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Of small businesses and casinos; A conversation about the future of Sullivan County

Marc Baez, president and CEO of the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development, tells the legislature his activities have been “nonstop” since the passage of the casinos referendum in the November election.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
December 11, 2013

What most county officials see as a near-certainty of one or two casinos coming to Sullivan County colored the conversation at a meeting of the county Community and Economic Development Committee on December 5.

Legislator Cindy Gieger kicked things off, pushing for more attention to attracting small businesses to the county. She read from a prepared statement that she has been “hearing from constituents that current efforts in small business development need to be revisited and renewed. I understand efforts in economic development have been largely centered in the recruitment of the big job creators, while I believe this is worthwhile, my constituents are calling for equitable efforts to recruit small job creators.”

She said that, according to the state comptroller’s office, 87.8% of all businesses in the state have fewer than 20 employees. She proposed that the county economic development agencies, such as the Industrial Development Agency (IDA), the Partnership for Economic Development, the Sullivan County Visitors Association and perhaps the Division of Planning and Environmental Management, set goals for 2014 for attracting new small businesses and use an “aggressive marketing campaign” to do so.

Legislator Ira Steingart said there are various tools and agencies involved in economic development, but the umbrella is the Partnership, and it was important to be consistent and point businesses looking for programs or assistance to the right place. He also said, “Eighty percent of startup businesses don’t make it; that doesn’t mean they’re not getting the best help and the best chances.”

There was a brief discussion about whether zoning could be more standardized throughout the county to aid in the establishment of new business, though it was quickly noted that zoning occurs at the town level, and the county has no real control over it. Steingart said, however, the topic might be brought at a meeting of the town supervisors.

Moving on to a different topic, legislator Alan Sorensen, a former county planning commissioner, noted that the planning department has changed. He ticked off a list of successful programs launched by the planning department.