During an interview with the Business Journal this morning, Westchester County Executive George Latimer said that his administration is looking to update an economic development plan which was put together in the year 2000, in order to find new ways to help business and promote economic activity in the county.
“As we update our economic development plan, we’re particularly looking for components that will deal with the very small businesses and how we can help incent them,” he said.
Latimer added that he hopes to develop new county policies that will ease the burdens of running a business. That will include examining “what we can do in terms of taxation and regulation to make their work easier,” as well as “what we have to do in the way we promote the county, which we do now for tourism and other such purposes.”
Such efforts, he said, will reveal ways that “we can help promote Westchester so we get not just in-county business from one part of the county to the other, but people who are over the border in Connecticut and New Jersey, even in Rockland and Dutchess counties.”
Latimer said that the strategy has to be that if businesses succeed in Westchester, then the entire county succeeds. “There is great strength in Westchester’s business community, small businesses as well as large businesses, but there are challenges and we have to address those challenges,” he said. “We can’t just walk away from them and say, ‘You know, it’s not a direct government responsibility’.”
Latimer spoke with the Business Journal shortly after making opening remarks at a breakfast event staged by the county and attended by local Chamber of Commerce members and leaders at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. In addition to networking, the “Big Ideas for Your Business” event included a panel discussion about incentives and opportunities available from government to local business owners.
Joan McDonald, the county’s director of operations, explained that “in some instances it’s working with them to get a local permit, in some instances it’s helping facilitate issues with the state Department of Taxation and Finance. Our Department of Consumer Protection goes after the bad actors, which we find a lot of small businesses are appreciative of — they want to make sure that we’re enforcing against the bad actors, because most of them are good actors. We also have the IDA, where we offer sales tax incentives and mortgage recording tax incentives for developers.”
Deb Milone, president of the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce, noted that the retail environment in the five communities covered by her organization continues to face challenges. She said that as more residents are brought into large and small downtowns through residential development, retailers who provide day-to-day services for them will do well, and her organization stands ready to help position them for success.
“We’re not expecting all the small businesses to know where to go for funding or for business planning. We also have at our chamber a small business development counselor from New York state coming in and mentoring businesses. Our business is to help keep business in business,” Milone said.