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

Leader Herald: Lead on new company for Tryon

Fulton County Center for Regional Growth has lead on potential company for new Tryon Technology Park

Lead on potential company: CRG official

June 28, 2016

GLOVERSVILLE – The Fulton County Center for Regional Growth has a good lead on a potential company for the new Tryon Technology Park, an official said.

CRG President and CEO Ron Peters provided scant details at his agency’s board meeting Friday at the CRG office.

When the CRG is pursuing business prospects, few details are made public until the deal is final.

During a report on a “combined county marketing effort,” Peters said the CRG participated in a conference call involving a “qualified lead” for a potential company.

“It went well,” Peters said.

He said the new Tryon Technology Park in Perth may be the proper site if the company wants to move to Fulton County.

Peters also mentioned during the “business marketing inquiries” portion of the meeting that the CRG received a “solid” inquiry through the state. But it was unclear whether he was talking about the same company.

“It could be a regionally significant project,” Peters said.

He said a California company is looking to start up in either Fulton or Montgomery counties.

Peters said the CRG last year participated in about half of 110 economic development conference calls conducted by the state. He said it is a “good system” and the CRG was recently given three proposals by the state identifying “possible leads” for companies.

“There’s work to be done,” Peters said.

He said companies are seeking 250,000 square feet of space with expansion potential. He said companies want buildings with high bays.

“They’re usually looking for existing [facilities], and to retrofit that,” Peters said.

Peters said the CRG has a good handle on its inventory of potential buildings. He said the biggest existing buildings the county has are about 150,000 square feet. He said a lot of companies are looking to move into the New York City market.

Fulton County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director James Mraz said the Tryon park in the towns of Perth and Johnstown will create an opportunity for a business “willing to build.”

“We will now have that place to put them,” Mraz said.

Peters said the current cost for a pre-engineered building is about $80 to $100 per square-foot. He said economic development agencies are receiving “mixed calls” from potential businesses, from Florida up the east coast. He said there are still some “hardcore manufacturers” looking for sites.

Gloversville 3rd Ward Supervisor John Blackmon, county liaison to the CRG, said some buildings of the future may be occupied by only 3D printers.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com

Site Selector Praises Region

Fulton County NY Press Conference

FCCRG’s Michael Reese (right) with local officials and Site Selector Michael Mullis.

Site selector Michael Mullis gave the thumbs up on September 8th to a gathering of the region’s economic development executives and elected officials.

The CEO of J.M. Mullis Inc of Memphis, TN, Mullis said that the region is unique in New York state because it has so much going for it.

Among the many resources he cited were:

  • The region’s workforce
  • Water and sewer resources
  • Infrastructure resources
  • Transportation
  • Proximity to major markets
  • Available sites that could be developed

Mullis praised the development of the CEO Roundtable, while urging it to become actively involved in lobbying government to push for business-friendly laws. He also urged the counties to work together to pool marketing resources as they reach out to site selectors.