Westchester Coalition for Business Development Releases Report and Recommendations

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Tool Kit of Action Steps Developed for Economic Development Effort; Tim Jones Named Coalition Chair

The Westchester Coalition for Business Development – The Business Council of Westchester’s task force established to develop strategies for attracting and retaining businesses in Westchester – issued its report today featuring a creative and innovative tool kit of action steps to help build and strengthen Westchester’s new economic development structure.

The Coalition’s report and findings were released at a press conference held at the offices of C.W. Brown, whose late President, Charlie Brown, was Chairman of The Business Council of Westchester until his untimely passing last month. Charlie Brown devoted his
leadership and career to economic development and job creation and was a driving force behind the Coalition’s creation and ultimate recommendations.

The Coalition, comprised of influential leaders from the hot sectors of business growth in the market, including biotech, information technology, health care, professional services, finance and the green business sector with representation from education, energy and banking, also named Tim Jones, Managing Director/Partner, Robert Martin Company, Chairman of the Coalition. Jones’ immediate task is putting in place a comprehensive implementation plan based on the recommendations of the report.

“Given our current economy, we felt it was important to view economic development beyond the traditional paradigm of real estate relocation plus incentives,” noted Dr. Marsha Gordon, President & CEO of The Business Council of Westchester. “So we took a more macro, strategic approach and created our Coalition around all areas that impact economic development, not just real estate and incentives, but also legislative and regulatory, infrastructure, finance, workforce and education, quality of life and marketing. And we are fortunate to have an exceptional and knowledgeable leader, Tim Jones, at the helm.”

Tim Jones, Coalition Chairman remarked: “The Coalition’s recommendations are in effect a tool kit of action steps to help build and strengthen Westchester’s new economic development structure. The Coalition believes that Westchester is a great place to live and to do business. We are looking forward to working with the county and other leaders in the community to ensure that the numerous challenges before us are addressed in positive and innovative ways.”

The Coalition’s tool kit of action steps highlighted three major challenges that must be met for economic development to prosper in Westchester. The first challenge is the need to address the youth flight from Westchester County and create an environment where it is attractive for young people to grow their careers and their personal lives. Second, a more aggressive legislative agenda is necessary at all levels of government to change existing laws that are roadblocks to economic development and advocate for helpful legislation. Finally, there is a critical need to realize that Westchester County is not investing enough financial and human resources into “spreading the word” about Westchester as an attractive place to do business.

Formed in November, 2010, the 35-member Coalition spent nearly 1,000 volunteer hours on research, discussion and deliberation. The Coalition has met numerous times, both as one group and through smaller subcommittees. Goals and supporting recommendations were created by each subcommittee in response to the major challenges identified which should be implemented to give momentum to this new economic development strategy. Eleven short-term goals for immediate attention evolved from the report:

  • Create an economic development “hot spots” map of Westchester communities that support business growth.
  • Establish a youth internship clearinghouse that would connect businesses with interns.
  • Organize Investment Consortium/Investor Forums for existing businesses in targeted industries that are seeking to expand, new businesses requiring startup capital and businesses seeking to relocate to Westchester.
  • Develop new funding sources for marketing Westchester in order to compete with aggressive economic development programs under way in Connecticut and New Jersey.
  • Provide the county’s fast-growing biotech firms with flat tax credit for dollars spent on R&D.
  • Repeal the MTA Payroll Tax which creates an undo expense for businesses of every size in our region and puts Westchester County at a competitive disadvantage compared with surrounding states.
  • Work to stop the flight of youth from Westchester County by creating an environment where it is attractive for young people to grow their careers and their personal lives.
  • Ensure that Westchester County’s representation on Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council is linked to the strategic direction of the county.
  • Create a diverse group to advocate for funding, especially federal, for the Tappan Zee Bridge.
  • Promote development from straight office usage (i.e., I-287 Platinum Mile) into mixed-use buildings that would attract office tenants.
  • Explore the feasibility of creating a biotech research arm in a local college or university in Westchester County, which is home to 30 biotechnology firms.

To implement these goals the report concluded with the recommendation of creating a Westchester County economic development public-private partnership as one united force charged with retraining existing businesses and attracting new businesses to Westchester. Stephen J. Jones of Jones, LLP, Chairman of The Business Council of Westchester, concurred, adding: “Speaking with one voice on this issue is critical to the success of economic development in Westchester.”

The implementation strategy will include a comprehensive education program. It is anticipated that each subcommittee will undertake a different piece of the education puzzle as part of their continuing mission. Ultimately, other organizations will be involved in this agenda, creating the foundation of a public-private partnership with one mission to serve Westchester’s economy.

About The Business Council of Westchester
The county’s largest and most influential business membership organization, The Business Council of Westchester is committed to helping businesses market, learn, advocate and grow. In addition, The Business Council of Westchester is actively involved in reviewing federal, state and county legislation and regulations in order to assess the potential impact on the business community and to influence the outcomes through advocacy when the business community’s interests may be affected. It also acts as an information resource for the business community and government leaders at all levels.

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Dean Bender
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