Pat Gareau, Creative Editor
Fortunately for students that will soon enter the workforce, the job market has improved since the recession of 2007-08. Particularly in the local area, there are signs that the future may provide a wealth of opportunities.
On Thursday, Apr. 10, local leaders convened to discuss development strategies to further improve the economic environment in the Capital District.
The forum was part of the Capital Region Economic Development Council’s public participation program and was run by their workgroup on workforce development and education.
Jola Szubielski, assistant director for public affairs at Empire State Development, said, “So much is going on here in the Capital Region.”
“[When] you get everyone in a room together you can piece together a plan,” said Szubielski.
The discussion was moderated by President Drew Matonak and Ballston Spa Superintendent Joseph Dragone. Representatives from local organizations involved in economic development and education participated.
Among the organizations represented were the Center for Economic Growth, Albany Med, NYS Department of Labor, Capitalize Albany, UAlbany’s small business development center, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and Capital Region BOCES.
“We’ve got some great partnerships already. We want to bring more partners into that discussion,” said Matonak.
Throughout the forum, the participants discussed how they could work together more effectively, how to utilize the educational institutions in the area to most effectively prepare students for the workforce, and what organizations have been working on to contribute to development.
One of the ongoing projects discussed involved the Schodack School District. Superintendent Bob Horan described how decreased enrollment led to unused space in their buildings. The school district has created an innovative way to make open space useful. They lease it to start up technology companies in exchange for working with the students and staff on math and science development.
The one problem that many highlighted throughout the discussion was that there was not enough private sector businesses involvement in the council’s planning.
10 regional economic development councils were formed in an initiative by Governor Cuomo in 2011 to enhance local cooperation in economic development. Annual awards for projects proposed by each council are given by the state as part of the program.
2013 was a successful year for the Capital Region’s regional council. They were recognized as a high performer by the state and awarded over $80 million in grants and tax breaks.
In 2014, the region hopes to build on that success to further the progress they have made in addressing eight strategic goals laid out in their original strategic plan. These goals include forming more partnerships, advancing the high-tech sector, spotlighting the historical strengths of the area, developing urban cores and conserving the environment.
According to their annual progress report, nearly 12,000 jobs had been positively impacted by regional council in the first two years.