By Rockland County Executive Ed Day
It should come as no surprise that Rockland County is a highly sought-after location for companies looking to expand. We have worked very hard to show Rockland as the gateway to the Hudson Valley, with our towns and villages offering the quality of life that people and businesses are looking for. We enjoy a vibrant, balanced economy that encompasses many sectors and companies, ranging in size from multinational to “mom and pop” microbusiness. This variety helps make Rockland’s economy one of the healthiest and strongest in New York State.
Over the past year, we’ve seen major investments by Green House Data, Crystal Run Healthcare, Streit’s Matzos, Celtic Sheet Metal and Par Pharmaceutical, to name a few. Working closely with strong partners like the Rockland Economic Development Corporation, the Rockland County Industrial Development Agency and the Rockland Business Association, my administration’s economic strategy is creating jobs and opportunities for residents across the county.
In the weeks ahead, the future of one of Rockland’s most desirable commercial sites will come into focus. We learned recently that United Kingdom-based Merlin Entertainments was interested in building a $250 million Legoland theme park at the former Novartis plant in the Village of Suffern. And, Merlin isn’t alone. Intercos, an Italian-based cosmetics company with offices in Congers and West Nyack, also expressed interest in the 165-acre property. And, just this week, we received word of a third potential buyer for the vacant site.
During a March 4th meeting in my office, a broad based group of interested parties and officials, including Suffern Mayor Ed Markunas, Montebello Mayor Lance Millman and IDA Executive Director Steven Porath, agreed that discussions regarding the Novartis site were moving in different directions. This was untenable. In the best interest of our residents, all in attendance pledged to move forward together.
As we discussed the various plans, opinions and rumors, all representatives committed to allowing interested private parties to negotiate freely with the site’s broker, Cushman and Wakefield. We all vowed to do our best to maintain a sense of calm within the community to ensure a fair, transparent process. If and when any formal proposal is put forth, we will revisit the matter, with the villages of Suffern and Montebello taking the lead, fully supported by my administration. Let me be clear: to date, no official proposal for the Novartis site has been received.
Diverse business interests shelter the county from problems that can result from slowdowns and other economic challenges. Our solid base also facilitates exceptionally strong growth during economic upswings. Whatever the future holds for the Novartis site, we must be certain its new occupant brings ratables to our county. We must continue to ensure an economic vibrancy in Rockland County that will stem the demand of higher property taxes. And our citizens must, and will, be part of that process.
By using the positive working relationships that exist between our towns, villages and economic development entities, we will forge a unified force that will better ensure that any countywide projects in the future are evaluated fairly and clearly, not emotionally or politically.
My role as County Executive is to work hard each day to keep the state of our county government strong. Keeping the state of our community strong is the job of us all.