An Economic Development Tour was hosted by the Town of Bethlehem last week in order to showcase available properties for commercial growth in the town.
The tour was one of the first major projects undertaken by the town’s newly appointed Senior Planner and Economic Development Coordinator Elizabeth Staubach. It was hosted in conjunction with the Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency after planning for the event began in January.
“We mainly wanted to bring awareness to the commercial and industrial properties here in town,” said Planning Director Rob Leslie. “We wanted to make sure folks know there is opportunity here for development, and that we have both vacant lands and buildings available.”
Staubach said another reason for the tour was to display how the town can meet a variety of needs for business owners. Small start-ups may be more attracted to one of the available spaces within an already established building, whereas industrial developers may be looking for vacant land near the edge of town.
Supervisor John Clarkson said town officials had been thinking of doing a similar event for some time. The tour was made easier now that the town has a coordinator to focus on economic development.
“It’s all part of marketing the town’s business opportunities, of which there are many,” said Clarkson. “We have a number of locations for office, commercial and industrial growth, and the more we build that part of our tax base, the more we can provide services without unduly burdening our taxpayers.”
Leslie said some developers may be attracted to other areas because they have a high population density. He said many might know the town has space available, but this gives them the chance to actually see the space in person.
The tour began with a short reception at the Vista Technology Campus in Slingerlands. Developers, real estate agents, economic development professionals and town officials were then taken on a driving tour of the town by bus.
The route went through Slingerlands, down Delaware Avenue, New Scotland Road, and then to Route 9W and the Selkirk Yards Industrial District. Stops were made at the Hamilton Lane Industrial Area and the Picotte Building on New Scotland Avenue.
An extensive tour was given of the new Finke Enterprises facility in Selkirk.
Robert H. Finke & Sons Inc. Equipment, a heavy equipment rental and retail business for contractors and municipalities, moved from its property across the street after receiving a standard tax abatement from the BIDA last year.
The project was expected to cost $7.1 million and was funded by the National Bank of Coxsackie. It includes a 67,000-square-foot building with a showroom, a parts and service facility, a training facility and one of the largest equipment paint bays in the state. It is also a green building with radiant floor heat and solar panel technology.
The standard abatement means the company sees 50 percent off their tax bill for the first year of the 10-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes plan. Five percent is then added back on each year over 10 years. Finke was paying about $15,000 in annual taxes, but the expansion would increase the town’s tax-base by about $117,000 over 10 years.
“We wouldn’t have been able to get this project off the ground without the help of the IDA and the town,” said John Finke, president of Robert H. Finke & Sons Inc.
The project was planned to bring five new jobs, but Finke said he may double that number by the end of the year.
The tour ended with a lunch and networking reception within the Cornea Consultants building in Vista.
“We obviously want to see the office space, technology and research-based businesses that were envisioned for Vista become a reality,” said Leslie on way the location was chosen to begin and end the tour. “The infrastructure is in place and the sites laid out, so one of the focuses is getting a tech business in there.”
Leslie said he thought the event was successful and hoped to continue showcasing economic development within the town on an annual basis.
“I wouldn’t do a tour every year, but look to change it up,” he said. “Still focus on the development community, but we don’t want people to get bored with it.”