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After decades of the decline of our economy, we have finally realized the goal of casino gaming.
Despite a series of very difficult setbacks over the years, the dream of casino gaming in the Catskills never died. Many local residents, elected officials, business leaders and union officials joined together and continued the fight. As Alan Gerry said recently we need to recognize and thank the ones who “kept the lights on”.
Montreign is part of the 1.3 billion dollar Adelaar project in the Town of Thompson. The master plan for the project calls for a casino hotel. In addition a water park hotel, a shopping/entertainment village, a revamped Monster Golf Course, and a boutique hotel. This level of investment is unprecedented in our county. We thank them for their long term commitment.
The Montreign/Adelaar Project has created a buzz not only in the county, but in the Northeast Region. We have new individuals looking to investment capital in our county as well as some that recently have been moving projects along steadily. Well under construction or approved are Lost Lake NY, Z-Living by
Veria Lifestyle Management, Serenity Gardens and other small flag hotels now working their way through the approval process due to this extraordinary achievement.
Now the question is what comes next after the casino? Actually the better question is what comes next to go with the Montreign/Adelaar?
If one looks to the Poconos in Pennsylvania, there are several regional casinos. However, there is not much more. They are designed to attract day trip gamblers. Market saturation of the gaming business has reduced the facilities to not much more than day attractions and the patrons do not venture outside of the facility. Our goal should be sustainable long term economic growth. The formula for this should be to work with and leverage the Montreign/Adelaar Project. Their efforts will allow us to attract other development projects and create new jobs in our area. The model under which they were approved for licensure is one we need to capitalize on. That is that we are a full service tourist destination that has recaptured its momentum, albeit in a new way. That because of the award we can accelerate many other projects in hospitality, retail, healthcare and additional sectors that will work to truly diversify our portfolio.
As Chairman for the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development, I have been discussing with our Board members the development of a new strategic plan, including the development of shovel ready sites for both commercial retail and work force housing. We will look at overdue challenges like a county wide infrastructure plan. Upgrade our data capacity so that we can be ready to answer the myriad questions new investors ask when exploring a new area. We will seek to help our outlying towns so that can derive opportunities from anticipated activity and focus on help our existing businesses expand when ready.
There are efforts in the county regarding work force development which is critical to our economy. The Partnership has teamed up with Workforce Development. This joint effort has already begun to establish the framework for a Catskills Hospitality Workforce Alliance which will help our local workforce be prepared for the many hospitality oriented jobs that will come. Our Planning department has vowed to increase our grant procurement activities and in concert with our IDA is well underway to doing just that.
Sullivan County Community College is another cog in this wheel and should be supported as a driver of economic development. We commend and support their Board and President for their initiative to expand the College with the Healthy World Institute. In addition, as part of the Catskills Hospitality Workforce Alliance SUNY Sullivan will once again has become a hub for career pathways in hotel technology, hotel management and a whole host of hospitality focused career opportunities soon to come to our county.
We have a new sense of purpose as our residents, business leaders, union leaders, and elected officials are working together to take the greatest advantage of this opportunity. Construction activity has certainly increased this year and our planning boards are busy with growing new projects facing them each month.
The Hudson Valley is experiencing new economic growth it has not experienced in some time. From the expansion of the NYC metro area with one of the largest projects in the United States at this time, the replacement of the Tappan Zee bridge, healthcare facilities growing at an unprecedented pace in Orange and Dutchess Counties, the 3D printing hub evolving at New Paltz, and the development of casino gaming here in Sullivan County. The reality is that Sullivan County is competing for those businesses that will look to settle in the area because of the casino. We are also competing with our surrounding counties to attract the worker population that will look to move to the area to work at Montreign/Adelaar.
We must also work hard to support those businesses that survived the hard years and support their efforts to grow, such as Bethel Woods, Monticello Motor Club, The Center for Discovery, New Hope Community, and small businesses like CES, Schmidt’s Wholesale, A. Harris Alport, the Misner Agency, Robert Green Chevrolet and M&M Ford and many others that are located in our community who “kept the lights on.”
Lastly, we also need to improve our infrastructure. We need the State to support our efforts in improving our roads, developing our municipal water and sewer resources. In order to attract new businesses, we need to have infrastructure in place. With the CFA process underway we are exploring ways to enhance infrastructure in our development corridor by encouraging and working with towns to seek funding in this critical area.
Our local elected officials have done such a great job to help land Montreign/Adelaar, and we need take the next steps to rebuild our downtowns and main streets. The State must also be our partner in this in order to build a sustainable lasting economy.
The next hill is before us, it is up to us as a county to climb it together.