Hi, I'm Bill Daly, Administrative Director/CEO of the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA). The other members of our team are Rich Dixon, CFO; Carol Rasmussen, Project Manager; Lawrie Taylor, Project Manager; Kristine Morabito, Project Manager; and Sue Casel, Administrative Assistant. They do a wonderful job working on behalf of the companies who get assistance from the CCIDA.
I’m taking this opportunity to discuss some of the projects the CCIDA is involved in currently, some future initiatives, and some very serious concerns facing economic development in our county.
Perhaps the most important concept I can impart is to ask local businesses to please let us know what plans they have going forward. An effort is constantly made to meet with businesses county wide, but there are so many it is very difficult to do. Often, we concentrate on the larger companies because they have more employees available to interface with outside agencies like the CCIDA, but we want to get to know as many of our medium and small size employers too. Numerous visits to local companies have been made, many with Greg Edwards, our County Executive, who has made company visits a priority. Any employers reading this who would like a visit should call Sue Casel at 661-8903 and schedule a meeting at the IDA or a visit at your business.
It is important for businesses to let us know of their plans early on because we can get other agencies involved with us to see what incentives may be available. Unfortunately, some benefits can be lost if a company moves ahead with their plans and expend money before the agencies are involved. Sometimes the form the business takes and the timing of when they form the business entity can affect benefits that are available. This is especially true for certain tax credits in the new Excelsior Program and various grants through Empire State Development (ESD—the economic development arm of New York State). ESD has a regional office in Buffalo serving Niagara, Erie, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua Counties. Those same five counties comprise the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.
The AL Tech Revolving Loan Fund and the Chautauqua Revolving Loan Fund are two funds at the CCIDA with 4% fixed interest loans. We have been very aggressive in getting the story of the availability of these loans throughout the business community. Fortunately, we have had great success in getting the money loaned for some excellent business expansion plans that have created and retained jobs in the County. These funds can be loaned to a wide variety of businesses and are not limited to just manufacturing companies.
Two additional low interest financial instruments IDAs have are Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRBs) for manufacturers and Capital Resource Corporation (CRC) Bonds for not-for-profit organizations. Both IRBs and CRC bonds are tax-free, so the manufacturer or not-for-profit pays lower interest rates to the investors who purchase the bonds.
As an IDA, we are a public authority in New York State, and because of that, we can offer powerful incentives to induce businesses to move here or expand here through our Uniform Tax Exemption Policy (UTEP). There are deviations, but the three basic UTEP tools are: 1) PILOTS (Payments In Lieu of Taxes) to reduce property taxes; 2) abatement of sales tax on construction project materials, and 3) abatement of mortgage filing tax. These inducements are used for attracting new businesses or helping existing businesses expand. They are mainly available for manufacturing companies or businesses that have been designated as tourist destinations but other projects will be considered.
The following are a few of the many projects we are actively involved in with a brief explanation of the project:
- Selling CCIDA- owned properties, especially those in our industrial parks, has been a priority, and we have had appraisals done on many of the parcels we own. We have been successful in selling some parcels and are in the process of selling several more.
- We have 140 commercial acres in Ripley under options - The Ripley Interstate Site.The site now has New York State "Shovel Ready" certification. Our goal is to sell this valuable parcel to a large distribution company or manufacturer. This may be one of the finest development sites on I-90, and it is situated almost equidistant from New York City and Chicago, with easy access North to Canadian markets.
- Several projects are underway that will be part of Brownfield remediation and reuse. These are complicated projects, and there has been strong leadership from the County Executive who has pulled together the resources of the DPF, the County's Legal Department, the CCIDA, and the local municipal governments where the Brownfields are located.
- Tourism is extremely important to our economy, and we work with the Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association and the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau to find ways to enhance tourism in general and agritourism specifically. A "Grape Discovery Center" for the Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association has been established on Route 20, west of the Village of Westfield. A grant of $1,050,000 obtained by NYS Senator Catharine Young made it a reality. The Center will become a major "lure" to attract tourists off of I-90 to visit Chautauqua County. The Grand Opening is scheduled for spring 2013.
- Through our Business Retention and Expansion outreach we regularly meet with companies throughout the County to find out their needs, answer their concerns, and explain State and CCIDA incentives and loan funds.
These are a few of the concepts that we are working on with the goal of moving them into real projects.
- Improve the Rt. 60/Rt. 62 corridor from Dunkirk through Jamestown to Warren.
- Look for additional sites for industrial/business parks.
- Organize pre-seed, seed and early start-up business equity and loan funds to help entrepreneurs get established in our county. The CCIDA is working with the SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator in Dunkirk to establish the Chautauqua Seed Fund for Incubator tenants.
- Greatly enhance local tourism by identifying and promoting the "brand" for what our county offers tourists---The World's Learning Center. The brand helps market the area by relating the educational/learning experiences available to tourists if they visit.
- CCIDA Staff holds position on local and state boards involved in or related to Economic Development.
There are several concerns, but these two are critical to economic development:
- Local companies will need workers to hire for jobs that will be available in the county. That problem is from entry-level positions up to management, with a serious need for skilled workers in manufacturing. It is a crisis, but we are taking major strides under the County Executive's strong leadership to work with the workforce agencies and schools for short- and long-term solutions. This effort has been regional, and there has been exceptional cooperation in identifying the problems and inventorying the best practices throughout the region to get students ready for the workforce. The Workforce Investment Board, MAST, JCC/MTI, several of our public schools, BOCES, and others are participating in this effort. We are embarking on a national program to increase awareness of the various quality jobs available in manufacturing called "Dream It, Do It". It targets 16 to 26 year olds and their parents. The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council applied for, and received, $500,000 from New York State to establish "Dream It, Do It" in Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus and Alleghany Counties. Having a job ready workforce is now a priority for our nation, state and county. Workforce readiness will attract new businesses and enable the expansion of current businesses.
- Property taxes are a killer of economic development. The top leaders in our state from both major political parties repeatedly acknowledge the damage property tax does to attracting and retaining businesses. Some of them feel it is our worst problem. Chautauqua County must focus on reducing property taxes. All developers and businesses who are considering coming to our county or doing expansion projects here ask the same basic questions—what property is available, what is the infrastructure at the site, what the workforce demographic is, what incentives are available, and what the property taxes are. No developers or businesses have ever asked what our sales taxes are. The greatest help to reduce County property taxes would be serious relief from the enormous financial burden of mandates imposed on the County by New York State.