SULLIVAN COUNTY –– Members of the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) board took action last week to put the process of reviewing all 13 of their currently existing …
SULLIVAN COUNTY –– Members of the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) board took action last week to put the process of reviewing all 13 of their currently existing Uniform Tax Exemption Programs (UTEP) into motion.
The review is done in collorboration with the Sullivan County Legislature, and seeks input from local towns and villages, stakeholders, etc.
Board members voted to adopt a temporary pause on new applications under certain IDA UTEPs until March 1, 2022, in order to allow time for the in-depth review to take place.
Applications for financial assistance under the following UTEPs –– Tourism, Agricultural Industry and Community Distributed Generation –– will still be accepted during the pause.
Also excluded from the temporary pause are:
• Applications for healthcare projects under the IDA’s General Abatement UTEP.
• Applications for projects contemplated by and pursuant to the Master Development and Agent Agreement by and between the IDA and the EPT Concord II LLC, Veria Lifestyle Inc., Rock Meadow Partners LLC, Great Pine LLC, NARO Building LLC and Indian Fields LLC.
• Applications for projects contemplated by and pursuant to the Option Agreement dated April 19, 2021 by and between Sullivan County Funding Corporation and Monticello Industrial Park LLC.
The IDA will also not be accepting any requests for a deviation from their UTEP’s prior to March 1, 2022.
The resolution is effective as to all applications received after August 27, 2021.
In 2006, the last time a UTEP review was done by the IDA and the County Legislature, there was no pause on applications and the entire process lasted 18 months.
At last week’s meeting, IDA board members discussed the timeframe for the current pause, which they believe is sufficient to allow for a thoughtful review of their policies.
Discussion on the process
IDA board member Sean Brooks, who owns Prestige Towing & Recovery, said he is concerned about the message the pause might send.
“I don’t believe we should be sending a message that we’re putting projects off. We should be sending a message that now’s the opportunity,” said Brooks. “I just think it [the pause] sends a message that pretty much says we don’t need anybody else, we’re good here and that’s certainly not the case.”
Board members thanked Brooks for his candor, perspective and raising that particular point, which was then talked about at great length.
IDA Board member and Treasurer Howard Siegel raised a question, using an analogy relating to Brooks’ profession.
“When do you stop and shut your doors to do an inventory of your trucks, of your vehicles and of your thinking?” Siegel asked, later adding, “When do you decide when you’re going to upgrade your fleet? We need to do an inventory to make sure that our programs are consistent.”
Siegel added that six months going into winter with the existing projects they are working on and at the tail end of a pandemic, might not be a bad time to do it.
Liberty Town Supervisor Frank DeMayo was also in attendance at the meeting. He thanked the IDA for the work they do and said he doesn’t dispute the review of IDA programs. However, he said he agreed with Brooks that the pause would be sending the wrong message.
Referencing Siegel’s analogy, DeMayo said, “There are times where you have to decide to update your fleet. We don’t close down business when we look to do those kinds of things.”
From the Chairs
IDA Board Chair Suzy Loughlin said she personally agrees with the process the IDA is undertaking in doing a comprehensive review of its UTEP and incentive programs.
“Such a review has not been done in 15 years and is long overdue,” she said. “It will be short in duration and will be completed by March 1, 2022.”
Loughlin added that there is a workforce crisis in Sullivan County, with both well established and new businesses unable to hire enough employees to effectively operate.
“These challenges are compounded by an insufficient housing supply in the region, a shifting population, and inadequate digital and physical infrastructure in many parts of the County that are needed to respond to the changing ways people live and work,” she said.
“While the pandemic has been disruptive, there has also been innovation that impacts workforce, workspace, business models and more,” she continued. “These factors need to be part of IDA’s consideration in the creation of new incentives as well as modification and enhancement of existing programs that will be beneficial to future development and growth.”
Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Rob Doherty said he supports the pause as a means of assessing both the opportunities and threats to economic development in the County.
He added, “This process will afford us a unique opportunity to hear from all stakeholders, who will be better able to inform the County and the IDA as to the best way to address the needs of the County’s business community."