By Dennis Brobston
The year 2018 marked Saratoga Economic Development Corp.’s (SEDC) 40th year as the premier economic development organization in the region. Thoughtful collaboration is how SEDC and its partners stimulated over $2.5 billion of new investment, nearly 1,700 new and retained jobs and $50 million in employee payroll since 2014.
In 2018 SEDC produced $44 million of investment retaining and growing 139 jobs. These jobs will add almost $5 million of annual wages to area communities. SEDC continually researches and keeps its fingers on the pulse of market demands enabling us to position Saratoga County’s strengths. We have several strong projects in the pipeline for 2019.
Promoting Saratoga, retaining, and growing jobs and wages remain SEDC’s mission. Our investor members, partners at the Saratoga County IDA, Clifton Park IDA, and Mechanicville-Stillwater IDA, plus strategic engagement with local, regional and state stakeholders remain key ingredients to success. Local communities’ policies and competitive tax rates continue setting a baseline for success.
Other assets have been relatively competitive property costs, an educated workforce, and proximity to 54 percent of North American consumers. Results evident to most are the $1.25 billion in local multifamily and hospitality construction in recent years.
That said, such dynamic investment also brings forth challenges; higher priced property, balancing community ideals for growth, and elevating workforce skills to align with higher value industries. We need to confront needs for updated local planning, expanded infrastructure (especially increasing natural gas supply and returning rail to the Moreau Industrial Park), more business-ready real estate, and addressing workforce gaps.
To meet these challenges, SEDC is helping support private development, attract external sources of capital, and collaborate on strategic initiatives that align stakeholders’ interests.
Ready-to-build inventory is in great demand. We are an attractive location for advanced manufacturing across key sectors like advanced electronics, clean-tech, chemical research and others, as well as for commercial office headquarters and professional support services. To help realize these opportunities and create more business-ready real estate, SEDC is collaborating with noted local developer, MJ Properties, to promote development of up to 1 million square feet of new inventory at Synergy Tech Park between Exits 9 and 10 of the Northway in Clifton Park.
Likewise, we continue collaborating with existing businesses and developers at the Grande Industrial Park in Saratoga Springs, the Luther Forest Technology Campus in Malta, and to increase tax base generating investment in industrial parks of Halfmoon. We have met with site selectors on these and other areas in the county and are always ready to work with development teams to evaluate site viability.
An example of building on our strengths while confronting challenges is the assistance provided to the distribution sector. Strong interest remains in Saratoga as a key hub for regional distribution centers. We are working to promote and attract further development of the Exit 16 hub near Target and Ace distribution centers.
To expand real shovel-ready inventory, we have been working diligently with local and state leaders to add needed sewer infrastructure near Exit 17 of the Northway opening opportunities for Moreau. Likewise, we continue to be a resource to communities and businesses seeking to activate appropriate scale commercial businesses in Ballston and Milton, and to reposition previously utilized assets such as the former International Paper site in Corinth.
Boosting real estate inventory and aligning community goals helps demonstrate to the private sector that we are ready for investment and job creation.
Increasingly, quality of life, workforce skills development and recycling of local talent into existing or emerging enterprises are key economic development assets. SEDC has launched Spark Saratoga, the county’s only entrepreneur incubator and business accelerator already assisting over 40 startup and small businesses. Stay tuned for “Spark 2.0,” further aligning area innovators with proven mentors, prototyping access, customer discovery, professional services, access to capital, and overall accelerated growth cycles.
The encouragement and support of entrepreneur talent in our region will only support future and established businesses by attracting and retaining human talent.
SEDC launched in June 2018 a major new initiative to empower world-leading integrated circuit and electronic system design in Saratoga County and New York’s capital region. EDI² aligns higher educators at Clarkson University and SUNY Adirondack, with leading industry partners like Siemens, thought leaders in semiconductor design, the U.S. SBA, Center for Economic Growth (CEG) National Grid, NYSEG and other local partners.
A key feature will be a national first—an integrated circuit (IC) design accelerator—providing access to electronic design automation (EDA) tools at a fraction of the traditional cost for designers. Keys to bolster this ecosystem include:
1. Expanding the number of engineers with design experience, and increasing the number of students pursuing electrical engineering degrees.
2. Providing innovators affordable access to powerful design software.
3. Establishing academic, public and private sector partnerships to spark technical and capital access for translating R&D to commercialization.
4. Delivering workforce readiness through the education to apply the technologies.
To further meaningful engagement of key economic influencers, SEDC initiated member exchanges that allowed over 250 SEDC members networking opportunities to discuss industry trends, workplace needs, and business opportunities. We will continue C-Suite level “CEO tours” in 2019 to foster greater cross-sector understanding of the assets and needs in our marketplace.
One revelation amongst key stakeholders is that there are efficient measures to be aided by the public sector to overcome obstacles. Updating community plans, planning expanded infrastructure, and analysis to reposition assets as attractive inventory for project sites among them. We look forward to sharing our market insights to inform ways to align resources to better generate economic return.
So 2019 looks to be a year of robust growth through investments in our strengths. It is also a key year for transitioning real estate, communities and workforce to seize on economic demands of the marketplace. Saratoga has enjoyed a strong run of success. It is time again to lead the way defining how we sustain our quality of life for future generations.