County struggles to find economic development answers


By Patsy Nicosia

What should Schoharie County’s in-house plan for economic development look like?
A revived Economic Development Department? Technically it still exists--though it hasn’t been funded since 2013 or 2014.
A position in the County Administrator’s office?
Whatever it is, does it need a local law?
Or just a resolution from supervisors?
However we fill it, how much should we expect to spend?
And what about Destination Marketing? O-Tax? Tourism?
Those are just a few of the questions members of supervisors Economic Development and Tourism Strategy Committee circled again—and again—Tuesday.
It was just the second time the group had met and to start, much of the discussion focused on the wording in Resolution 43, “Affirmation of Schoharie County Government Ownership and Lead Agency Role for Economic Development Within Schoharie County and Establishment of Point of Contact”—an awful lot of words, said one supervisor, for something that’s really only looking for better communication from partners like SEEC, SUNY Cobleskill, the IDA, and the Chamber of Commerce.
ED&TS members—chair Alex Luniewski, Alicia Terry, Sandy Manko, Treasurer Mary Ann Wollaber-Bryan—who worked on the language—and County Administrator Korsah Akumfi—also struggled over whether they’d need to redistribute the resolution to partners if it’s substantially tweaked, a question left on the table.
Also undecided is whether economic development needs its own department—though informally, ED&TS members are leaning against it.
Mr. Akumfi said he’s fine either way—its own department or staffed by someone or someones in his office—but the issue needs to be dealt with ASAP.
“No matter how we proceed, I can work with it,” he said.
When it comes to taxes, Mr. Akumfi said, we’re the ninth most expensive in the state.
Measured against neighbors, we’re second to Montgomery County.
“This should concern us,” he said. “We need to find a way to increase the size of our economy and we need these resources to help us obtain it and guide us in our decision-making.
“It” won’t be cheap.
Depending on how the ED position is filled, it will likely run $70,000 or $80,000 to as much as $120,000 to find someone with the experience needed.
As approved, Resolution 43 assigns economic development to Mr. Akumfi until the position is filled.
But Ms. Terry pointed out “We just dumped a lot on Korsah and didn’t give him any resources to do it. We kind of put the cart before the horse.”
Ms. Terry also said economic development “needs to stop bouncing around”: since 1974, it’s had five or six different homes.
The non-profit SEEC was created to handle economic development as a direct result of consultant Peter Fairweather’s report, paid for by the county, she said.
“That plan identified a path forward,” she said.
“Everything the county was involved in failed,” Mr. Lunieswki said. “That’s why we had SEEC.”