The County Executive’s Corner: Open For Business

Ed-Day-212x320By Rockland County Executive Ed Day

My administration’s ongoing efforts to attract jobs and investment to Rockland County received a major boost last week. Governor Cuomo announced $709 million in economic development funding for businesses, municipalities and nonprofits across New York State. The millions to create new jobs and expand businesses represent the latest round of awards in the Governor’s annual competition for grants and tax credits for private and municipal projects.

Rockland County walked away from the awards ceremony in Albany with $15.6 million for 23direct or shared projects, including the development of a LEGOLAND theme park resort in Haverstraw. This record-high funding amount is confirmation that our concentrated and strategic efforts to strengthen our economy are paying off.

Our concentrated efforts – for the first time – involved educating our municipal, business, nonprofit and academic leaders in the intricacies of the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) initiative. Understanding the complex competition rules and selection process is key to developing innovative projects that compete well against other projects in different regions of the state.

Leading the charge to inform our public and private project developers were two of Rockland County’s preeminent business industry experts. Rockland Business Association President Al Samuels and Rockland Community College President Dr. Cliff Wood both serve on the 21-member Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council, one of ten councils across the state responsible for identifying priority projects and advocating for them during the contest. Samuels and Dr. Wood know their stuff and know the inner-workings of the Governor’s program.

Through collaboration with the County Executive’s Office, Samuels and Dr. Wood hosted several information sessions on navigating the daunting application process. Their expert guidance, personalized advice and feedback certainly resulted in competition proposals that were well-crafted and thorough. Without question, Dr. Wood and Samuels were instrumental in propelling our county to new heights in this round of the state funding race. I offer both economic leaders my sincere thanks.

In a nutshell, Rockland County and the Mid-Hudson Region jumped from ‘worst’ to ‘first’ in the Governor’s competition for economic development dollars. In the three initial rounds of the initiative, we fared poorly, missing the boat on millions in economic development dollars. But this year, we worked together as a team to share resources, experience and expertise. Coordinating the oars of county government and pulling in the same direction yielded a big win for Rockland – a financial win that will pay off in future dividends.

Most people agree the main goal of economic development is improving the financial well-being of a community through efforts that involve job creation, job retention, tax base enhancements and quality of life. That is a major goal – and, it cannot be achieved overnight. In fact, many experts in the field say an overnight success in economic development takes at least a decade. We are happy to establish that platform of responsible growth that will lessen the demands on taxpayers.

Economic development is a process, not an event. It isn’t determined by one business’ commitment to locate to a particular town or village, but rather by a variety of economic development components that are built on one another.

The foundation from which this structure is built is always leadership/civic development and the role of public policy. Local leaders and a supportive local government teamed with economic development experts create the basis that all the other components rest on. The public policy choices we make today will ultimately determine our county’s destiny. Economic successes may be defined differently from location to location, but they all begin with a solid foundation of strong leadership and a vision for how to move forward. I am providing that vision and leadership.

Economic development is an ongoing, dynamic process that does not have a single strategy, policy, or program for achieving success. Collaboration with the RBA, the Rockland Economic Development Corporation (REDC) and the Rockland County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) will help to determine our strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. It will be up to all of us to identify what direction to take, what our advantages are and what needs to happen in order to grow our economy.

Economic development begins and ends at the local level. Without the local spark and the right ideas, many available resources will never be matched with the local opportunities.

One of my core campaign promises involved economic growth. The record amount of economic and community development funding awarded to local projects last week at the state capitol will put our county in a stronger position to attract more private investment and drive job growth. If Rockland is to grow, we must continue to expand and diversify our local employer base. To continue competing at a high level – both regionally and globally – we must recognize the challenges that lie ahead and prepare to embrace the changes that are heading our way. We must not become complacent even for a moment. We will achieve.