Dan Hust | Democrat
COUNTY DVISION OF Community and Economic Development Commissioner Susan Jaffe, left, and her administrative assistant, Stephanie Deragon, will be moving to to the Partnership for Economic Development as part of the new Economic Development Corporation.
Development team taking shape
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Legislature Chair Jonathan Rouis’ vision of an Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has taken its first baby steps.
On Thursday, legislators unanimously agreed (minus an absent Elwin Wood) to transfer Sullivan County Division of Community and Economic Development Commissioner Susan Jaffe and her administrative assistant, Stephanie Deragon, to the Partnership for Economic Development.
Though contract details are still being worked out, Jaffe has already relocated her office from the Government Center in Monticello to the Partnership’s offices in Bridgeville. Her title will be assistant executive director, under Executive Director Peter Gozza.
Deragon is now the office manager, and the trio are currently the only staff at the Partnership (though it’s overseen by a large board of directors).
The Division of Community and Economic Development, separated from the Division of Planning and Environmental Management just last year, will be abolished by July.
Rouis said it’s a way to get the county out of the economic development business, a goal Jaffe seconded.
“Economic development should be driven by the private sector,” she remarked inside her new office last week.
Till the end of the year, Jaffe’s salary will be paid by the county. Next year’s arrangement is being negotiated, but Jaffe will remain the Empire Zone coordinator, responsible for overseeing the day-to-day administration of the popular business incentive program.
The Empire Zone Administrative Board will also remain intact, currently chaired by County Manager David Fanslau.
“The location of one of the county’s financial tools [the Empire Zone] within the Partnership offers an opportunity for better coordination of services and enhances the Partnership’s portfolio, so it makes sense,” Jaffe explained.
It also lays the groundwork for an EDC that may soon have its own board overseeing the economic development activities of the Partnership, the Center for Workforce Development, the Industrial Development Agency, the Visitors Association and the Chamber of Commerce.
Not all of those organizations are yet sold on Rouis’ “combo” plan, so Jaffe is being seen as a test case to determine how effective the move toward an EDC will be.
Legislator Alan Sorensen, too, wants quarterly performance assessments, which Rouis said is part of the ongoing negotiations with the Partnership.
Gozza has no problem with that idea, and he’s already certain this move will create “a more efficient operation.”
“I think what you will see now… is more of an expedited process for our clients,” Gozza remarked.
He’s also personally excited to have Jaffe and Deragon on his team.
“I think it’s wonderful,” he said. “They’re two talented people, and they add a lot to the Partnership.”
Rouis calls it a “win-win” situation, hoping to see the EDC up and running by the end of the year (though centralizing activities at a to-be-constructed building in the corporate park in Rock Hill is farther off).
Fanslau shares that desire, calling the county’s current economic development efforts “fragmented.”
“One of the things that corporation needs to be prepared to do is take on a war mentality,” he added, saying the EDC must be aggressive in growing the county’s tax base during difficult financial times.
In the meantime, Jaffe is settling in to her new role and location in a position that is even more focused on her longtime goals of business expansion, retention and attraction.
“I will miss the staff and team we built over the past year,” she acknowledged, “[but] we’ve got a nice little team here. We’re testing the water, and it’s fine.”
To reach Jaffe, call 794-1110, ext. 304. Her office is on the second floor of the Bridgeville Office Centre, 198 Bridgeville Road, right off Route 17 east of Monticello (next door to Robert Green’s auto dealership).