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Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Public criticism over the Industrial Development Agency’s (IDA’s) tax abatements with Liberty-based Ideal Snacks is motivating the agency to better inform residents about its mission and operations.
“The reputation the IDA has is that we’re giving away the farm, and that’s not the case,” assessed IDA Board Chairman and County Legislator Ira Steingart at Tuesday’s regular board meeting.
“We probably can do a better job of getting our message out,” added board member Sean Rieber.
He advocated sending out emails on a mass mailing list with news about the positive impacts the IDA, its programs, and its participating businesses have on the county’s economy.
“That’s going to outweigh some of the negatives,” he predicted.
Fellow board member Suzanne Rhulen-Loughlin thought social media might work, too, though she acknowledged its open-comment system would require 24/7 monitoring.
The IDA is often mentioned in existing local media and even has its own website, sullivanida.com, but the board seemed interested in directly generating content for and dialogue with the taxpayers who fund the IDA.
“I’d rather be putting the message out there than responding to it,” Rhulen-Loughlin affirmed.
Board member Sandy Shaddock wasn’t so sure, however, that public sentiment would be swayed.
“They want someone to point the finger at,” she observed of the critics who don’t research before lambasting the IDA. “... I don’t think you’re going to change that.”
Steingart, too, was uncertain that increased public relations will result in improved public relations, but he expressed a desire to correct misimpressions.
“Look at Ideal Snacks. How many companies do we have up here with 400 employees?” he remarked. “... We’re creating jobs here.”
A seat on the board
Also on Tuesday, the IDA Board moved toward ensuring representation on the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development’s board.
Allan Scott is the CEO of both the IDA and the Partnership but is not on their boards. The IDA also contributes $75,000 annually to the Partnership, leading Rieber to urge his colleagues to put an IDA representative on the Partnership board.
“I don’t have any issue with funding it,” Rieber explained. “It’s just the representation.”
“I think the Partnership would be glad to have someone attend,” affirmed Rhulen-Loughlin, who herself is an elected Partnership board member.
“I’ll pursue it,” promised Steingart, who later that day secured agreement from the Partnership following their board meeting.
“We are delighted to have a representative from the Sullivan County IDA on our board,” Partnership Board Chair Fred Stabbert III said.
The board member has not yet been named.