Orange County Partnership’s Site Inventory Program Seeks to Take Advantage of Key Growth Industries

Orange County Partnership’s Site Inventory Program Seeks to Take Advantage of Key Growth Industries
Conor Eckert, Senior Development Officer & Vice President of Business Attraction for the Orange County Partnership, discussed the recently launched Site Inventory Program (SIP) at a recent meeting of The Alliance for Balanced Growth.

In a highly informative session of The Alliance for Balanced Growth, officials with the Orange County Partnership and the Orange County Industrial Development Agency provided updates on the Orange County Partnership’s Site Inventory Program (SIP) and the IDA’s Shovel Ready Program, key initiatives geared at sustaining the impressive growth the county has achieved in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Site Inventory Program was first announced at the Orange County Partnership’s MVP Annual Breakfast program in June. Orange County Partnership President and CEO Maureen Halahan said the initiative is now headed by Kaitlynn Lancellotti, Director of Business Retention and Expansion, and Conor Eckert, Senior Development Officer & Vice President of Business Attraction, for the Orange County Partnership.

The Site Inventory Program will seek to take advantage of some of Orange County’s key growth industries—food & beverage processing, advanced manufacturing, clean energy and life sciences—that the Partnership believes will be investing and creating jobs in the county over the next two decades.

“I believe the Site Inventory Program is one of the most important endeavors the Partnership has launched in my more than 20 years with the organization,” Halahan said in announcing the initiative. “Information such as available infrastructure is key to attracting diverse businesses. Knowledge is power and the Site Inventory Program will provide the intelligence we need to market sites to specific industry clusters that have the support of the municipality. This program will clearly set Orange County apart from its competition.”

At the ABG session, which was moderated by ABG Co-Chairs John Lavelle of Rand Commercial and Andrew Fetherston of Colliers Engineering Design, Eckert of the Orange County Partnership discussed the latest on the Site Inventory Program and the benefits the program aims to provide going forward.

The ABG’s Lavelle noted that there is strong demand for commercial sites in Orange County, but brokers are frustrated by the lack of available sites and the lack of infrastructure for those that are available.

Eckert said that since its launch in June, Partnership representatives have met with chief officials of Blooming Grove, Monroe, Goshen and the Town of Wallkill. Upcoming meetings are planned with the City of Middletown, Port Jervis, the City of Newburgh and other municipalities.

Eckert and Lancellotti are seeking to secure information on suitable properties that are on and off-market, as well as their zoning, infrastructure, tax and regulatory approval requirements. The SIP’s focus is to obtain information on properties that could accommodate new development of 20,000 square feet or more in communities across Orange County.

Eckert told the ABG gathering that the SIP is another example of the Orange County Partnership “being proactive as opposed to being reactive.”

He continued, “So, what is the Site Inventory Program? In a nutshell it’s the thought and belief that we need to be thinking about the next 10, 15, 20 years of our economy and what we want our development to look like.”

The Town of Wallkill was the first municipality to meet with the Partnership’s SIP officials back in June. Supervisor George Serrano, who attended the ABG meeting, said of the SIP session: “I think that it is great that the organizations—the Orange County Partnership and the ABG—are coming together because we have to have smart development. It is good to develop, but being smart is getting all the parties together. That is the best way.”

He added that good communication with the public is important so that all parties know what could be developed at a particular site. In addition, the development should conform to the available infrastructure so that an area is not over-built.

Lavelle also noted that the Orange County Industrial Development Agency is undertaking a “Shovel Ready Initiative.” IDA CEO Bill Fioravanti noted that the IDA issued a Request for Qualifications back in April and received five responses. The IDA at its Aug. 17th meeting selected Delaware Engineering, which is headquartered in Albany and has an office in Goshen, to coordinate the program. According to the RFQ, The Shovel Ready Site Evaluation project is aimed at creating the link between infrastructure, zoning, land use and economic development opportunities in a cost-efficient manner that maximizes the economic benefit of potential projects involving both re-use of existing buildings/parcels as well as expansion of service areas. The agreement with Delaware Engineering calls for the firm to engage in data gathering, land use and zoning analysis and GIS Mapping analysis.

“Based on results from the analysis portion of the study, recommendations regarding infrastructure management and provision will be developed with an aim at maximizing the economic development potential of the identified sites,” the RFQ states. “As appropriate, a preliminary cost estimate for recommended capital improvements will be developed.”

Fioravanti added that the IDA plans to also work with the Orange County Partnership to identify properties it might invest in, similar to the highly successful adaptive reuse of the former jail property in Warwick.

The Orange County Partnership’s Eckert told Real Estate In-Depth that since the ABG session the Partnership has tentatively scheduled further municipal sessions. He also shared what lies ahead once the site list is complete.

“We’re starting to develop a list of sites that can potentially accommodate manufacturing-centric industry clusters. Once our list is complete, we’ll be developing a comprehensive attraction strategy,” he said. “The data and strategy will put us in a proactive position to chase food and beverage processing, life sciences/Pharma, and clean energy product manufacturing/advanced manufacturing.”

He added, “We know where we have infrastructure—but also, we know where we don’t have infrastructure. This information is powerful, as we can potentially work with communities to improve infrastructure for economic development purposes. The program is about laying the foundation (no pun intended) to win dynamic projects within the strategic sectors we prioritize in the program.”

The launch of the Orange County Partnership’s SIP, as well as the Orange County IDA and the state’s shovel-ready programs come at a very opportune time. OCP President Halahan pointed to a recent Wall Street Journal article that revealed that American companies are on pace to “reshore” or return to the U.S. nearly 350,000 jobs this year. The Reshoring Initiative, which issued the report, stated that the returning jobs would be the highest number on record since the group began tracking the data in 2010.

Over the past month, dozens of companies have said they had plans to build new factories or start new manufacturing projects in the U.S. Idaho-based Micron Technology Inc. announced a $40-billion expansion of its current headquarters and investments in memory manufacturing. Ascend Elements said it would build a $1-billion lithium-ion battery materials facility in Kentucky. South Korean conglomerate SK Group said it would invest $22 billion in a new packaging facility, electric vehicle charging systems, and hydrogen production in Kentucky and Tennessee.

“We think it’ll be a long-term trend,” said Jill Carey Hall, U.S. equity strategist at Bank of America Corp. “Before COVID there was…a little uptick but obviously COVID was one big trend and you’ve seen a continued big jump up this year.”

Earlier this year, New York State launched a major initiative called “Fast NY.” Through Empire State Development, Gov. Hochul’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget will make up to $200 million available to the new FAST NY grant program to develop sites that will attract high-tech manufacturing, particularly semiconductor manufacturing, warehousing, distribution and logistics businesses to the state to jumpstart New York’s shovel-readiness and increase the state’s attractiveness to large employers.

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