Of small businesses and casinos; A conversation about the future of Sullivan County
He said that before he joined the legislature, “the planning department was reorganized and community development was pulled out of planning. I think as we look at the economic development before us, [a reference to the casino] we really need to ramp up. We need to reinstate community development as a core function of the planning division, because I think more than any other entity, there’s a unique focus in terms of research and securing grants, especially at a time when it appears the county is entering a period of growth.”
Marc Baez, who was once again appointed as CEO and president of the Partnership, followed up. He said that years ago a company interested in the county would approach him saying, “We want to know about the demographics, we want to know about the land, about the soil, all these different elements. Planning had an extraordinary geographic information systems (GIS) program that could lay out all that information on a map.” At that time Baez, in the role of the “salesman” for county properties, could give such information to prospective companies. He said the planning department no longer has that capacity and it should be restored.
Baez then pivoted back to the issue of small businesses. He said, “This year there were 162 small businesses that came in; most of them are not ready to go.”
Then he addressed the coming one or two casinos and the passage of Proposition One in the November election. He said, “Once the vote hit, we’re nonstop, we’re going full speed. We’re meeting a host of different businesses that want to come up here.”
Then he switched back to the perception that projects like the one at the former Concord Hotel, Kutsher’s and a few other large projects receive more attention than small businesses. He said “In terms of small business, the partnership focuses on critical mass.” He said that the large projects would attract many employees. He said, “I can tell you, in the next two or three years, there’s going to be quite a bit of demand for employees, probably a shortage,” and he added, once hired those employees would be “demanding the roofers, the mom and pop stores.”