During an area economic development roundtable discussion held April 16 at SUNY Adirondack, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (center) tells area political and business leaders how small businesses in the region can seek financing help from the federal Export-Import Bank to aid them expand their sales to foreign countries. Participating in the roundtable event were SUNY Adirondack President Kristine Duffy (left) and EDC Warren County President Ed Bartholomew (right).
Infrastructure development and small-business marketing in the southern Adirondack region were the primary topics as area business and community leaders shared their ideas on how to boost local prosperity with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in a roundtable discussion held Wednesday April 16 at SUNY Adirondack.
Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty — who serves as chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors — said that expansion and upgrades of municipal infrastructure, including road repair and reconstruction, were a primary concern to municipalities regionally.
Queensbury Supervisor John Strough made a similar point, noting that expansion of water and sewer systems were vital to attracting industries and creating jobs.
“Our greatest need is to expand infrastructure to allow greater business, commercial and industrial growth,” Strough said.
Observing that a recent federal study concluded that Warren County needed $100 million in wastewater system upgrades, Gillibrand noted she’s co-sponsoring a bill that would expedite the movement of federal money to states to bankroll low-interest loans on municipal infrastructure construction.
Broadband access needed locally
Warren County EDC President Ed Bartholomew also noted the infrastructure needs of the region, noting not only aging water and wastewater systems, but the need for broadband access in Northern and central Warren County as well as Washington County.
Bartholomew also asked Gillibrand for her support in transferring the General Electric manufacturing plant property in Fort Edward, totalling 38 acres, to a third party soon after the company vacates it, so it can be redeveloped quicker. General Electric officials have announced their intent to shut down their Fort Edward manufacturing plant early next year, causing the loss of 200 local jobs.
Civic Center's future discussed
Both Bartholomew and Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce president Peter Aust asked Gillibrand for her help in bringing a new hockey team to Glens Falls. This is the Adirondack Phantoms’ last season as the primary tenant in the Glens Falls Civic Center. The Phantoms, an AHL team, are relocating to Allentown, Pa.
“The Glens Falls Civic Center plays an important role in the cultural, entertainment and sports activities of our citizens,” Aust said.
Gillibrand responded that she was well aware of the civic center’s local prominence, as she had as a teenager attended her first rock concert there, witnessing The Clash perform. She responded that she would support efforts to attract a new ice hockey team.
Help available for small businesses that export
Gillibrand noted that local businesses could be helped out by taking advantage of programs of the federal Export-Import Bank, which offers small businesses pre-payment of the cost of producing goods scheduled for international sale, provides loan guarantees for business expansion, and can grant loans to international customers of U.S. small businesses so they can pay for shipments of goods produced here in the U.S.
She said she had explained such opportunities at a roundtable event in Plattsburgh, and was willing to present one in the Glens Falls area.
Appreciation expressed for health center funding
Howard Nelson of Hudson Headwaters Health Network told Gillibrand he appreciated her support in obtaining a $5 million federal grant for the construction of the new Warrensburg Health Center, the hub of the network of health clinics. He noted that when Gillibrand was a congresswoman before she was elected to the U.S. Senate, Hudson Headwaters had 12 health centers and a staff of 475 — and that now HHHN has 16 health centers employing 650 people.
Geraghty said that Warrensburg had been “very fortunate” not only in hosting HHHN’s new federally-funded health center, but also in receiving federal money through the Safe Routes to School program that was paying for new sidewalks in Warrensburg.
Gillibrand responded that local municipalities that research grant opportunities and pursue them are more likely to obtain money they need for infrastructure.
“The more shots on goal, the more you score,” she said.
Laura Oswald, Director of Economic Development for Washington County, noted that several communities in the county had been battered in recent years by storms that created so much damage they were crippling local economies. Oswald noted that six businesses in Salem had closed down recently, primarily due to the damage caused to local infrastructure. She asked Gillibrand to expand the eligibility guidelines for federal funding for preserving or rehabilitating historic structures. Gillibrand responded that she would work on the issue.
Glens Falls Hospital official talks of looming budget gap
Mitch Amado, Chief Financial Officer of Glens Falls Hospital, told Gillibrand that his institution, the region’s largest private employer, was enduring economic stresses. He said the hospital has lost 2,500 admissions over the past two years. The hospital’s financial troubles started in 2012, when it spent $12 million more than its revenue.
“Changes in health care are coming fast and furious, and we’re struggling with the situation,” he said, noting that the prevailing new emphasis on disease prevention and primary care were reducing the hospital’s patient population dramatically. “We’re looking for transition funding to help close the gap.”
He also asked for Gillibrand to look into helping line up educational grants to help train people in the area to become Physician Assistants and Nurse Practicioners, who’d be focused on community-based preventive care.
Gillibrand expresses support for SUNY Adirondack's initiatives
SUNY Adirondack President Kristine Duffy outlined the new initiatives being pursued by the community college, including increasing the college’s programs in technology, health care, advanced manufacturing and science, as well as seeking grant funding to expand academic facilities. The college has recently applied for a $20 million state grant to pay for about two-thirds of the cost of a new 70,000-square-foot building to host the new programs.
Gillibrand said she supported the college’s new initiatives.
“We’ll work hard to accomplish all your goals,” she said to Duffy.
After the meeting, Bartholomew said the meeting was a productive extension of existing political dialogue.
“Kirsten Gillibrand and her staff members are in constant communication with various municipal officials in the region,” he said.