By R.J. DeLuke
“For us it’s about bringing in a greater general awareness and knowledge about the mechanics of economic development,” said Marty Vanags, president of Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership, about the Saratoga County Prosperity Summit held Nov. 10
“The more people that understand that, the more we can corral resources toward that effort when the time comes,” he noted.
About 100 people attended the summit, a mix of public and private sector representatives, supervisors and town council members, business leaders and others.
“We got the crowd we wanted,” said Vanags.
Various panels presented information on different aspects of economic development. Jeff Finkle, president and CEO of the International Economic Development Council, the nonprofit membership organization serving economic developers, based in Washington D.C., was the keynote lunchtime speaker, talking about trends in economic development across the country.
The focus and the purpose for doing this was to give people a good understanding of what’s behind the headlines.
Vanags said media stories about new, growing or expanding businesses aren’t able to tell the whole, often complicated stories about everything that went on to bring about the success.
“There’s a lot going on behind the scenes,” he said. “What we’re tried to do in this event, and what we’ll do in the future, is kind of pull the curtain back a little bit and show people what is going on when we’re doing economic development and what communities can do to better prepare themselves to accept new growth, new businesses and expansion.”
One panel was comprised of Matt Jones of The Jones Firm, Tom Savino of CBRE-Albany and Rocky Ferraro with the Clifton Park Planning Board and Capital District Regional Planning Commission. They spoke about predictability and consistency in municipal planning and zoning regulations.
Vanags said they explained “what communities can do to make sure they are more predictable in terms of their approval process and be more consistent … having a consistent set of rules for getting things approved and doing it in a timely manner.”
He said the emphasis of the timeliness is for businesses, “not always timeliness seen through the lens of local government.”
Another panel was comprised of Mike Yevoli of Empire State Development; Brian McMahon of New York State Economic Development Council; Tom Kucharski of Invest Buffalo Niagara and Rob Camoin of Camoin Associates. The discussion point there was about the economic development landscape; what communities are doing well and what are some communities not doing as well.
“Communities that win in economic development are communities that work on a regional basis,unify and come together—local government, private sector. Everybody works together to get the projects done,” Vanags said.
Uniformity of regulations, from municipality to municipality within Saratoga County, Vanags said, is not realistic.
“In a perfect situation, that would be ideal. Every community is different. Their are reasons they want to have an independent voice and I think that’s appropriate, as to how the community will grow. People move to the town of Day or the town of Edinburg because they want to be out there in the woods and not have a lot of retail and stores near them. That town’s rules and regulations are going to be different from, say, Clifton Park which is very commercial oriented.
“The bottom line is every town is a little bit different. But if it can be consistent on some basic things across the board, that would probably be better.”
He said the summit was a success and the feedback was good. “We’ll probably do this on an annual basis with similar type themes.”
“At the end of January there’s a planning conference held here that is very successful. Jason Kemper out of the Saratoga County Planning Department puts that on. We want to make sure we’re not substituting for that. We’re not competing with that.”