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Dam Hust | Democrat

THE SULLIVAN COUNTY Empire Zone Administrative Board held a meeting this past Thursday, marking a largely re-configured board taking helm.

Empire Zone Board retools to fix problems

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — February 5, 2008 — The first meeting of a largely reconfigured Sullivan County Empire Zone Administrative Board (ZAB) this past Thursday featured an orientation session on Empire Zones.
Leading the mini-seminar were none other than statewide Empire Zone Deputy Director Carol Bolam and regional program associate David Barnett.
There were four reasons for their presentation, namely James Goldfarb, Eileen Haworth-Weil, Larry Steiger and Mike Weiner. Appointed by the County Legislature the week before, they are the ZAB’s newest members.
Goldfarb is the director of Campus Activities at Sullivan County Community College, while Haworth-Weil is co-chair of Sullivan Peace and Justice and runs a contracting business with husband Andy. Weiner teaches at Fallsburg Central School, and Steiger operates the Last Licks restaurant in Ferndale.
Other board members (who could not make the meeting) include Ted Pilonero, Jim Bertholf, Steve Drobysh and Guy Jollie.
Chaired by Sullivan County Manager David Fanslau, the ZAB is tasked with reviewing proposed entrants into the Empire Zone and ensuring that those who are receiving tax benefits are living up to their business plans filed with Zone Coordinator Susan Jaffe.
The Empire Zone covers 1,280 acres of downtown and highly developable areas of Sullivan County, but its operation has been troubled by a loss of records locally and a lack of accountability requirements from the state.
With Jaffe reconstructing the records and the state now requiring cost/benefits analyses of applying and involved companies, Sullivan County’s new board is eager to not only take a leadership role in the operation of the zone but conduct reviews of the 138 businesses currently in the zone to determine how many jobs they have created and how much investment they have generated.
“If a business is not performing and doing what they promised to do, no, we don’t want to be giving them benefits,” acknowledged Jaffe, who is also the county’s commissioner of Economic and Community Development.
At the same time, she added, companies like the Villa Roma – which could not meet its business goals in recent years due to floods and a devastating fire – must have their situation explained to the state so as to retain the zone’s much-needed benefits.
“The most successful zones have a good working relationship with their businesses,” affirmed Bolam.
Toward that end, the state has sent out letters warning zone businesses that may not be reaching their goals, and Jaffe said she is targeting 55 underperforming businesses to let them know she’s there to help.
As Jaffe put it, “economic development includes business retention.”
Please see Friday’s Democrat for a more in-depth article on the Empire Zone.

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