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Public support must be earned

October 21, 2012
The Leader Herald

The Fulton County Economic Development Corp. and the Crossroads Incubator Corp. will dissolve under a new partnership between their parent corporation, the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth, and Fulton County government.

We hope the new "Business Development Marketing Plan for Fulton County," developed by the Fulton County Board of Supervisors and the Center for Regional Growth, will improve the economic development agency's image along with the economic climate of Fulton County.

Officials say the business marketing plan will make the CRG more accountable to the county, which will require the CRG?to submit an annual marketing plan and budget to the Board of Supervisors for approval. The county will appoint members to the CRG?board and increase its contribution to the CRG from $25,000 to $75,000 per year.

The responsibility for making sure the plan delivers more economic development and financial accountability rests on the shoulders of those who will oversee the CRG.

The EDC and its real-estate arm, the CIC, took a big financial hit in 2010 because of a bonus scandal. Two officials received a total of $3 million in bonuses that their boards of directors said were not approved.

Hopefully, the restructuring will mark a new beginning for economic development in the county.

There are still unresolved issues, however. Lawyers for the CRG are trying to recover the bonus money, and the city of Gloversville is seeking the return of an EDC loan fund.

Also, the CRG has insisted it's a private agency, even arguing in court that the state Authorities Budget Office - which says the CRG should be a public agency - is wrong. Given the new partnership with Fulton County, there should be no question the agency should be a public agency.

County officials' goal in working with the CRG?should be to promote commerce for the benefit of the county. Officials must be willing to admit when they make mistakes, especially if the restructured organization heads into more financial trouble.

In addition, if the new effort is to succeed, the CRG and the county must be honest and open with the public on how the economic development group will re-establish trust and credibility. Public support won't be automatic. The CRG?will have to earn it.



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