A group of business leaders met Friday morning to learn how a success story could be used for guidance in economic development in Oneonta.
Alexander Mathes Jr., spoke to the group Citizen Voices about his success in Greene County and how Oneonta can use many assets to promote economic development in this area.
“You have so many resources here,” Mathes said. “You have decent land, there is a wonderful rail system — the federal government has money for railways. You have good placement along the 88 corridor with easy connections to Binghamton, Albany, Rochester and Syracuse. And there is Cooperstown and the micro breweries — there is a lot to be said for the quality of life here.”
Mathes, president of Mathes Public Affairs, pushed the Greene Industrial Development Agency to become proactive in attracting businesses to Greene. In 2006 and 2007, he worked with the business community and public officials in developing real estate and business parks, negotiating deal structures and marketing in several successful ventures.
During his tenure, Greene’s IDA received several awards for economic development.
“There has to be partnerships in this,” Mathes said. “You have to go out and make partnerships with the school districts, advocates and community action groups, and the media. You have to put some resources into this. And you have to have good leadership. You have to get your people to believe what you are putting out there about your community. “
Speaking to a group of about 30 people, Mathes stressed the difference between economic development and tourism. Tourists come and spend money, which is good for the local economy; but economic development is a sustainable income producer for families.
Another point Mathes made was that it is necessary to maintain the energy and enthusiasm thoughout the process of promoting the area and securing possible interests.
“We took marketing very seriously in Greene,” Mathes said. “The advantage I had in Greene was that I loved that place. My roots run deep in Greene. I have a history there.”
Marketing the area to show the nuances that are special to Oneonta is a good way to promote the area. Because the city has a medical facility, two colleges and a country club, Oneonta’s amenities for possible company executives are attractive, Mathes noted.
Some of the problem areas Oneonta has, according to Mathes, include the lack of a quality website, a lack of marketing and materials on hand to promote the area, and the business community has not tapped into the colleges for possible workforce potential.
“You should definitely strengthen your relationship with the colleges,” Mathes said. “The SUNY system is interconnected, so to have an ally with SUNY is to have a tremendous resource throughout New York.”
In addition, Mathes suggested Oneonta look to broadband as an infrastructure upgrade. Broadband may be the next big push from Washington, just as the electrical grid was a priority in the Industrial Age, broadband is necessary in the Age of Information, Mathes said.
While Greene was not always the first choice of many corporations, Mathes said, he was able to keep the possibility open, and when it came down to a decision; Greene won a few contracts because they were ‘shovel-ready.’
Mathes suggested that Oneonta officials and the business community make the transition for a new business as smooth as possible by obtaining permits and trouble-shooting infrastructure needs for a potential company.
“When you are shovel-ready your dirt becomes gold,” Mathes said.