POV: Vista already a net positive for town

The author is the chairman of the Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency.

As chairman of the Town of Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency (BIDA), I am writing to provide important information to the residents of the town about the role of the BIDA in economic development projects and in particular about our role in the advancement of the Vista Technology Park over the past eight years.

The BIDA is a public benefit corporation separate from the Town of Bethlehem whose seven members are appointed by the Town Board and who serve without compensation. Each member is a resident of the town and pays taxes to the town and school district. The BIDA is regulated as a local public authority by the NYS Authorities Budget Office (ABO) and the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC). The ABO has stated that IDAs “are intended to function as independent public corporations, governed by boards of directors and free of direct governmental control and political influence.” The BIDA’s mission is to attract and retain high quality jobs and capital investment to the town by focusing on appropriate commercial, industrial, manufacturing, warehousing, educational, research and recreational projects. The tools available to the BIDA include the ability to grant exemption from certain taxes (sales tax paid on construction and other purchases, mortgage recording tax, real property tax abatement and issuance of tax-exempt bonds). The BIDA does not lend money.

All of our meetings are public, noticed in advance and attended by members of the public. In 2012, we began webcasting our hearings on potential projects, using the town’s new system. We are now considering extending the use of this system to our regular meetings as well.

As far back as 2005, the town promoted the Vista Technology Campus as desirable economic development that would produce significant tax revenues for the town, Bethlehem Central School District and Albany County. Vista has been supported by a succession of supervisors and Town Boards as a key economic development goal. The town zoned Vista as a “mixed economic development” district and in 2007 approved a master plan which described the types of businesses that could locate there. The BIDA was not involved with the zoning of Vista.

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