GLOVERSVILLE - A change in top administrative positions at the Fulton County Economic Development Corp. is partly designed to free up more time for former Executive Vice President Jeff Bray to scour the Capital Region for more local business prospects.
Michael Reese, the agency's new executive vice president and chief executive officer, says the change also gives him more of an opportunity to work at promoting the EDC's Crossroads Business Park.
"Obviously, one of the reasons I came to Fulton County is they have a great economic development office here," Reese said. "I really look at economic development as being a real team approach."
The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich
Michael Reese, new executive vice president and chief executive officer of the Fulton County Economic Development Corp., is pictured Thursday at EDC offices at the Crossroads Business Park.
He said the poor economy can't be an excuse for the EDC not to work aggressively to bring in more jobs.
"There's going to be less projects built anywhere," Reese said. "We need to continue to do what we do best."
On Dec. 31, the agency announced Reese will be the EDC's top administrator after a promotion from his previous chief operating officer position. Reese was hired by the EDC in September 2008 after spending 22 years as the executive director of Mohawk Valley Economic Development District. During his time with MVEDD, Reese helped obtain $40 million in federal and state grants for projects in the Mohawk Valley that leveraged $100 million in total investments.
Bray, who had held the top EDC administrative position since 1991, will remain with the agency as senior vice president.
The EDC is a private organization, receiving some public funding, that provides a range of economic development services in Fulton County.
"It is vitally important that EDC position itself to compete on a global basis," Bray said. "I believe that a significant factor in that effort is having quality people as part of that team. Mike brings that quality. I am delighted to be able to continue having a role in EDC's efforts to develop the Fulton County economy."
Reese would not divulge his salary or that of Bray, saying the private, nonprofit organization is not required to provide salaries to the public.
According to IRS tax returns filed by the agency, Bray, a Guilderland resident, was paid $163,430 in 2007.
Bray continues to work full time, Reese said.
The EDC receives some annual local public funding - $75,000 from Fulton County and $15,750 from the city of Johnstown.
New EDC Board of Directors President Laurence Kelly said Thursday that Reese is an excellent choice to run the day-to-day operations at the EDC.
"He's been with the EDC for two years," Kelly said. "He's really gotten to know the organization and know most of the people in the county who are critical to economic development. I'm certain it's going to be a very smooth transition. The EDC's been very successful."
He said Bray won't be "inside" the EDC office as much, and will be "working his contacts" within the Capital Region.
"The opportunities [for both Reese and Bray] are going to be a step in the right direction," Kelly said.
Northampton Supervisor Linda Kemper, new chairwoman of the Board of the Supervisors' Economic Development Committee, said Thursday she will wait and see how Reese does in the EDC's top spot.
"Jeff's done a good job," Kemper said. "I can't really comment until I see things unfold."
She said the county can't afford squabbles like those that occurred in the Glove Cities late last year during attempts to bring in a new Walmart Supercenter.
"You need to encourage economic development to bring the businesses in," Kemper said. "I think the whole effort has to be to try to bring those companies in and promote the area."
Reese said he wants to do all that and more and sees his job as "much more than marketing."
He said any changes to the way he wants to run the EDC will be "not substantial." He said he wants to try to foster the kind of local development teamwork that last summer almost landed a General Electric Co. project on 20 acres of land, just east of Fage USA in the Johnstown Industrial Park. He said GE representatives in Florida at first chose Johnstown for a new locomotive battery plant, but corporate officials later chose GE's Schenectady base as the plant site, thanks in part to some union give-backs.
"We competed very well with a worldwide company," Reese said.
He said the trick during this ongoing downturn in the economy will be to find available industrial areas to build on.
"While things are slow, we want to start lining up new sites," Reese said.
He said the EDC continues to work on housing efforts such as Estee Commons in Gloversville, where the EDC has transformed the former school into an apartment building.
He said his "first priority" with the EDC will be to provide necessary leadership to continue the EDC's successful efforts.
"I'm in an enviable position because Fulton County EDC has a reputation as one of the best local development corporations in the Northeast," he said. "I was recruited to strengthen the operation and position EDC for continued growth over the next 10 to 15 years."
In the more immediate future, Reese discussed four main areas he would like to concentrate on for the next three to five years.
They are: business retention and growth; business attraction; government relations; and downtown redevelopment.
"Most jobs and investment come from companies that already call Fulton County home," Reese said. "That is particularly true during periods of prolonged recession as we have experienced in 2009 and will continue to be affected by during 2010. One of my priorities is to use the resources we have available to assist our existing companies to grow and reinvest in Fulton County."
He said he wants to make sure local companies "stay strong."
Reese said he wants to work cooperatively with "partners" such as Fulton-Montgomery Community College and the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry. He also wants to work closely with the HFM Business Education Alliance.
"Businesses can let education know what type of training needs to be done," he said. Reese said young people and students need to be shown "there are jobs here in Fulton County."
Another priority, he said, is to develop a marketing program highlighting the county's many assets. For example, he said past successes in the dairy-processing business have set the stage for a new industry cluster.
"Successful economic development requires a good working relationship between the private sector and the public sector," Reese said. "EDC has built strong relationships with our government partners."
He said he looks forward to working with several people in new seats of power such as Kemper, Board of Supervisors Chairman Gregory Fagan and Gloversville Mayor Dayton King.
Reese said he's also "committed" to working with Glove Cities and chamber officials and other partners on downtown redevelopment.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.