Letter: Ulster must improve in ‘selling’ itself to out-of-town businesses

The currently underway “Ulster 2040,” set in motion by County Executive Ryan, appears somewhat duplicative of the process and money paid for by Ulster County taxpayers six years ago by Fairweather Consulting to research economic development opportunities, and do analysis resulting in a report that identified five industry sectors (if I’m not mistaken) where the county has existing strengths and should leverage. They are (more or less): value-added agriculture (not the crops themselves, but the jams, syrups, end products); entrepreneurial tech (startups, virtual operations, software); specialized manufacturing (unique and boutique types of manufacturing); creative/arts (design, materials, fine); and tourism (recreational in particular). These industries and county have not changed that much since then. We need not wait until May of 2020 (the current time frame for a report from the committee) to implement some common-sense actions now.

Over the last decade or more, we have had some success in all these aforementioned areas, but they have not helped create many living-wage jobs and the poverty rate is slowly creeping up (according to recent studies — Pattern for Progress). Ulster is creating jobs, but mostly low-wage, and it is a real problem with real consequences. For example, while Ulster County has stopped the overall population decline in last three years, this change is due mainly to more people moving in than moving out — natives still move out of the county in troubling numbers, due mainly to lack of family-supporting wage opportunities. Also, more people have to get income from outside of Ulster (commute out of the county) — a whopping 70 percent! — than any other county in the Hudson Valley, according to a recent study.

While it’s nice that government seeks input from the public and non-profit sectors (the primary composition of the Ulster 2040 group), it’s time to put pedal to the metal on economic development and move past administration, research, episodic marketing campaigns and a few tax incentives (PILOTS) and engage in actual sales activity. First, hire some sharp salespeople to prospect companies that may be a good fit for Ulster (see list of industries above); contact and introduce Ulster to those companies; visit/meet them; promote Ulster’s benefits (get creative — out-of-the-box thinking!); prepare a prospectus/proposal (including ways county and local government are prepared to assist) for them on how they can set up operations here; host onsite visits; make introductions to locals who can help them in a transition to Ulster; keep on top of the prospect; and help to close deals. Second, develop a countywide list of “real-time” for-sale (or lease) commercial property opportunities, including details such as zoning uses, zoning flexibility, unique attributes, industry ideal uses, amenities, transportation access, etc. A resource like this would take a lot of the guessing out of the process and help potential investors greatly. Third, streamline the development process wherever possible by providing investment prospects a liaison who is familiar with the political/cultural landscape of different regions within Ulster, so no developer/investor gets ‘blindsided’ by well-intentioned activists or historical concerns, or other hyper-local “landmines.” While New York State taxes and local taxes are high (comparatively), if we can anticipate and deflect or address some of the local investment challenges, we can overcome these challenges. It’s all about fostering new business relationships, and it starts with sales.

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These a just a few suggestions that could, to varying degrees, be implemented quickly, and concurrent to the findings of Ulster 2040. For some residents, time is slipping by.

Raleigh Green
Hurley

There are 7 comments

  1. Arthur Zaczkiewicz

    There are no higher-paying jobs being created anywhere, really. It’s not a localized problem plaguing Ulster County. Where there are higher-paying jobs being created, there is a local workforce skilled in filling these positions – such as the case in NYC, Boston and Silicon Valley as well as places north of the border such as the tech hubs in Montreal and Toronto. The needed workforce skills are in the areas of AI and data analytics, which are not found in Ulster County. This is why the only job creation here is for lower-paying positions. To thrive, Ulster County must better facilitate workers who have to commute to NYC while focusing on investing in quality of life endeavors such as tourism and other related recreational projects and assets. Anything else is short-sighted and misleading.

    1. Raleigh Green

      With all due respect, that is the same defeatism sold Ulster for over a decade now by many in our local civil servant culture – and we are sinking (poverty up, locals leaving). In your comment, you simply say Ulster can just slide into greater poverty, and let the locals leave and be replaced completely with retirees and those with outside income sources. That is your solution – there, problem solved….! nifty solution – just get rid of the underperforming locals! Yes, low wage jobs are the problem overall, but tell me this – why does Orange, Dutchess and other counties in the HV have Econ. development sales teams to prospect and meet with (visit) potential companies to move here and set up business? and Ulster doesn’t? We haven’t even tried. We spend (I know this directly) a fair amount annually on marketing Ulster to acquire companies, but no one has the job of picking up the phone and calling prospects! no one visits prospects at their company offices! etc. Its all “administrative stuff” to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars each year – and it doesn’t include any real sales or relationship building (I know this too – its inconsistent, no one is ‘responsible’ for follow up, no measurements/metrics for performance, no ‘bonus’ for success). I find your defeatism part of the problem locally – a belief that since IBM left, no businesses will want to set up here. But who is talking about bringing in another IBM? I’m not. But how about a 100 person operation specialized food manufacturing? or 200 person produce maker (beer, yogurt, maple syrup, canned veggies)? etc.? If you bring in 4 or 5 200-person companies that pay decent living wage jobs, you have made a real ‘dent’ in our local economy (plus the tax revenue – our schools desperately need that revenue). And these kinds of jobs can be filled by locals with little training at BOCES or SUNY Ulster. For every PILOT given to Brooklyn Bottling (as was done recently by the IDA – $1.5 million in tax abatements over 10 years) we could pay for several sales people for many years to prospect and bring in several Brooklyn Bottling companies and cease the need for PILOTS almost altogether (which are all political and to some degree favoratism all over). Seasonal, low wage eco-tourism is fine, but as a primary source for new jobs? That is damning locals to an impoverished lifestyle – and no, giving them welfare (you call it a nice euphemism ‘quality of life endeavors’) is not what folks want. Finally, again, with all due respect, you mention jobs in AI, tech, etc. – that is a chimera of an idea (tech as ‘all purpose solution’) proffered as ‘clean’ and ‘green’ (but its not in fact – another discussion for another time). There are many industries that offer living wage jobs – I’m happy to share with you if you wish – and Ulster may in fact be in a better position than some may think to seek and acquire those jobs. Time to try something new – time for some elevated visioning – time for some aspiration. Time for some courage to take control of our destiny at the local level – cause we are slowly sinking. Salvation will not come from Washington DC.

      1. "Dear Landlord"

        With all due respect, Washington D.C. is the financial source from which the rackets receive revenues. You just have to be in the right ones?

      2. Regular, Plus and Premium

        According to the morning papers, New York leads the population-decline-barometer for the second (2nd) year in a row!
        We just left 2degree weather to be 1,000 miles away in a warmer clime. Senior coffee in New PAltz is 54 cents; here it’s 69 cents, but gas regular is a regular $2.39 a gallon for regular.
        And there ain’t no 557 voluntary municipal governments in the forms of “villages” either!

  2. tom Merchant

    Not such a great future for development. I am sorry to say this is not going to work because the only industries that pay well the Not In My Back Yard people will fight coming to Ulster County . Green jobs are false since we still need to rely on fossil fuels to maintain our standard of living in the next foreseeable future. Also a lot of “GREEN JOBS” create toxic waste in the process like batteries for electric cars. Electric cars and buses are not the answer at this point and by the way Wind Mills kill countless numbers of migratory birds. Which pass thru the Hudson Valley on their migratory travels. I wonder how the environmentalist like that. Forcing people to use public transportation and making fossil fueled cars illegal is like taking our second amendment rights away. The freedom to travel when and where we want to travel too. Ever try getting to work here in Ulster County using the bus system it takes hours in some cases. And if you have to pay a taxi and you make minimum wage for get it you are working for nothing, so you might as well go on public assistance then maybe you can work part time and get you ride paid for. You are at the whim of government control since they set the transportation schedules. These are just something things that come to mind for the future of Ulster County and the people whom are moving here for the property deals and raising real estate prices for the people whom have been working and living here making them homeless our their children leave does not help either. Section Eight Housing is not the answer for those displace people either. Section Eight Housing has been proven to be a breeding ground of violence and crime. Thus trapping people in it. Unless they get the chance to move out of New York State. It is a sad …!!

  3. Trey

    First, there are sound examples all around the country where smaller cities / communitites have through self-determination grown exponentially in high-paying jobs and new industries. These aren’t towns that “landed a big out of town employer to locate there…” either. The one advantage many do have, however, is a university within their boundaries. From major institutions like UNC, VA Tech, UVA, U Maryland, and hundreds of others they have turned what was once academic research into hard-wired infrastructure research and manufacturing parks that have launched thousands of companies. A recent report on just one, Va Tech demonstrated that an empty
    parcel of land in 1980 is now home to more than 300 companies, employing more than 3,500 people in jobs that literally did not exist there. Those spurred another 4,000 – 6,000 local jobs in that region, all a strong mix of white collar and blue collar jobs. These are private companies that serve global customers, not government jobs. And they are not a single-industry, like IBM was here, they are maximum diversified so the past recession was barely felt there.

    Second, Ulster has a prime site – the old IBM facility that at its 257-acres of prime location, pre-graded flat land would be a phenomenal site for a tear down, and redevelopment as a university. For sure, major State and Govt. investment gets it off the ground, but you focus that on research, engineering, medical, design, and a strong undergarduate core you’ve suddenly got 7,000 undergraduates; another 3,000 staff and employees just to service the university here. Then, you create a focused profit-making engine that is doing research and manufacturing and you pick up another 3,000 full-time white collar and manufacturing jobs.

    I know the nay-sayers in these chats will poo-poo this but I can show you where “nothing” existed in this context and now there are booming, fully employed communities. It is possible, you just have to have the will, the focus, and not listen to anyone who says ‘No’. (That is one of our local weaknesses – we cave the minute someone says ‘No’ or ‘questions’)…that is seriously about 70% of the problem here…a no can do attitude. We have to change that and not look back.

    Third, Town of Ulster, City of Kingston, County of Ulster all must establish uniform rules and local laws that
    prohibit all of the nonsense we endure here. We don’t live in the Wild West, we live in a sburban-urbanized
    region and we have to set guidlines about dumping, abandoned properties, property upkeep, litter, signage, all of the visual issues that I know for a fact have turned away people who were considering establishing businesses here. There’s a truth, “dress for the job you want.”…well, drive down just about any of our main roads or our country roads and there’s alot of “we don’t want you here” rubble scattered along our business districts and highways. Private property owners must be held to high st andards, and we need to literally clean up our act.
    We look dismal to many an outsider and local alike.

    To “sell ourselves to new opportunities” we need to get Albany Ave. cleaned up. We need sidwalks,
    50% of the signage needs to go, we need a cohesive landscape from Kingston to Adam’s, one that’s clean,
    organized, modern, and looks like we care.

    Finally, we have to stop fighting our tourism industry. The single driver of Kingston’s turn around right now – both Uptown and in the Stockade is tourism = new business = new jobs = new full-time residents. Each new small business, each new small hotel, each new development does lift up the community, whether you want to believe it or not – it really does. If we don’t encourage in-migration and opportunities then we fail. Period.

  4. Bill Berardi

    Thanks for the Taxpayers who actually pay New York State Income Taxes – which does not include any recipients of Government (taxpayer-funded) pensions (A loophole designed and lobbied for with campaign contributions accepted by our near and dear State representatives)! How about funding clean water and sewers and decent sidewalks, parks, green pockets and working streetlights and solving Murders for the masses of Urban dwellers right here in the City Kingston who just want to walk to work, school and buy groceries? These Suburban parks serve only the elite who can afford cars and time to do it and encourages use of individual carbon consumption.

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