BY MICHAEL RICONDA
The Palisades Institute hosted a panel featuring local leaders of groups ranging from Orange & Rockland to state and private development organizations to discuss strategies in attracting job-creating businesses to Rockland County.
Speakers pointed to both opportunities and methods within a bigger picture of local, regional, and state contexts, stating that the best method to attract business is to focus not only on individual industries, but also on industry “clusters” which encompass several linked business groups, such as the Food & Beverage Alliance.
Mid-Hudson Office of Empire State Development representative Aimee Vargas pointed out that the biotechnology and advanced industries are particularly promising in the lower Hudson Valley, including what she calls “phenomenal” potential in a new Pfizer facility. Such businesses can be brought into the county by items such as strategic incentive plans.
“What’s happened now is that the alignment with the dollars that are available and the strategic plan has changed the manner in which we all do business,” Vargas said. “Any business can come to us to be incentivized, but what we’re really looking for are those businesses we’ve identified in that strategic plan and those industries where we feel there is continuing growth.”
Vice president of Hudson Valley Economic Development Organization Brian Gates added that protein sciences and industrial-scale data storage and restoration services were also a growing market, especially after Hurricane Sandy when large amounts of data were lost to storm damage.
“Other companies are looking at what happened here in Rockland County and further north in the Hudson Valley to see if they can go ahead and relocate their data”, Gates said. Strategies for bringing businesses into the county varied, but cooperation among both business and public organizations was agreed to be highly effective. Incentives and packages were one classic means of attracting business, including state funding.
Vargas suggested that retention was just as important as attraction, and encouraged attendees to help newcomers build connections and work with government regulatory agencies to expedite the often long, difficult process of getting through environmental and zoning regulations.
A diverse labor pool was considered to be an asset in strengthening local economies and boosting business. Orange & Rockland Director of Economic Development Richard Struck emphasized the importance of an educated, skilled workforce, while Rockland Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Michael DiTullo similarly explained that diversifying positions naturally leads to a diversified tax base.
“Your tax base is like an investment portfolio: It has to be diversified,” DiTullo said. “By expanding and diversifying your tax base, bringing in industrial and commercial development helps to balance your portfolio.”
The Palisades Institute, a Dominican College program, was formed in 1990 to encourage quality and ethics in public, private, and nonprofit institutions. Over the years, they have sought to bring local leaders in for discussions and expand understandings of Rockland County’s business climate and opportunities.