One of the major goals of the Allegany County Legislature in 2015 has been to encourage economic development. For several years our Board has focused on cutting expenses and reducing taxes. This was reasonable and appropriate. However, it has become obvious that there are limits on how far we can actually cut costs, given the State mandates.. If we want to further reduce our real property tax rate we need to find a way to increase our other sources of revenue, or we must grow our tax base so that we can share the burden across a larger base.
Contrary to some of the pessimism and cynicism that is frequently heard, Allegany County actually has some significant economic strengths. We have three highly respected institutions of higher learning: Alfred University, Houghton College, and Alfred State College. We also have several large “high tech” manufacturing companies that employ hundreds of local residents. We have a strong agricultural industry including dairy farms and cheese plants, forest and wood products industry, and livestock industry. There is also the intangible, but important fact, that Allegany County is a wonderful place to live and raise a family.
Perhaps our greatest “perceived” weakness is that we don’t have a large commercial or population center. That means that many of our residents travel out of the county for their shopping and recreational needs. The fact that a large percentage of our local money gets spent out-of-county has an unfortunate side effect. It reduces the amount of sales tax revenue that gets collected here.
Over the past several months an “Economic Development Task Force” has focused on how to address the current situation, and change some things for the better. We don’t want to lose the things that make Allegany County unique and special. However, we want to attract good-paying jobs that will allow our children and grandchildren to stay near home. We want to maintain our rural character, while providing the basic services that most citizens deem essential. Private individuals and businesses will accomplish some of this. However, some of it will require government involvement. County government can help in the following ways:
- We can establish a “One Stop” center to assist businesses that are considering locating in our County;
- We can establish a data-base containing information regarding available sites, with information on what services are available at those sites;
- We can establish an economic development “Web Site” that will alert developers to the potential benefits of locating in Allegany County;
- We can establish a team that can work with interested developers to attract them to our County;
- We can work with State agencies and officials to take advantage of existing programs that will attract new businesses to Allegany County.
In recent meetings County officials have learned that companies from around the world are interested in locating new plants and operations in America. We have the most stable government in the world. America understands the “rule of law” that protects investors and investments. America has a large population, with the greatest disposable income in the world. We have the Interstate Highway System to get products from plants to markets. We have an educated and skilled workforce. We need to tap into this pool of potential developers and attract them to our County.
We shouldn’t expect overnight success. However, we believe that we can make a significant impact. The “New Forest Economy” is already on track to be located in Wellsville. It will bring a lot of attention to our area. We can leverage existing industrial connections to attract more industry to our region. Think about what 1,000 or 3,000 quality jobs would mean to our County. Those new workers will need places to live, stores to shop in, schools for their children to attend, and myriad services to improve the quality of their lives. It sounds exciting. Let’s make it happen.