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On October 9, at the Sullivan in Rock Hill, The Partnership for Economic Development will hold its annual meeting and celebration. This year marks the twentieth year the organization has been providing business and technical assistance services to Sullivan County’s private and public sector. The road traveled has not been easy as limited local resources, lack of infrastructure, location and other issues, have severely challenged Sullivan County to compete with other areas featuring those very assets. Yet there have been successes in spite of the difficulties. Firms like Kohl’s Distribution, Nonni’s, Ideal Snacks, Crystal Run Health Care, Home Depot, D.C. Welding, ASB Greenworld, Prohibition Distillery and others were projects facilitated by the organization that have invested in Sullivan County, created jobs and helped curtail the pressures of a shrinking local economy. The Partnership has focused on small business as well with most countywide Main Streets featuring at least one small business assisted by the organization. The Partnership continues to be the ‘go to’ place for economic development assistance.
The Partnership for Economic Development in Sullivan County was incorporated in 1994 as a 501 C (6) organization. As the name implies, a private, public partnership was derived from a critical need to proactively pursue and respond to businesses interested in locating to, expanding within, or starting up in Sullivan County at the speed of the market place. In addition, the organization was needed to protect the proprietary and strategic work product of prospective businesses, which was typically disclosed prior to making formal application and worked to dissuade potential businesses from locating or expanding in Sullivan County. The ‘partnership’ model had proven to be successful throughout the country and locally in neighboring Orange County. In fact, the Sullivan County Partnership was modeled after that entity. Today this structure has proven to be one of the best, organizationally, with partnerships and private economic development organizations outperforming public and 501 C3 models consistently over time.
At the request of the business community, and residents at large, the County, the Sullivan County IDA and the business community agreed to put resources together, driven primarily by the private sector to efficiently and effectively carry out the economic development function in Sullivan County. Funds for the new corporation would be raised through memberships, and matched by both the County, and the Sullivan County IDA through services agreements, in order to raise the necessary capital to carry out the function. At the heart of the mission of the Partnership was the facilitation of investment, jobs and tax ratables to our municipalities and the County. Since its inception, the Partnership has achieved extraordinary results given the difficulty of the task in our region.
The Sullivan County Partnership today stands proud of what it has achieved in its twenty year history as evidenced by the value of its work product.
What is clearly evident is that the return on the investment to Sullivan County is most favorable. The total annual taxes collected for Partnership assisted projects that also received incentives in 2014 is more than $2.6 million. The County portion of that equals just over $503,000 this year with respective school districts and local taxing jurisdictions receiving the bulk of the generated tax revenues. What is most telling is that these tax revenues continue to grow each year as more projects are completed. Moreover, approximately another $2.4 million, and $500,000 additional county tax dollars are collected that either did not receive any incentives or are beyond incentive program maturity dates.. These are not passive revenues determined by statistical reports or economic multipliers. Rather, they are guaranteed tangible revenues paid, and growing each year as pilot incentives continue to wane relative to proximity to maturity dates. In addition, over 1,311 current jobs generating an annual payroll of over $40 million works to further underscore the value of investing in the Sullivan County Partnership. While Sullivan County lost jobs year to year from 2013 to 2014, Partnership assisted projects increased jobs by 111. While this number may appear to be small relatively, clearly a net positive in our current economic environment shows the formula is working, despite the challenges.
This past fiscal year three significant Partnership facilitated projects have materialized that will make an extraordinary positive impact on our economy. The first, Veria Lifestyle at the former Kutcher’s Resort is proposing a Canyon Ranch-Style spa resort slated for over $85 million in investment. A boutique hotel will be built and scheduled to open in 2015 featuring 75 rooms and a sportsman’s club, with the bulk of the development taking place thereafter. By any measure this project is an extraordinary economic development project that unfortunately gets lost in all of the casino discussions we are having at this time. The second, Lost Lake, a gated community with over 2,500 approved lots and various community spaces has already begun to secure commitments with over 40 lots in process currently. This predominantly second home community is a win-win for the Town of Forestburgh and the County as there will be virtually no negative impact on cost of services and the local school system. In addition the residential construction industry as well as sales tax on materials will be two areas that will be significantly positively impacted. The third is quite obvious, with the Partnership taking on a critical and key role in the casino effort since late last summer. From traveling all over the state debating the benefits of casinos in Sullivan County, to becoming an active member of the Citizens for NYS Gaming and coordinating the comparative analysis study, the Partnership has represented and worked on multiple fronts making the economic development case for casinos in Sullivan County. As the vote is eminent the Partnership, continues to work with the County, the IDA and our other economic development stakeholders to help ensure we are successful.
SMALL BUSINESS SERVICES
The Partnership has assisted small businesses in most every district utilizing the Sullivan Investments Revolving Loan Fund as well as the Incubator Without Walls Revolving Loan Fund. It routinely assists small businesses, providing technical assistance, financing, site location and other related services. It partners with the SC IDA, SC Chamber, SC Planning, SBDC, SCORE, NYSEG, where applicable, to better assist prospects. The Partnership is the ‘One Stop Center’ for economic development assistance in Sullivan County. The chart below represents small businesses assisted totaling approximately $1 million in financing and countless hours of technical assistance. Listed in green are the projects we closed on thus far in fiscal 2014. This represents approximately $200,000 in loan proceeds which will help catalyze over $1.3 million in gross sales cumulatively for these projects this year.
The Sullivan County Partnership provides additional services relative market research, market indices, targeted analysis, such as cost of services studies and other requests as a matter of routine. The Partnership assists private businesses, public entities, nonprofits and the general public with inquiries specific to economic development issues. Where applicable the Partnership works closely with the Chamber, the Visitors Association and other local business support groups to further the interest in attracting investment in Sullivan County. The following are key business seminars and targeted business events that the Partnership spearheaded and/or partnered with associated stakeholders:
The 1st Annual SEQRA Conference – this event held in January of this year attracted 220 attendees that earned continuing education credits, and local certifications for municipal planning/zoning board officials. The Partnership will be coordinating with the Sullivan County Division of Planning to continue this conference for a second year conference.
Preparing Students for Future Workforce Demands – the Partnership and the Center for Workforce Development teamed up to recruit Dr. Bill Dagget a renowned education specialist to speak to local educators regarding this topic relative to the needs of the business community. Over 65 educators attended this morning presentation with a dedicated group later following up and attending a week-long conference this past June with the International Center for Leadership in Education. The event was a success as a group of our local educators have continued working with ICLE in furtherance of this objective.
Small Business Preservation Seminar – a small business succession planning breakfast was held to educate attendees about how to appropriately address succession planning in small to medium sized businesses. From adequate insurance coverage to long term financial planning, a menu of topics was covered to better prepare our small entrepreneurs for the continuation of their respective business ventures.
CFA Workshop – the Partnership coordinated the CFA workshop with the assistance of the Division of Planning and Barton & Loguidice Engineering. The workshop reviewed the process and the types of projects that could get funded through this year’s round. More importantly it began to prepare attendees to think about working on projects for the next round of grants.
Sullivan United Business to Business Mixer – The Partnership coordinated the 1st Annual Sullivan United Mixer, bringing together the SCVA, Chamber, IDA and highlighting projects that bring out the best of what Sullivan County is doing in economic development. Over 150 people attended the event with tremendous feedback as businesses networked and discovered opportunities to work together with other businesses they may not have associated with before the event. As a business to business event this effort was successful and it will be repeated now annually.
As the Partnership celebrates its twentieth year it continues to face long term challenges that make attracting and developing businesses difficult in the region. Yet a core group of dedicated members and partners have providing unwavering support for all of those twenty years. They believe in the mission of the organization and clearly understand, that this partnership is critical to us all and will help foster new and expanded opportunities for Sullivan County businesses for years to come. The Partnership will be honoring these lifetime members at its annual meeting and celebration on October 9, 5:30PM at the Sullivan in Rock Hill. For more information, or to make a reservation contact the Partnership offices at 794-1110.
Originally published in Sullivan County Business Edge: Fall 2014.