Orange County Partnership - News

  • Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus addressing the audience at the Partnership's 2023 Investor Breakfast.

County Executive Neuhaus Highlights County’s Growth Sectors as Keys to its Economic Future

One of the highlights of the Orange County Partnership’s Investor Breakfast held on Oct. 3 was a frank, but unapologetic upbeat outlook for the county’s economy offered by Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus.

Neuhaus at the event held at the Villa Venezia in Middletown, discussed his proposed 2024 budget that calls for a decrease in the county’s tax rate for the eighth consecutive year, despite nine New York State mandates alone that exceed $168.3 million. He credited the work of his administration and economic development and tourism promotion efforts that include the work of the Orange County Partnership, the county’s Economic Development office and the Orange County Tourism & Film office, for facilitating the significant growth in the county’s tax base. 

The county’s property tax rate has gone down 40% since 2014 and property values have increased 80.7% during that same time. Orange County generated $381 million in sales tax in 2022. This year, the county anticipates collecting $124.5 million in property taxes. 

When he released his 2024 budget, Neuhaus related, “Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in unfunded mandates created by State Legislators, the county budget once again lowers county property taxes and meets these mandates. I will continue to make it a priority to stabilize and strengthen finances without sacrificing essential services to our residents. Independent auditors have validated the financial decisions we have made, and I look forward to working with the County Legislature to build on our successes.”

Neuhaus noted that according to a recently released state report, Orange County was one of only five counties throughout the state that enjoyed an increase in its sales tax collections. He related that most counties have suffered sales tax revenue declines as consumers draw down on the funds they received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

“I’ve never been more optimistic about the future of this county than I am now,” County Executive Neuhaus said. “We are financially strong, we keep a very big fund balance and rainy day fund and it shows.”

Among the burgeoning sectors in Orange County is tourism, fueled by major destinations such as LEGOLAND New York, West Point, Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, which is undertaking a major expansion, a proposed Dinosaur Park in Montgomery and others.

Neuhaus noted that there are 20 hotels in the pipeline in Orange County over the next few years. In the 2024 budget, the county anticipates $6.6 million in hotel occupancy tax revenue.

In late September, the county’s Office of Tourism & Film released a report that showed in 2022, visitor spending reaching $1.1 billion, up 22% from 2021 and exceeding pre-pandemic spending by 6%, according to a new report. The study, “Economic Impact of Visitors In New York 2022: Hudson Valley Focus,” was produced by Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company. Data showed that visitors to New York State spent nearly $79 billion, which represented an increase of $27 billion from 2021 and surpassed pre-pandemic 2019 level for the first time.

Orange County’s $1.1 billion in traveler spending exceeded 2019 by $64 million. What’s more, tourism in Orange County generated $153.8 million in local and state taxes in 2022, resulting in a tax savings of $1,158 per household. It was the highest tax savings per household among Hudson Valley counties. Plus, $394.1 million in labor income was inspired by direct and indirect tourism labor impacts. Overall, 11,161 jobs in Orange County were created by tourism, the report said.

The $1.1 billion in traveler spending encompasses lodging, recreation, food/beverage, retail/services, transportation and second homes. Orange County had the most visitor spending in Retail & Service Stations in the Hudson Valley, comprising Orange, Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, Putnam and Columbia counties.

“This report affirms what we see every day—tourism is a major driver of economic development not only locally but for our State. Orange County’s attractions draw visitors from nearby and around the world. That significantly drives our county’s economic growth and has helped us lower county taxes to rates not seen since the 1960s,” said County Executive Neuhaus in response to the report’s findings. “Tourism creates jobs and is a key part of our growing economy.”

At the Investor Breakfast event, the County Executive did focus on a number of economic growth impediments the county faces, one of which is the lack of state funding for infrastructure improvements. He noted that a number of significant transactions have been negatively impacted by the lack of infrastructure and Neuhaus implored attendees to contact their state representatives to press for more state infrastructure spending.

While his administration is continuing to earmark funding for infrastructure investment, Neuhaus revealed that the county has held talks with Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano, Goshen Supervisor Joseph Betro and others on undertaking sewer and water projects that would help facilitate growth in their respective municipalities.

His administration is also having discussions with the County Legislature “on how we can expand and locate infrastructure—sewer and roads—not to talk about doing a plan 10 years from now, but to start putting infrastructure in the ground now so we don’t have to say ‘No’ when we have these great companies that come here,” Neuhaus said.

One key growth sector the County Executive pointed to during his speech at the Investor Breakfast was the film industry. He said the county is now looking to facilitate further film studio development throughout the county, in addition to the film studios that already exist in Newburgh.

Another highlight of the Investor Breakfast was the presentation of the Orange County Partnership’s “2023 Woman of Distinction” to Kelly Naughton, partner at the Goshen law firm Naughton & Torre, LLP.

Naughton, a resident of The Town of Wallkill, has been involved in some of the largest economic development projects in Orange County, including serving as attorney for the Town of Goshen’s Planning Board in connection with LEGOLAND New York’s theme park proposal. She also represented Resorts World Hudson Valley in its successful bid to locate a gaming facility at the Newburgh Mall. 

On a somber note, Orange County Partnership President Maureen Halahan asked the assemblage to observe a moment of silence for veteran commercial brokerage Elizabeth Mansfield, owner of Mansfield Commercial Real Estate of Goshen, who passed away on Sept. 30 at the age of 67.