a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to economic development,” he wrote. “As equal partners with defined roles and responsibilities, the Saratoga Prosperity Partnership and SEDC will be better able to provide seamless, effective services that enable businesses to succeed and our county’s economy to grow.”