Sunday, February 27, 2011

Region touts its assets to attract new employers

Craig Wolf • Poughkeepsie Journal • February 27, 2011

One of the Hudson Valley's inducements to potential
employers is the Hudson itself.

People in economic development are keenly aware of
it and actively use it.

"The Hudson River is absolutely an asset, and one
of our biggest ones, when it comes to economic
development," said Michael Oates, president of the
Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. "Of
course, you've got to have the other assets as well: a
ready site, a nearby work force with the needed
skills, a welcoming community, a business climate
that works. But the Hudson River is a huge asset for
New York."

It's part of the amenities package, what they often
call, quality of life. That can speak loudly to people
looking not only for a tourism rail but for place to
land and live.

"I think when people look at the number of people
coming into Dutchess County and the Hudson
Valley and they look at the other attractions that we
have available, they know it's a good place to do
business," said Mary Kay Vrba, Dutchess County's
director of tourism. "When you cluster more
attractions in one area, the people are going to want
to come and visit and stay longer."

Tourism can hook new businesses because the
entrepreneurs get their first taste of the region as
visitors. One example is the Empire Cruise Line
venture that plans to start seasonal sightseeing and
dinner cruises out of Poughkeepsie in May.

The owner's wife had family in the area, Vrba said.

Some kind of family connection, vacation or other
link to the region often underlies the decision by an
executive or entrepreneur to locate a business here,
said Lance Matteson, president of Ulster County
Development Corp.

"That is where a lot of the new activity that we get
comes from," he said.

In Dutchess, the tourism staff is under the umbrella
of the Dutchess County Economic Development
Corp. Both sides work hand in hand in pitching to
potential employers looking for a home. The
tourism component describes the quality of life
aspect that is one of the items employers look for,
she said. That's because the employees want to
know what there is to see and do.

Vrba said they start with the general tourism
package and then "customize it for the individuals
involved." For example, they may ask, "What is the
CEO interested in — arts or hiking?"

Another concept is to refer to the region as a
gateway between New York City and upstate. Ulster's
Matteson said, "We try to fairly routinely promote the
concept of the Hudson River Valley as a gateway
from metropolitan New York City to the upstate and
vice versa. We're the channel between the capital
and the talent in New York City."

Some development themes work best if pitched on a
regional basis. The region, in this case, the Hudson
Valley, is a fairly recognizable one.

That fact is played strongly by the regional group,
the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. Its
BioHud Valley initiative takes a very regional
approach, despite the great majority of existing
biotechnology companies being sited in only two
counties, Rockland and Westchester.

Other counties can benefit from BioHud, though, if
companies accept the logic that manufacturing costs
vary with distance, Matteson said. "If you want to
manufacture, the further downstate you get, the
Advertisement pricier it is," he said.

Oates said that the region and its attractions are an
asset for companies in attracting employees.

"Many of the companies we're trying to attract, the
life sciences companies especially, they need smart, w
ell-trained employees. The Hudson River, the
valley, is a place where those employees will want to
live because of everything that goes with it."

Reach Craig Wolf at cwolf@poughkeepsiejournal.
com or 845-437-4815.

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