Fulton County working to rebuild local economy: Times Union

Officials market low costs, infrastructure to attract companies, people

 By Robert Downen, Originally published in the Albany Times Union

In their quest to reverse economic downturn, Fulton County officials are focusing on three words: Live, work and play.

By 2026, they hope their county will attract residents who want to do all three.

Once the epicenter of the upstate leather industry centered in Gloversville, Fulton County has steadily watched economic opportunities dwindle as niche manufacturing jobs go overseas.

Since 1970, the number of people directly and indirectly employed in the leather trades has dropped from 10,000 to 400, the U.S. Department of Labor said.

“These businesses employed towns,” Johnny Evers, director of government affairs at the Business Council of New York State, said at a seminar on Fulton County economic development Tuesday,

Now — and hopefully, with buy-in from local business leaders and elected officials — county officials are hoping they can transform the area into a hotbed of growth by attracting businesses and young people alike.

Boosters believe they have the resources both in infrastructure and human capital. The question is how to get people to use them.

The pitch is simple: Cheap cost of living, coupled with the factory buildings left over from the heyday of manufacturing, should make Fulton County immediately attractive to those seeking metropolitan amenities at a discounted rate.

“Upstate New York is a beautiful place to explore and enjoy, but in many areas the cost of living can be too high,” Jim Mraz, Fulton County planning director, said in August. “In Fulton County, that’s not the case, and that’s something we’re proud of.”

Add in a low crime rate, a new focus on regional partnerships and the county’s location in the middle of myriad nature destinations, and officials are confident they “can establish Fulton County as one of the Capital Region’s premier economic and residential destinations,” said Charles Potter, chairman of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors.

Since undertaking the development initiative called Jump Start Fulton County in 2014, officials have focused heavily on luring new businesses and young workers to shovel-ready sites.

Fulton and Montgomery counties at that time brought in Mike Mullis, a corporate site selector, to assess the region’s ability to attract large corporations. Mullis identified seven clusters on which the counties should focus, with biomedical research and development, food and beverage services and health care products among them.

By reorienting towards such high-tech sectors, officials hope they can use their location in the middle of what they’re calling the “Tech Triangle” of New York as a selling point. (Both Utica and the Capital Region tout significant biotechnology sectors, and Albany was rated last week as the most friendly place to do business in New York by Forbes).

A cornerstone of that strategy is the Tryon Technology Park in Perth. The 515-acre park, once occupied by the now-shuttered Tryon Detention Center, has been the focus of the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency. Last year it moved in its first tenant, medical marijuana company Vireo Health.

“In the greater Capital Region, there’s a tremendous amount of human capital,” Vireo CEO Ari Hoffnung said in September. “There’s a lot of talent.

“We want to bring back more (than the 325 jobs) that were lost (at Tryon).”

County officials are also banking on growing agricultural industries statewide.

Since 2000, gross domestic product from upstate New York’s dairy sector has increased by more than 38 percent, to more than $600 million, according to the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth.

In this region alone, international yogurt makers Fage and Chobani have created more than 1,650 jobs, making New York the No. 1 yogurt manufacturing state in the country.

rdownen@timesunion.com • 518-454-5018 • @Robert_Downen

Educating a workforce in Fulton and Montgomery

Efforts to promote a workforce that is ready for the jobs being created in Fulton and Montgomery counties made significant progress in 2015, according to a report this week by the Fulton-Montgomery CEO Roundtable.

PTECH flourishes and expands

The Pathways in Technology Early College High School (PTECH) program, first introduced locally by the state Department of Education in 2014, served 100 students across the two counties in 2015. Students enter the PTECH program as 9th graders and work simultaneously toward earning a Regents High School Diploma and an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science from Fulton-Montgomery Community College at no cost to the student’s family.

The 4-6 year sequence emphasizes individualized pathways to completion, work place experiences, mentorship, in-depth project-based learning and real world experiences.High schools collaborate with the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce to provide mentors for PTECH students.

The initial PTECH programs focus on Business Management and Administration, Advanced Manufacturing (Clean Technology), Information Technology and Health Sciences.

The state has awarded HFM BOCES approval for an expansion of PTECH to focus on agricultural science, fisheries and wildlife technology. The program will partner schools with FMCC and the State University of New York at Cobleskill for AG-P-TECH, scheduled to be launched in September.

Smart Scholars

Two other programs are working to help high school students in the two counties achieve graduation and pursue pathways to specific careers.

Smart Scholars Early College High School Program is giving students in the Greater Amsterdam School District the opportunity and preparation to accelerate the completion of their high school studies while earning transferable college credits at Fulton-Montgomery Community College. The first batch of Smart Scholars graduates in 2014 went on to study at The College of St. Rose, SUNY Plattsburgh, Elmira College, Hartwick College, Manhattan College, Russell Sage College, SUNY Cobleskill, Keuka College, St. John’s University, New England College and Fulton-Montgomery.

In photo standing left to right: Smart Scholar Amsterdam High seniors attending classes at FM: Carlos Mercado, Jr., Gregory Kerrick, “JoJo” Jonardy Anil, Krysta Ortega, Jennifer Alvarez, and Marieshellie Mora; Seated left to right: Program Coordinator Effie Maglaras with seniors Marilyn Rodriguez, Gabrielle Mitchell, and Samantha Waldvogel (Missing from photo: Ilenis Quinones)

Left to right: Smart Scholar Amsterdam High seniors attending classes at FM in 2014: Carlos Mercado, Jr., Gregory Kerrick, “JoJo” Jonardy Anil, Krysta Ortega, Jennifer Alvarez, and Marieshellie Mora; Seated left to right: Program Coordinator Effie Maglaras with seniors Marilyn Rodriguez, Gabrielle Mitchell and Samantha Waldvogel (Missing from photo: Ilenis Quinones)

Pathways to Development established Freshmen Academies for Amsterdam, Gloversville and Johnstown 9th grade students. These “schools within a school” aim to ease the stresses of transition from middle school to high school.

Another education-related enhancement promoted by the CEO Roundtable in 2015 included Fulton-Montgomery Community College’s Global Village, currently in development to provide student housing, open-market apartments, housing for active mature adults, restaurants and small shops with a contemporary ‘college-town’ feel.

The CEO Roundtable was formed in 2011 by a group of business leaders in Fulton and Montgomery counties to create a business-friendly climate that will help the region retain existing businesses and attract new ones.

Fulton County scores $8.49M in grants

The Mohawk Valley came away with $100.3 million for 92 projects through Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative. It was the largest amount granted to any of the regions that did not win one of three $500 million prizes in what critics have dubbed Cuomo’s Hunger Games.

Proposals from the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and Central New York took those top prize packages.  The four other regions in the competition took away consolation prizes worth $100.3 million to the Mohawk Valley, $90.4 million to the Mid-Hudson region, $85.1 million to the North Country and $98.1 million to the Capital Region.

Fulton County departments and organizations received 16 grants totaling just over $8.49 million from the Regional Economic Development Council.  Fulton County projects to receive funding from various agencies and sources are:

Town of Johnstown Food Pantry, $400,000
Housing and Community Renewal Community Development Block Grant for Public Facilities to be used to rehabilitate the One Church Street facility, which houses a food pantry and soup kitchen.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, $80,000
An Empire State Development grant to assist with the conversion of the former YMCA building at One Church Street to for a commercial kitchen and dining room on the first floor and an emergency shelter on the upper floors.

Jumpstart Fulton County, $51,000
Empire State Development Grant to construct and install infrastructure upgrades at two locations linking the City of Gloversville and the city of Johnstown municipal water systems.

Fulton County Development Strategy, $20,000
Empire State Development grant to allow Fulton County to develop a County Development Strategy Plan outlining a 10-year vision for the County’s projects and strategies.

Fulton County Microenterprise Program, $200,000
Housing and Community Renewal Community Development Block Grant to assist in the Microenterprise Program for the advancement of small and startup businesses.

Tryon Technology Park, $10,000
Empire State Development grant for the demolition of three buildings and clearing of about 100 acres at the Tryon Technology Park.

Tryon Technology Park, $30,000
Empire State Development grant for renovating a building at Tryon Technology Park.

Fulton County Hydroseeding Program, $31,500
Department of Environmental Conservation Water Quality Improvement Project Program grant for the Fulton County Soil and Water Conservation District to continue a hydroseeding program that provides critical area seeding at the County landfill and stabilizes road ditches. In addition, the District will provide educational opportunities to municipalities throughout the county on the benefits of hydroseeding. The project will continue to reduce the amount of sediment entering waterbodies throughout Fulton County.

Gloversville Public Library, $500,000
An Empire State Development grant to assist with a $7 million capital campaign by the Gloversville Public Library, a building funded in 1904 by Andrew Carnegie. This grant focuses on renovations to bring the Beaux-Arts building into compliance with NYS building code and ADA Standards.

Gloversville Public Library, $500,000
New York State Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation grant for repair projects vital to the structural integrity of the 111-year-old public building, offering an opportunity to install energy efficient alternatives.

Gloversville Johnstown Wastewater Treatment Facility, $1.1 million
Department of Environmental Conservation Water Quality Improvement Project Program grant to install a disinfection system at the Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility. The outcome will be to fully treat the effluent, which reduces environmental contamination.

Nathan Littauer Hospital Nursing Home, $740,000
An Empire State Development grant to help construct primary care and dialysis medical facilities in Perth, Fonda and Gloversville.

New Age Renewable Energy, $2,000,000
An Empire State Development grant to Johnstown Renewables, which will build an acid whey treatment facility in the Johnstown Industrial Park to provide and economically sound and environmentally sound process for dealing with yogurt-making byproducts.

New Age Renewable Energy Corporation, $940,000
A second Empire State Development grant for the acid whey facility.

Robison Smith, Inc., $1,700,000
An Empire State Development grant to retain the 100-year-old industrial laundry company in Fulton County by assisting in the consolidation of two antiquated plants into a single state-of-the-art facility.

Mohawk Valley Path Through History Cycling Trails, $291,500
An Empire State Development grant to the Workforce Investment Board of Herkimer, Oneida and Madison counties to implement the next phase of its original multi-year plan to develop and market cycling trails to connect the existing Erie Canalway Trail to historic sites throughout the project area. The plan aims to increase visitation, sales and occupancy tax revenues.

The Fulmont College Association for the Global Village project at Fulton-Montgomery Community College was awarded $3.7 million to put in a sewer line for wastewater.

Neighboring Montgomery County and several of its villages will receive a total of $455,000 from the New York State Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation, Department of State Local Waterfront Revitalization Program and the Canal system. Improvements will be made to Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Park in the Village of St. Johnsville; the Mohawk River Scenic Overlook Waterfront Access Facility in the Village of Fultonville; a new Canalside Park off South Bridge Street in the Village of Fonda; and the Bike Trail Restoration project.

The Bike Trail restoration will focus on existing portions of the State Canalway bike trail from Fort Hunter to Fultonville and from Fultonville to Root. These spans will be paved to create a cohesive trail system with the other already paved sections. The smioother roads will cut down on maintenance and create a safer, more inviting experience for bicyclists, runners and pedestrians.

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Even though the larger multi-county proposal from the Mohawk Valley did not win one of the half-billion grants, Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said the URI competition created an opportunity for the people of the Mohawk Valley to come together to develop long-range thinking and coordinated plans. That process made the counties forge closer relationships.

“We’ve worked very well with Fulton County for many years, and Schoharie County to some extent. But when you add in Otsego, Herkimer, Oneida…there’s definitely a stronger bond there than previously, and I would argue, probably many, many years.”

The Cuomo administration said Round V of the Regional Economic Development Council Initiative has added $2.25 billion to projects throughout the state.

Cuomo said he plans to provide additional funding for the four regions that did not take home the $500 million top prize.

“I’m going to propose in the budget next year, to my colleagues in the legislature, for those regions that are not successful today in the URI grant, we allocate an additional $50 million to those regions, to those four regions, so they know they get $50 million to fund their top priorities, because there are no bad proposals,” Cuomo said.

Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica said the Mohawk Valley region has also received more than $500 million in state investment into the Nano Utica Project, including GE’s Quad-C facility and ams’s semiconductor manufacturing plant.

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Why Companies Should Consider Upstate New York’s Fulton and Montgomery Counties

New York’s Fulton County and Montgomery County are truly rich in resources for business and industry. This central New York area offers unique opportunities for manufacturing, research, warehousing and distribution operations and is very attractive to companies who are reshoring operations after years of investment abroad:

  • A 21st century workforce
  • Accessibility via road to vital northeast markets
  • Port access in Albany for international transport
  • Ample water, milk and agricultural resources
  • Affordable ex-urban quality of life
  • Affordable real estate
  • Shovel-ready sites for businesses large and small

Ample Choices for Businesses Large and Small
Fulton County, NY is home to manufacturing and/or distributing operations for companies as diverse as U.S. retailers Walmart, Greek manufacturer FAGE Yogurt, Euphrates Cheese, French bottler C.G. Roxane, Spanish charcutier Pata Negra, and the global headquarters of medical device manufacturer Epimed International and pharmaceutical manufacturer Vireo Health.

FULTON COUNTY WITHIN NYSThe county currently has three shovel-ready business parks with readily available natural gas, electric, water, sewer, heavy-duty road network, direct wire to police and fire protection, close proximity to state-of-the-art landfill, and fiber optic telecommunications:

  • Crossroads Business Park offers a campus-like setting featuring modern infrastructure and natural beauty. Average acres per lot are 3.2; with custom facility construction available in sizes ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 square feet.
  • Crossroads Industrial Park features 3-acre lot average sizes and is a perfect location for manufacturing, distribution, warehousing and food processing.
  • Johnstown Industrial Park lots average 6 acres and are also ideal for manufacturing, distribution, warehousing and food processing.

Also coming on line in 2014 is the new 515-acre Tryon Technology Park on County Highway 107. Formerly home to a juvenile detention facility, New York State agreed in February 2012 to turn the site over to the Fulton County Industrial development Agency for economic development.

Positive Reviews by Site Consultant J. M. Mullis
According to J.M. Mullis CEO Michael Mullis, who has worked with Fulton and Montgomery Counties in the past and toured the region in early September 2013, this region has a lot to offer businesses looking for a great New York location. Mullis noted, “There’s not a state in the union with a more diverse workforce and more knowledge than New York. But few people realize the riches available in the Fulton and Montgomery County area.”

“When companies think about the northeast they think Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York State,” Mullin continued at a briefing following his tour. “Within New York, they usually are aware of New York City, Buffalo, Albany, and Binghamton, and nothing in between.”

According to Mullis, the region offers outstanding:

  • Transportation infrastructure. Nearby major roadways offer ready access to Montreal, New York, Boston, and points west. Also nearby are deep-water port access and a highly functional international airport.  Rail-spur options are under review.
  • Energy. Fresh water and wastewater treatment options are plentiful.
  • Permitting. The state process is very good, and local officials work collaboratively to make permitting as easy as possible.
  • Incentives. State and local economic development entities understand the importance of incentives to offset local tax burdens to businesses.
  • Quality of life. The location offers affordable housing, rural beauty, and nearby access to cultural centers like Saratoga, the Berkshires, and the Capital Region, as well as to the vast outdoor recreational resources of the Adirondack Mountains and Mohawk Valley.
  • Proximity to research technology centers like Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, CUNY, SUNY, and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
  • Workforce. There is ample workforce to call on in the region, and 21st century workforce readiness efforts by The CEO Roundtable and Fulton Montgomery Community College have brought advanced manufacturing and other critical training resources to the region.
  • Shovel-ready sites including three in Fulton County and one in Montgomery County.

Mullis also noted that the new Tryon site will be unique in the state. “This is one of the region’s greatest marketing assets,” he explained. “It’s the best property I’ve seen in New York State. It has the topography access, buildings, and acreage that will appeal to major companies. It’s all there, including a backup power generator, $5 million worth of barbed wire security fencing, and a road network that is amply sufficient for most companies.”

The Best Time is Now
This is a great time to invest in your company’s future in upstate New York. Contact FCCRG for information on how we can help you with:

  • Building stock and land
  • Identifying and navigating financing options
  • Providing consulting services
  • Real estate management and development
  • Marketing services

Contact Fulton County Center for Regional Growth at 518-725-7700.

Business Leaders Push for Regional Development

The CEO Roundtable plays a vital role in holding counties and municipalities accountable

Vision artBuilding a vital future for our region takes all hands on deck. That’s why, in 2011, small but vital group of Montgomery and Fulton County business leaders formed The CEO Roundtable. Their vision? To create a business-friendly climate that would help the region retain existing businesses and attract new ones.

Today the CEO Roundtable members continue to promote the vision they created in their  2011 Regional Business Plan:

“The Fulton-Montgomery County Region is a progressive community providing a friendly climate for business growth and retention, a variety of entertainment venues for social gathering, an educated and trained workforce, and a diverse housing stock to meet the needs of the different lifestyles of its residents.”

Guided today by core members Dustin Swanger, president of Fulton Montgomery Community College,; Mike Reese, president of Fulton County Center for Regional Growth; Ken Rose, director of the Montgomery County Business Development Center; Jim Mraz, Fulton County planning director; Mark Kilmer, CEO of the Fulton-Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce; and Pat Michel, district superintendent of HFM BOCES; the group continues to advance the work of 6 primary goals established in that plan.

1. Educate and train the region’s students for a 21st century workforce.

Area schools have begun implementing the new common core standards to better prepare students for college and careers. BOCES is collaborating with area districts on curriculum and to ensure access to learning opportunities. Both a technology-focused high school and Apprentice Program are underway. Technology-enabled faculty-sharing is in development among school districts. BOCES and the FM Chamber sponsored a Career Fair for eighth-grade students. And several districts are regionalizing some operations (transportation, food service, etc.) to control costs.

Additionally, as reported here in October, Fulton Montgomery Community College (FMCC) has invested heavily in technology on-campus (a new clean-room and automated manufacturing lab, high-tech patient simulators, new computers, iPads and software), launched new degree programs, and modified several programs to reflect the skills needed by area business and industry.

2. Develop large and small shovel-ready sites. Fulton County has been working with New York State to transfer ownership of Tryon Park to the Fulton County IDA, which will provide a new business and industry park, complete with infrastructure, ready for development. Montgomery County has been working to expand the Florida Park Extension in preparation for new potential industries.

3. Market the region. Both counties have been developing marketing outreach efforts singly and together. A joint effort brought site selector Michael Mullis to the region in early September to highlight the number of sites available in our region and to promote the region’s business strengths:

  • Location (proximity to major throughways and easy access to markets throughout the Northeast)
  • Available workforce
  • Affordable land
  • Year-round recreational activities
  • Low cost of living

4. Improve the region’s quality of life. Another important focus is revitalizing our downtowns. To that end, the CEO Roundtable has hosted two symposia for government and business leaders from Amsterdam, Gloversville, and Johnstown to learn, brainstorm, and begin efforts to enhance our cities.

5. Extend water, sewer, utilities, and broadband service. The CEO Roundtable strongly advocates Fulton County’s exploration of a county-wide water and sewer system, which will make the county much more attractive to new and growing businesses.

6. Lower local property tax burden in the region. Our local counties and school districts have been doing all they can to control spending without crippling services. But a region can only shrink to success for so long. The only true way to control the property tax burden is to grow the base so that costs can be spread among more residents, businesses, and industries. That is why the entire Regional Business Development Plan is focused on growth.

Concludes Dustin Swanger, a founding member of The CEO Roundtable, “The CEO Roundtable, along with others in our community, has been working hard to implement the Regional Business Development Plan. We are focused on improving our region and making it a better place to live, work, and play.”