During a recent presentation, members of the 20/20 Economic Development Subcommittee gave their recommendations for establishing an economic development strategy, including the addition of staff to make their goals more achievable.
“The report is meant to serve as a playback for future economic development,” 20/20 and Industrial Development Agency member Joe Richardson told the board.
One significant suggestion was the addition of a half-time staff person who would be dedicated exclusively to the cultivation of economic development projects in the town.
“The new staff position would be helpful in representing Bethlehem in the regional collaboration that is taking place,” said Richardson, who argued that the town needs a “professional” at the table to promote Bethlehem.
The committee suggested that once resources are identified and as economic development growth occurs, the position should be increased to full time.
The recommendations highlight the point that the town is competing against more sophisticated business organizations in neighboring communities in Saratoga, Schenectady and Greene counties.
“It’s imperative, I think, from our perspective that the Town of Bethlehem has to take this under their wing and auspices, because the county of Albany has nothing to help us with this,” said 20/20 member Keith Bennett.
The problem, committee members say, is that as currently staffed, the town is at a distinct competitive disadvantage when it comes to bringing in new development in the region.
Another recommendation is for the town to leverage the resources of its Industrial Development Agency. That body has seen relatively little activity in the past few years, but has been a vital part of helping with financing and progress for the Vista Technology Campus in Slingerlands.
“This report lays the ground work for beginning to identify short-term initiatives, while seeking more detailed discussion on specific long-term projects,” said Richardson.
Short-term goals laid out in the recommendations include support for work at Vista, implementation of the New Scotland Road Hamlet Master Plan and a reconstitution of a Selkirk Yards Industrial District Focus Group to ensure the long-term viability of some of the town’s largest employers and taxpayers.
Board members were also reminded of how vital it is to market what the town has through tools such as website marketing.
Richardson spoke about the opportunities the town must explore to promote economic development events “by using electronic newsletters, and with other cost-effective communication tools.”
The recommendations within the 15-minute presentation drew no questions from the Town Board, which took no formal action to adopt any of the suggestions put forth by the 20/20 committee.