What the site selectors said about Fulton County

During the first week of September 2017, Fulton County officials hosted three of only 43 certified site selectors in the nation, picking their brains for how best to market the county’s assets.

Fulton County Planning Director Jim Mraz is preparing an indepth report of the suggestions and observations of the members of the Site Selectors Guild – such as the pre-development of large industrial buildings and increasing marketing efforts.

“We brought these guys here because they’re the best of the best,” said Fulton County Planning Director Jim Mraz. “They have national and international status and experience in economic development and the corporate site-selection business. They were brought here to give us guidance and help us with perfecting our strategy moving forward.”site selectors on Twitter

Over a three day visit, the site selectors toured Tryon Technology Park, PTECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) in Johnstown, Pioneer Windows in the Johnstown Industrial Park and a workforce training program at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.

Here’s what they had to say:

Jay garnerJay A. Garner, president of Garner Economics, LLC of Fayetteville, Ga.

“A lot of people that we talk to in other areas tend to glisten over the challenges, but these were noted and there was a plan to mitigate many of those challenges,” Garner said. “That shows true leadership, and I commend you all for that.”  — as quoted by The Recorder of Amsterdam, September 11, 2017

 


 

JJim Renzasim Renzas, principal at the RSH Group, Inc. of Mission Viejo, Calif.

“Our visit here opened my eyes quite a bit. I go to a lot of much bigger areas where you couldn’t get a group this size together. People just don’t care about their community. Here, you actually have a community.”  – as quoted by The Recorder of Amsterdam, September 11, 2017

“It’s a big site and it’s a beautiful site. So there’s a lot you can do with it.” – On Tryon Technology Parkas quoted by The Recorder of Amsterdam, September 11, 2017

 


 

Dennis DonovanDennis Donovan, of New Jersey-based Wadley, Donovan, Gutshaw Consulting of Bridgewater, N.J.

“The most impressive thing I’ve seen is leadership — the leadership here is really stunningly good. People are not afraid to take chances and they’re brutally honest. You’ve got what a lot of areas don’t have so that’s really important. Your infrastructure capacity is amazing and you’ve got some nice shovel-ready sites. Fulton County might be small but you’ve got good physical product here. You will succeed. There’s no doubt about it.” as quoted by The Recorder of Amsterdam, September 11, 2017

“The training resources with BOCES PTECH and [Fulton-Montgomery Community College], they are first class — among the best I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them. It helps for companies to expand their workforce and upgrade their skills because the training institutions are already in place.” – as quoted by The Daily Gazette of Schenectady, September 17, 2017

“I think your training resources here are second to noneThe range of incentives you can bring to the table are good to bring in deals.” – as quoted by The Leader-Herald, September 11, 2017

“The cost of doing business in Fulton County is competitive with any location, even in the Southeast. And this is not in any way exploitative; the cost of living in the area is low.” – as quoted by The Daily Gazette of Schenectady, September 17, 2017

Fulton County pushing tech park: The Daily Gazette

Originally published in The Daily Gazette

— When Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed the Tryon Juvenile Detention Facility in 2011, Fulton County and the surrounding area lost 325 jobs and an estimated $15,000,000 in wages spent in the local economy, according to an estimate from the county planning department.

The Gloversville Water Dept. and the Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Wastewater Treatment Plant also lost a combined $170,000 in annual revenue, they said.

But while similar youth detention facilities across the state were shuttered and remained closed, officials in Fulton County had something different in mind for the Tryon facility. They asked the state to turn the property over to them so they could convert it into a business park.

“Fulton County government took the initiative,” said James Mraz, Executive Director of the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency. “After a couple years worth of back and forth this entire facility was deeded over to the county’s industrial development agency.”

The county, through a combination of grants and matching funds, has so far put over $4 million into the site. They built a ring access road throughout the 515-acre shovel-ready site, known as the Tryon Technology Park, as well as a 300,000-gallon water tower and pump station to improve water pressure and supply.

Head Cultivator Chris Schmitt looks over drying marijuana plant at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday.

Head Cultivator Chris Schmitt looks over drying marijuana plant at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday. PETER R. BARBER, GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

Their plan is to tear down nearly all of the many structures that were part of the detention facility, save for one 15,000-square-foot facility they hope to convert into a regional business training and incubator center. That facility, said Mraz, will help new businesses get off the ground and provide space for them to try out ideas.

Mraz said county officials felt the site would make a good business park because of its proximity to New York’s interstate system and the presence of existing utility hookups.

“There’s already gas, electric, water and sewer service here,” said Mraz. “When you’re developing shovel-ready sites that’s usually the biggest cost, is getting that infrastructure, which is integral to developing the site. It was already here.”

He also touted the county’s access to markets.

“Because of our proximity to interstates, this county, a four-hour drive in any direction has access 70 million potential customers, and that’s huge,” said Mraz, pointing to retail giant Wal-Mart opening a food distribution center in the Johnstown industrial park as evidence of Fulton County’s advantageous location.

“They did it for a reason,” he said. “Strategically it was centrally located to a geographic area that they wanted to serve and could serve given the interstate system here. Our proximity to markets is as good if not better than most other areas.”

Mraz also touted the relative remoteness of Tryon Technology Park as an asset.

“It’s a very peaceful campus setting. So part of our marketing strategy is we’re saying ‘come here, take a 180 degree turn away from a high-cost, high-stress business life,’” he said.

“We think it’s a positive thing. And that’s how we’re trying to market it.”

Selling prospective businesses on the property is something Mraz, who doubles as the county’s planning director, said is a daily task for him and other officials.

“That’s a work task that we’re on every day,” said Mraz. “This business is very competitive.”

Mraz said the county is courting a prospect now that’s looking at sites all over the northeast.

“So every time we’re competing against other great sites, and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose,” he said. “I can’t say when we’re going to have [tenants]; all I can say is every day we’re trying.”

The Tryon Tech Park already has one tenant, Vireo Health of New York, which is one of the few companies allowed to grow and manufacture medical cannabis for use by patients in New York.

Vireo’s scientific director Eric Greenbaum said on a recent tour of the facility that the company is one of just five allowed to operate in the state, and while regulations in New York are more stringent than in other states, he sees a bright future for the industry in the state.

Greenbaum said New York’s marijuana program is a “really medical model” as opposed to more recreation-based models in Colorado and California, which could actually greatly help the medical cannabis industry nationwide to serve patients as opposed to casual users.

“[New York’s] is a model that in my opinion will serve as the template for a federal regulatory framework similar to what the FDA would do,” said Greenbaum. “Compared to California, where the medical model is basically a proxy for adult and recreational use…the fact that we don’t sell [marijuana bud], we only sell carefully formulated medicines…it’s just indicative of the approach that New York is taking.”

Vireo provides customers with carefully formulated medicines in three different forms, said Greenbaum: oil (for vaporizing), a capsule or an oral solution. The company has five brands that run the gamut from having very high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentrations and very low cannabidiol (CBD) concentrations, and vice versa.

Head Cultivator Chris Schmitt looks at buds of marijuana plants at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday.

Head Cultivator Chris Schmitt looks at buds of marijuana plants at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday. PETER R. BARBER, GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

 Cannabidiol is a compound that is useful for seizure disorders as well as pain, said Greenbaum. It’s also been shown to mitigate the sometimes dysphoric effects of THC, which can include paranoia and anxiousness.

THC is the chemical produced by the glands of a marijuana plant that is most responsible for the euphoric effect – or high – found in users.

Greenbaum said the company settled at Tryon Technology Park as part of the licensing agreement it struck with the state, but that he and Vireo CEO Kyle Kingsley are native New Yorkers who are passionate about jumpstarting local economies wherever they can in the state.

“We knew that the state was really focused on repurposing this facility; we knew there was a commitment to building up the Tryon Technology Park to be a center for tech development as well as job growth for this region,” said Greenbaum.

And while the state’s regulation of medical cannabis is a bit strict now, said Greenbaum, there’s reason to believe it will broaden in the near future.

“It’s a pretty limited patient market right now; there’s been some discussion with the legislators and regulators to expand some of the qualifying patient conditions to include chronic pain,” said Greenbaum. “Chronic pain is one of the indications for which we have the most evidence of efficacy with medical cannabis. So we’re hoping that that goes through. We think it will be really good for the people of New York.”

Marijuana plants at Vireo Health at Tryon Tech Park in Perth on Thursday.

Marijuana plants at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday. PETER R. BARBER, GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

Greenbaum said Vireo is “optimistic” the regulations will be expanded within the next quarter.

“Not that we’ll be able to implement it, but we’re optimistic we’ll see an announcement within the next 90 days,” said Greenbaum. Relaxing them, he said, would “open up access a lot, and will be good for growth and patients as well.”

And growth is what county officials are hoping for as well with the Tryon Technology Park. Mraz said the capital projects at the site are in their final stages, and the way in which the county has been able to repurpose what would have become an abandoned property is a unique and inspiring way to create more jobs and commerce in the area.

“It’s just going to take some time,” he said.

Reach Gazette reporter Dan Fitzsimmons at 852-9605, dfitzsimmons@dailygazette.net or@DanFitzsimmons on Twitter.