Orange County Partnership - News

Secret Formula for Success

By Maureen Halahan

Economic Development professionals are responsible for attracting new opportunities to support the economy and create jobs for our respective jurisdictions. The Orange County Partnership has successfully managed relationships with the most influential leaders in state, county and local government for more than three decades. Working together has been our secret formula for success. 

As you examine the landscape of our county, it’s easy to identify the communities that have embraced a balance of industrial, office and retail opportunities. That balance protects us from catastrophic economic downturns. It takes vision to identify priority growth corridors that support commercial development and bring wealth to the region. And it takes courage to stand up and take a shot when you know that the numbers don’t lie, the jobs bring prosperity and commercial development pays for quality of life. 

Some of our most lucrative projects moved forward in spite of a vocal minority of anti-growth, anti-everything protesters. Those projects (several of which are under construction, employing thousands of local contractors) will pay taxes and keep people employed in-perpetuity. While many of us understand the value of corporate attraction and the dollars it brings, now is the time to stand up for projects and be heard. It’s more important now, than ever before, that we work together to dig our way out of debt, and fight for a competitive business friendly New York. 

Recently when Elon Musk threatened to pull his Tesla HQ out of the state of California due to the COVID-19 restrictions, he also announced that this was the “final straw.” He stated that it’s not necessary to locate manufacturing in over-regulated, over-taxed environments like New York, California and Illinois in order to flourish. We heard him loud and clear, but did our state and local officials? Only time will tell. 

It’s easy to spot a progressive, business friendly town by the diversity of projects that are underway. But, are we losing our edge? Have we forgotten that bringing in new opportunity is like gold, set aside for catastrophic events like the one we are facing now? 

In my conversations with municipal leaders from all over the county, I hear their deep concerns about making up the shortfall? “We’re cutting jobs and slashing budgets department by department.” “We have an $11-million, $5-million, $14-million-dollar deficit,” and it goes on and on. And again, all at once, it becomes abundantly clear that commercial development projects will continue to pay taxes, create jobs, and stabilize their respective communities and school districts. 

A few years back the Partnership published a booklet entitled, “Increase Tax Ratables, A Guide to Balanced Growth.”

We published this guide with the help of some of the most knowledgeable business leaders in the region. It was drafted to educate residents and community leaders on the value of commercial development and offer real solutions and suggestions on how to increase tax ratables throughout our local municipalities. At the time of publication and distribution, local planning board members thanked us for providing fact-based information that would back up their decisions to support commercial projects. As commercial tax revenues increase, residential services are enhanced and tax increases are offset. Commercial growth directly improves quality of life by supporting important local community services including schools, fire, police and emergency services, transportation and waste management to name just a few.

Today’s business marketplace is highly competitive and new business recruitment is no different. We are competing against every county in every state across the country to bring in clean industry that creates new jobs. Every company that begins a site search and enters the site-selection process has its own internal clock. Corporate executives in each company set an attainable deadline for project completion. When municipalities can’t work within a reasonable timeframe, they stand to lose millions of dollars for the residents that elected them to lead. When companies pull out to find other locations, we tarnish our reputation and jeopardize future opportunities. 

During these critical times, we need to work hand-in-hand with our community leaders, supporting projects that can right the ship and pull us out of this COVID-induced economic downturn. If we don’t, our only alternative is to raise taxes and roll out the red carpet for Florida and other states that are eating our lunch.