In last week’s State of the County address, County Executive Rob Astorino, who is gearing up to run for Governor against Andrew Cuomo, spoke about a variety of economic, political, and social issues. Top among the list were: taxes; the county’s fair-housing settlement with HUD; promoting economic growth; and his “war on potholes.” So what does his assessment of the county’s health mean for our local businesses?
In the spirit of the speech, we asked several business leaders to comment on Astorino’s appraisal, and to give their own evaluation of the strength of our business community.
Dr. Marsha Gordon
President and CEO, Business Council of Westchester:
“All of the issues the county executive mentioned have an impact on the business community. Taxes remain an important issue for residents and businesses, as does infrastructure—both in terms of maintaining roads and bridges and investing in new transportation, such as transit-oriented development. So, too is sharing services among the many layers of government and strengthening the obvious link between our local colleges and universities and our business community. We also need a diverse housing stock that is affordable for our workers….
Westchester County is clearly moving in the right direction. On the government side, spending is down as are property taxes—and that’s important to businesses in terms of dollars as well as attitude: If businesses believe they have a friend in government (one that appreciates that the private sector is really efficient at creating jobs) then they’ll be more likely to invest, grow and hire…. We’re seeing that major companies are not only staying in Westchester, but investing hundreds of millions of dollars in building, capital and expansion. Take Regeneron, for example, or Acorda Therapeutics or PepsiCo, all of these companies are committed to growing in Westchester County and are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in their properties and workforce. All of this translates into good paying jobs and a need for more goods and services. None of this happens by accident—it happens when government and businesses strike the right balance in their partnerships.”
Executive Director of Economic Development, Westchester County Association:
“We agree that key factors to driving economic development include initiatives mentioned in the County Executive’s speech—specifically municipal cooperation and working with our colleges. The BLUEPRINT for Westchester, the Westchester County Association’s economic development initiative, has as core components two important signed Memorandums of Understanding: one with the Mayors of our cities and the other with all of the Presidents of our local colleges and universities. Those MOUs pledge that the respective groups will work together with the BLUEPRINT to drive economic development. We have seen many successful outcomes from those MOUs including the annual Recruit Westchester, the first ever collaborative career fair, City Showcases that promote the development opportunities within Westchester and our Rethinking Westchester conference.”
Managing Director (Westchester region), JLL, Stamford, CT
“I agree with Mr. Astorino’s assessment. He understands the challenges faced by the County better than any County Executive in the last 30 years. We have to continue to find a way to compete in the global business world or tax dollars for the neediest amongst us will cease to exist… All of the top issues Astorino mentioned in his speech must continue to be addressed. There is no substitute for each and every one of these priorities because that is what competing Counties are doing. His benchmarking is astute and well researched…. I feel the County’s business environment is stronger then it has been in the last 30 years. For the first time in memory we have a County Executive that has come from a business environment and has an understanding of the simpatico of philanthropy and the business/economic environment.”
VP of Murphy Brothers Contracting, Mamaroneck:
“We like where the county is going, economically, we need to focus on attracting businesses to Westchester and attracting people who want to live here. Westchester should encourage responsible development, which means that county government has a duty to encourage the local municipalities to cooperate. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface but it appears that we’re heading in the right direction.“