By Shelby Schneider
Who knew this time last year that a pandemic would upend our lives and economies? Essentially, no one. We cannot say with any certainty how 2021 will turn out—but we do know more than we did last spring and, that there is hope and opportunity on the horizon.
Among the reasons for optimism is the prospect of widespread vaccination, and federal stimulus relief for our small businesses and state and local governments. For every problem created by COVID-19, there is an opportunity in disguise.
With the new year upon us, there are potential new opportunities to take advantage of and ways to adapt to challenges that our businesses and municipalities will face. There is an opportunity for 2021 to be the year of a remarkable bounce-back.
In Saratoga County our hospitality and tourism sector and arts and cultural venues, which generate over a billion dollars in revenue each year, experienced the worst of the impact. The good news is if enough Americans are vaccinated, it is plausible to expect a comeback in those sectors later this year.
If our public and private sector businesses work together to help coordinate the delivery of the vaccine to our workforce and the public, we will mitigate impacts to our economy and get to a new normal in the most efficient way.
In 2021, business retention and expansion will remain our highest priority. Like 2020, the Saratoga Partnership will be on the front lines, helping our small businesses gain access to the next round of PPP and EIDL funds, and help them get access to state and local relief programs like the personal protection equipment grants offered through our Industrial development agencies.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, small business owners have been resilient, pivoting, and adapting their business models to navigate continually changing conditions. We will continue to help save our locals by helping small businesses take advantage of new market opportunities in e-commerce and consumer spending, help businesses recast their business plans to create a seamless experience for customers.
Throughout the pandemic, Saratoga County had an abundance of essential employers in our manufacturing sector like Globalfoundries, Momentive Performance Materials, QUAD/Graphics, Essity, Cascades Tissue Group, Stewart’s Corporation, and others which helped to stabilize our economy. New market opportunities in e-commerce, last mile delivery, and the reshoring of manufacturing have also created opportunities for business expansion into Saratoga County. It is critical that businesses that grow in Saratoga County have a skilled workforce that can both work and afford to live in our great communities.
In 2021, we anticipate additional opportunities for high quality workforce housing throughout Saratoga County, like the $60M Victory Mills workforce housing project approved in 2019 and anticipated to begin construction this year.
In 2021, we anticipate that remote work will persist and this creates an opportunity to capitalize on our world class quality of life by attracting talent back to our communities. We have been actively working with communities throughout Saratoga County, including our Northern Towns in the Adirondack Park, to develop talent and investment attraction strategies while also tackling obstacles like broadband access to rural areas.
On the flipside, as remote work persists, childcare will continue to be a challenge for working families. The transition to online schooling and stay-at-home orders during the pandemic required at least one adult in the home to focus on the children — helping them with schoolwork and supervising them all day.
Prior to the pandemic, Saratoga County faced a workforce shortage, record low unemployment, and a 60 percent reduction in the availability of childcare options in the Capital Region compared to 2008. In order to help get our economy back on track and working parents back to work, the Saratoga Partnership has teamed up with the Saratoga and Warren County employment and training centers, Bright Side Up and the Adirondack childcare council to identify solutions, and use workforce training resources to increase the availability of homebased childcare centers throughout Saratoga and Warren Counties.
In 2021 the Saratoga Partnership will double down on our Next Wave Communities initiative, in which we work with municipalities in Saratoga County including Ballston Spa, Malta, Galway, Halfmoon, to create customized economic development plans. These plans help communities to understand their vision, recognize their assets and resources, and develop a plan to achieve their aspirations.
As an operationally transparent local development corporation, with bonding authority, and 501(C)3 nonprofit status, the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership is positioned to not only assist communities with preparing grants on their behalf, we are actively engaged in writing and receiving grants that support our community economic development goals and attract resources to help grow our economy.
By Shelby Schneider