Hallings, a Penn Yan area native, was recently named to the Empire Zone Coordinator post

Newly named Empire Zone Coordinator Ryan Hallings has deep roots in Yates County and a strong desire to see the county grow and prosper.

When New York State first started Empire Zones in depressed areas, most were in the New York City area.  Eventually the zones spread throughout the state.  Yates County is possibly the last county to receive the designation, which was announced in February and the Yates County Legislative meeting.

Hallings put his explanation in simple terms.  "An Empire zone is created to help local business within the county. To help business expand and grow. The Empire Zone is also to attract outside business to the area through state tax exemptions."

Hallings says local taxes are still paid, which increases county revenue.  "Only the state portion of property, income and sales tax is exempted."

Four separate areas totaling about 850 acres in the county have been designated as Empire Zones.  All of downtown Penn Yan extending north to the hospital and south to include Horizon Business Park and the airport is the largest sector. In the Town of Torrey the area where AES and Ferro are located is another zone.  In Keuka Park almost the entire campus is included. Downtown Dundee is also designated.

Hallings says working out of the office of Finger Lakes Economic Development Center is a natural fit for the Yates County Program.  It gives him the enhanced benefit of working closely with CEO Steve Griffin.

Following the state notification earlier this year, the Yates County Legislature began looking for a coordinator and  a well-rounded list of people to serve on the board.  Hallings said it is mandatory to have representatives of certain areas of the community on the board. 

In August the county legislature appointed the following board members:
Sarah Purdy, Board Chairman
Mike Linehan, Community Service Representative
John Wadsworth, Financial Services Representative
Ann Orman, Educational Services Representative
Doug Roll, Zone Business Representative
Jeff Morehouse, Organized Labor Representative
Jim Carey, Zone Resident Representative
Steve Griffin, Zone Board Member
Ryan Hallings, Empire Zone Coordinator
Bonnie Percy, Zone Certification Officer (position is not an official board member).

The terms are for two years, according to Hallings, however in the beginning some terms may be longer or shorter terms so appointments will be staggered and not all expire at one time. 

Using their wide range of expertise, the board members will vote on the business applying and decide if it will be good for the area.  Applications must meet certain criteria Hallings says.  First the business must be within the zoned area.  The business must pass a cost benefit analysis. 

The applicant must prove that jobs will be created or some form of investment in the community will be made.

 "Any business, large or small could apply, says Hallings.  Hopefully we can create jobs for people who want to stay in this community."

 Growing up on a Milo farm, Hallings still helps his father, Dale nights and weekends. The 2001 Penn Yan Academy graduate attended Hobart College and received degrees in sociology and political science in 2006. He played football in high school and college.

For the next two years he was Community Educator for Cornell Co-operative Extension in Schuyler County, serving as 4-H Youth Development Leader and Reality Check leader.  Hallings became interested in local government after taking a land use training for his appointment to the Milo Planning Board.  He didn't serve on the planning board very long, because he had to resign when he was given the Empire Zone position.

Hallings loves this area.  His educational background could have taken him to the city to find a job, but he prefers the country.  "To be able to come back here and have a positive impact and influence is very rewarding.  This is a great place to grow up and return."