Chamber president and CEO Pete Bardunias

Pete Bardunias

Last week’s announcement that the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership (SCPP) and the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) are seeking to align in a collaborative manner was welcome news to many, especially those who feel that the current system of multiple economic development agencies in the county has become expensive and unworkable.  Under the new plan approved by the Economic Development Committee (of supervisors) last week for submission to the full Board of Supervisors, the SCPP will assume a support role to SEDC, facilitating various community support functions, including grant writing and marketing/beautifying communities, while SEDC reaches across the globe to attract new business to Saratoga County.

This author has long believed that our county should rethink economic development anyway.  The Chamber of Southern Saratoga County’s (CSSC’s) “bottom-up” approach to community and economic development has paid dividends for the past eight years.  By starting with the very basics, we have produced an extraordinary resume of achievement, including the Historic Lock 19 project (2012-present), the Southern Saratoga Information Center at the Clifton Park Rest Area (2013-present), Community Business Alliances and local visitor maps (2013-present), the Long Room and Oral History Project at Brookside Museum (2014-’16), the Mechanicville XO Tower (2nd Floor), waterfront bulletin board and gazebo projects (2015-’17), food barge transportation (2014-’15), Solar Sal solar-electric cargo demonstration project (2015), Waterford Canal and Towpath Society educational barge Minnie Matton robotic rudder and maintenance (2014-present), Zim Smith Trail benches (2017), giant Saratoga County Fair tent (2017-present), Area 3 intermodal rail/canal/manufacturing project (2015-present), “Discover Clifton Park” hospitality initiative (2016-present), Fireball Run international TV show (2016), presenting the Waterford Canal Festival (2018-’19), Solaris solar-electric USCG-certified passenger vessel (2019), Clifton Park waterfront picnic area (2019), kayak “hub” on Round Lake (2019), and more!

The small projects support far larger ones (for example the potential investment by companies interested in Halfmoon’s Area 3 could well exceed $500 million).  Even the value of our smaller community service projects is adding up (the total in-kind dollar value is approaching $500,000 since 2012).  This is a very big deal, especially because the CSSC gets zero grant dollars for tourism and only about $60,000 total in government investment for community development through member dues from municipalities and the Saratoga County Community Development stipend from the County.  The CSSC mainly relies on its members, and we are providing a remarkable return on investment, especially when compared to many other organizations throughout the region and state that have higher dues and/or collect far larger sums from the taxpayers.

The time is now to reconsider how we develop and sustain our economy, both local and regional.  The CSSC sets an example worth paying attention to.

-Pete Bardunias, President/CEO, the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County

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