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November 29, 2013

Otsego IDA eyes new director, strategy

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Oneonta area business groups continue to identify strategic keys to the local economy’s future, and the Otsego County Industrial Development Agency is poised to name an executive director.

Work and discussions follow the Otsego County Economic Development Summit II held in Oneonta on Nov. 14, at which a speaker noted the local lack of any shovel-ready site for business development and of a go-to person to handle inquires about the area.

State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, was host of the summit, which was supported by several local business organizations. No formal follow-up meetings have yet been scheduled, Jeff Bishop, Seward’s spokesman, said this week.

Meanwhile, the Oneonta Community Alliance, an informal business group, met Wednesday, and recently the IDA has been working on hiring an executive director.

Douglas Gulotty, interim chief executive officer of the IDA, said an announcement is set for Thursday about hiring an executive director. Two finalists, who Gulotty refused to identify because of the executive-session process, were identified from a pool of about 12 applicants, he said.

With plans for the IDA executive director to start in January, a six-month transition in leadership period is on schedule, Gulotty said Tuesday.

The newly appointed IDA director would help meet duties previously conducted by Carolyn Lewis, who also served as Otsego County’s economic developer until resigning in August. In October, Lewis joined the State University College at Oneonta as its economic development coordinator, a part-time position.

Otsego County hasn’t identified an economic developer, and questions remain about the role of a go-to person to field inquiries.

However, discussions are on-going about economic development among business groups, leaders and and local elected officials, Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller said Wednesday after a meeting of the Oneonta Community Alliance.

Miller said efforts continue to further establish the southern portion of Otsego County and the greater Oneonta area as an economic area, which he described as within a 30-mile radius of Oneonta. At Seward’s summit, the economic importance of Delaware County was raised, he said.

To recognize the role of Delaware County and to extend regional representation, Miller said, two officials were added to the alliance roster. The additional members are Glenn Nealis, director of the Delaware County Office of Economic Development, and Rebecca Morgan, director of the Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship.

The alliance has identified areas of potential economic development and needs, Miller said, but the group is a collaborative without bylaws or authority.

Miller said the announcement of an executive director for the IDA “can’t come too soon.” Lewis’s multi-role work on behalf of the county for not very much money cannot be over-stated, he said, and alliance participants are eager for economic initiatives to develop.

Gulotty said the IDA executive director salary was set at about $80,000, and an economic development specialist also to be hired would have a salary of about $70,000.

About 175 business representatives, elected leaders and others attended the Nov. 14 summit at the Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center.

At the half-day event, Industrial Development Agency representatives and economic organization executives from other counties shared experiences about development in their areas and offered advice for Otsego County.