By James Walsh
Published: 2:00 AM - 06/06/14
NEW WINDSOR — The Force was strong Thursday among the business and government leaders converging at a catering hall to honor the wisdom of Goshen's own JEDI.
Members of the Goshen Joint Economic Development Initiative — JEDI — sat at two ringside tables decorated with green lightsabers to absorb praise for their wisdom. It was their ability to unite municipal interests, slash through the planning-process red tape that scares away businesses, that promises to bring natural food processor Amy's Kitchen to the Town of Goshen, and a brewery, Kikkerfrosch, to the Village of Goshen.
The companies combined represent more than $124 million of capital investment, said Orange County Partnership CEO Maureen Halahan. That translates into more than 700 jobs.
Who's your Jedi?
At Thursday's Orange County Partnership breakfast, Goshen JEDI Chairman Phillip Dropkin identified several members of the organization while their photos, paired with their Star Wars alter egos, flashed on a screen behind him:
• Yoda - Town of Goshen Supervisor Douglas Bloomfield
• Luke Skywalker - Village of Goshen Mayor Kyle Roddy
• Obi-Wan-Kenobi - Realtor R.J. Smith
• Princess Leia - Associate real estate broker Mary Rice Israelski
• Chewbacca - Town of Goshen Building Inspector Neal Halloran
• Han Solo - Phillip Dropkin
And so, the Partnership chose the JEDI as its most valuable partner for 2014, an honor that drew about 300 people to Anthony's Pier 9 for a breakfast of eggs Benedict and more than a few laughs.
County Executive Steve Neuhaus said earlier that the JEDI's ability to unite municipalities was worth emulating.
"You see different government agencies working together on a common cause to get things done," Neuhaus said Wednesday evening, before Amy's Kitchen unveiled its plans for the Goshen Chamber of Commerce at Limoncello at the Orange Inn.
At Thursday's breakfast, Neuhaus presented a red lightsaber to attorney Dominic Cordisco, a local lawyer for Amy's, and a Yoda doll to Lou Heimbach, the former county executive who launched the Partnership.
"You have to give them back," Neuhaus cautioned, "because they belong to a county employee."
Earlier, Goshen Supervisor Douglas Bloomfield, a JEDI member, said the group of a dozen people has been meeting for about two years.
"It was Phil's (Dropkin) idea, and he deserves the credit," Bloomfield said. "They (Amy's Kitchen) will be spending a lot of money in the county and the state. It's not just about Goshen, but we're happy to have them here in Goshen."
The JEDI represents community leadership at its best, said Mark Kalish of Ameriprise Financial in the village.
"It offers the community a third party, an unbiased entity that understands the community's needs," Kalish said Wednesday. "They cut through the red tape for an outcome that's best for the community."
Sporting a Star Wars tie borrowed from son Ethan, JEDI Chairman Phillip Dropkin said the overriding message was that "Goshen is open for business."
"The bottom line is they (businesses) don't have to come to Goshen or Orange County," Dropkin said. "They can go somewhere else if you're not welcoming."