January 20, 2013

Group facilitates North Country jobs

Paul Grasso

---- — After a brief hiatus, the powers-that-be at the Press Republican invited me to resume writing a bi-monthly column for the Business Section of the Sunday paper.

I stopped writing a column focused on workforce issues last June when I stepped down as executive director of the North Country Workforce Investment Board. Later that month, I accepted an offer to become the president of The Development Corporation (TDC) — otherwise known as a “dream job.”

Over the past six months, I realized that not many people understand what TDC is or what it is that TDC does. Therefore, I thought it appropriate to devote my first column to a primer on TDC.

Let me begin by explaining what TDC is not. TDC is NOT a government agency. A legislative body does not appoint our Board of Directors. TDC does NOT receive any public funding. TDC funds its budget with rental revenue from the buildings it owns.

Unfortunately, perhaps in part because of our name (The Development Corporation, Clinton County, New York), many people believe that we are a part of the Clinton County government.

TDC is a private, not-for-profit, economic-development corporation with more than 50 years of economic-development success in Clinton County. Governed by a 39-member board of directors comprised of business and community leaders from throughout Clinton County, TDC develops industrial parks, markets the county for new business investments and works to retain and expand local industry.

The precursor to TDC, the Champlain Development Corporation of New York, was incorporated on Aug. 25, 1961. The incorporators included a group of five Clinton County businessmen, none of whom was an elected or appointed local, state or federal official. The name of the organization changed over the years from Champlain Development Corporation of New York, to New Industries for Clinton County, to Clinton County Area Development Corporation, to The Development Corporation.

To paraphrase an old adage, while the name has changed over the years, the script has remained the same, to further industrial development in Clinton County.

From those humble beginnings in the early 1960s, TDC has grown to become a successful corporation that owns and operates three business parks (Air Industrial Park, Champlain Industrial Park and Banker Road Industrial Park) containing 37 buildings (15 owned by TDC) occupied by 36 companies. The companies in TDC’s three industrial parks employ approximately 1,700 people and contribute significantly to the region’s tax base, a tribute to the five visionary business leaders who more than 50 years ago recognized the need to pursue economic development in Clinton County proactively.

Enough about the past, let’s talk about the future, because we think the future is bright.

An important first step in ensuring a brighter future was to reinvigorate TDC’s relationship with the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce. I believe that working in concert, TDC and the chamber are a formidable economic-development force that will accomplish great things for the region. Today, the relationship between the chamber and TDC is strong and growing stronger.

An equally important second step has been to update TDC’s strategic plan to provide a blueprint that will lead to economic growth in TDC’s industrial parks. That is, after all, how we pay the bills.

Economic development is about building prosperity — a high and rising standard of living. To that end, the plan articulates strategies to target investment and growth that will not only help to sustain the existing quality of life in Clinton County, but also to attract new investment to expand and diversify the economic base of the community — and to create jobs.

However, it is important to understand that TDC does not actually create jobs. TDC attracts new companies to the county and helps companies already here to grow.

Those companies create the jobs.

Organizations like the chamber and TDC are responsible for helping to create the environment in which jobs can be created.

The task before us is to work hard to continue to build a business environment that will enable local companies to compete successfully in a world economy and that will attract outside companies and entrepreneurs to the region.

But that’s a task for which TDC and the chamber are aptly suited because our forward-thinking approach to economic development is what most sets us apart from other communities.

Paul Grasso is the president and CEO of The Development Corporation, Clinton County, New York.