BY PETE BARDUNIAS
Every year January prognostications touch on the same themes: workforce (we need more of it), collaboration (how to achieve it), corporate investment (how to attract it) and innovation (how to encourage it).
I’ll add another one: regulation (how to reduce it).
After seven years at the helm of the Capital Region’s third largest chamber (based on number of members), I am convinced that our business community has both the tools and desire to succeed, if we can get government out of the way and encourage a disruption in the pre-conceived notion of what it means to be successful in terms of workforce education and in economic development. The measurements we have been using to guide our efforts are, at least in some cases, flawed or incomplete.
For example, when the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership’s Marty Vanags stood before the cameras in December to discuss the proposed Area 3 Halfmoon Industrial Complex, he was justifiably proud of the collaborative study effort that led to the announcement. I was excited to be standing alongside him as well as officials from the town of Halfmoon, volunteers and property owners from the community, and representatives of National Grid, which had partially financed the project.
The jury is still out on whether Area 3 will ultimately amount to anything substantial, but the fact is that the work done doesn’t fit the usual economic development mold. We didn’t have a big sum of money to acquire land and prepare a shovel-ready site to promote to corporate site selectors. What we had was a knowledgeable and impetuous committee chairman in Scott Roth of RLF Realty, dedicated volunteers like Thad Casey of IMC Consultants and Michael Hale, formerly of the LA Group, interested land owners who recognized the value of coming together to try and market their properties as a whole, a town (Halfmoon) which was receptive to the idea, and an area chamber of commerce willing to step outside of its comfort zone, show leadership and initiative, and give the concept a try.
The more we investigated, the more we realized that the natural advantages of the site (adjacent to rail, canal and a state highway) coupled with timely improvements already in place (gas, water, sewer, electricity) made Area 3 far more attractive than might otherwise be the case.
If this team is ultimately successful in attracting a major company, I will always believe that the ultimate factor that made it possible was the time spent getting to know the local community’s needs, concerns, fears and interests. The Chamber’s community development work enabled us to formulate a plan to help Halfmoon and Mechanicville improve their local economy, and it so happens that the site may also become one of Saratoga County’s prime economic development successes in the process. This certainly has proven to be a good exercise in “out of the box” thinking.
Regarding workforce, the Empire State seems to have a real communication challenge with both students and parents. Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul said during a recent speech that she wanted to make New York the “most educated” state in the union. I urge her to substitute “most appropriately educated” into that sentence.
We need to promote the concept of getting the right education—no more, no less—for the available jobs in New York State and not continue this endless quest to achieve academic excellence with no clear idea on how to make back the massive college expense which often has no correlation to available job opportunities. The key isn’t so called “free college,” because for people who choose their education options carefully and wisely it is very possible, check that, downright easy to pay off student loans and receive a return on the education investment after just a few years in the workforce. Setting aside preconceived notions would literally pay big dividends here.
Today’s small-business world needs innovation and enhanced opportunities to compete. We should encourage small retailers to try and sell at least 50 percent of their inventories online in the next few years, as some already have achieved.
Additionally, its time to find new outlets and attractions to draw the public in. That’s why the Chamber has agreed to host, administer and promote the May 19 Waterford Canal Festival for the first time in conjunction with the Village of Waterford. We are going to pull out all the stops to showcase the area business community, and to help locals and transients alike discover the culture of the canals and river towns, while learning something about the businesses which make their home here in southern Saratoga County.
Tedisco: State Needs To Create A Better Environment For Growing Small Businesses
Economic Outlook 2018: Todd Shimkus
Economic Outlook 2018: Dennis Brobston
Economic Outlook 2018: Mark Shaw
Economic Outlook 2018: Marty Vanags, CEcD
Economic Outlook 2018: Teddy Foster
Economic Outlook 2018: Janet Basheer
Economic Outlook 2018: Todd Garafano