Economic Development Committee discusses bringing state awards to Rockland
BY MICHAEL RICONDA
New City – In response to poor performance in the county’s running for the Mid-Hudson Economic Development Awards, the County Legislature’s Economic Development Committee invited Rockland Business Association president Al Samuels to discussed shortcomings in the county’s efforts to draw large business projects to the county.
Samuels explained a new state process which sets benchmarks for developers in order to receive state funding and consolidates several state-level applications into one form. Samuels said the changes were difficult for developers to accept because of the radical changes involved, but were being accepted.
“I think that Rockland needs to change its attitude towards this process to truly embrace it and encourage people who can benefit from it,” Samuels urged.
Rockland County only attracted $1.85 million out of $92.8 million and only three of 84 projects and two of the three grants were specifically for New Square projects. The Mid-Hudson region includes seven counties: Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam, Ulster, Sullivan and Dutchess.
Samuels said that Rockland has drawn some good prospects such as Haverstraw’s United Water Project and the Pfizer facility, but lags behind other counties with the lowest number of both application presentations and approvals. He traced this problem back to the county’s failure to recognize the importance of communicating the new program to developers.
Suggestions to improve communication included more involvement from local officials, designation of an economic development officer, summits on economic development, and events such as a recent “road show” where county representatives met with developers to explain and offer assistance and resources on the new consolidated funding application.
“We need to have people involved in the economic development process who will help and guide,” Samuels added. “If we can’t get the community to come to us as has happened in other counties, we’re actually going to go out to the townships and have these meetings.”
Legislators such as Ilan Schoenberger agreed that county involvement in economic development extended to both counties and municipalities, but also expressed a need and willingness to learn more about the process to act as a reliable resource for developers.
“It’s obviously an area that we need to be better educated, and the communities that we represent we need to educate better,” Schoenberger said.
Legislator Ed Day emphasized that a major point of the discussion was to bring legislative, executive, and town officials together and suggested the designation an economic development representative who can speak to developers.
“We need to redefine the effort, we need to redefine the approach, and we need to respect the paradigm that you are speaking about, because if we don’t apply within that paradigm, we’re not going to get anywhere,” Day said.