Local investments are paying off

John Christensen
JohnChristensen@Chronicle-Express.com
Steve Griffin (left) presented the 2014 Willie Taaffe Memorial Award “For dedicated service promoting economic and community development in Yates County” to Ryan Dailey of Dailey Electric Inc. Also honored were Ron Schmidl and his son Todd for their services to FLEDC at the Keuka Business Park, where Schmidl previously worked when it was Penn Yan Express. Robert Corcoran (right) and Craig Densmore (absent) were thanked for their service as prior FLEDC Board Members.

The Finger Lakes Economic Development Center (FLEDC), Yates County’s Industrial Development Agency/Economic Development Organization, held its annual meeting Friday, March 20 at Abandon Brewing Co., one of the businesses FLEDC helped to get off the ground in recent years.

Hosting over 70 business owners as well as county and town officials, FLEDC CEO Steve Griffin and Community Development Director Alex Taylor reported a record year for projects and a clean bill of health for the organization.

Earlier this week FLEDC received positive, even glowing annual audits from Bonadio, the auditing firm hired to oversee and report on FLEDC’s books, as well as those of the subsidiary corporations, the Finger Lakes Horizons Economic Development Corp. (FLHEDC), and the Yates County Capital Resource Corp. (YCCRC).

The audits showed combined net assets of $6,654,736

– FLEDC: $5,536,284

– FLHEDC: $1,044,524

– YCCRC (non-profit): $ 73,928

These numbers show a net increase of $849,736 in 2014.

Beyond the marked improvement in assets, FLEDC personnel worked to build collaboration and awareness between all levels of local and state government and the private sector. In 2014, they held 454 meetings and visitations, an FLEDC record, and facilitated several major business initiatives and projects, such as:

• Emmi Roth sale to KanPak

• Village of Penn Yan and Town of Jerusalem Sewer Agreement

• Winning one of the first Start-Up New York designations for Keuka College

• 2014 Flood response aid

Penn Yan’s Waterfront Development area also saw further progress with the opening of the Water Street Wine Bar, Birkett Landing Apartments filled to capacity and with a waiting list, and unmatched progress on the Penn Yan Marine Property soon to be developed by Chris Iversen.

Showing his trademark enthusiasm, Griffin says, “This has been FLEDC’s best year ever!”

With 43 total projects, 12 attractions and start-ups, and 25 loan approvals, they have set another FLEDC annual record.

Recalling the organization’s role in the Flood of 2014 recovery, Griffin says FLEDC’s goal was to “Get businesses opened ASAP.” They partnered with Lyons National Bank to establish emergency financing with 0 percent interest loans with flexible payment terms, beginning a month or two after the re-opening of the business. In total, 14 emergency loans of $410,000 were made, with cash in hand to the businesses within seven days. FLEDC vetted the applicants to verify need, administered local grant allocations to 14 businesses with $80,000 granted. They worked with state government officials on financial assistance, saying to them, “Please don’t come unless you have specific program and instructions,” and acted as an information clearing house assisting businesses with NYS applications, refunds, questions, and individual challenges.

Griffin showed that the 18 current PILOT agreements have yielded $29 million in increased values through use of PILOTs, and $873,000 in additional annual property tax revenues for the county, schools, towns, and villages. FLEDC Chairman Jim Long pointed out that this tax relief is not tax money the government is giving away; it is just not taking new money that would never have come without the new business or development starting up.

Griffin showed that Yates County leads the nine-county Finger Lakes Economic Development Region in:

• Percent increase in new business establishments

• Percent increase in net job creation

• Lowest unemployment

• Percent increase in housing values

• Total number of new building permits

• Tourism dollars spent per resident

Griffin added further proof, stating additional private developers are keenly interested in Yates County, the downtown Penn Yan revitalization is in full gear as is the Start-Up N.Y. Designation, workforce & youth development programs are moving forward, and local manufacturers are very strong and looking to grow.

“There is tremendous opportunity,” says Griffin, adding, “We’re busy!”

FLEDC has ushered in 179 projects in the last five years, and estimates a possible 250 plus projects in the next five years.

Griffin concluded, saying, “Activity breeds activity. The pessimists are being drowned out and largely ignored by the community. We may have reached the tipping point of positive growth spurring further growth, and now is the time to capitalize on it!”

25 loans approved in 2014

• Lent $952,502 to Yates County Businesses

• Average loan size: $38,100

• Total Company investment = $2,193,200

• Helped launch 7 new businesses

New Totals

• 72 loans currently outstanding

• 38 new businesses have utilized loan funds since 2010

• $4.02 million approved & loaned

• Total Company investment = $24,596,215

• $2.29 million in current principal

• Less than 1 percent considered at risk