The Westchester County Association (WCA) and the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation (HVEDC) disclosed on on June 21 that they have called off their merger talks. WCA Chairman William Harrington Jr. and Robert J. Levine, HVEDC’s chairman, issued separate statements on the decision to end the effort to merge the organizations.
Levine said, “This is a difficult decision made after significant exploration of the governance structures of the organizations and the needs of the region. At this point, we believe that we can better serve the region as an independent organization.
“It is important to note that the HVEDC Board of Directors made its decision to rescind its intent to merge with WCA because it did not want to compromise the mission of our organization. HVEDC serves as one voice for all seven counties in the Hudson Valley and will continue representing all of our members,” Levine said.
In his statement announcing that the merger is off, Harrington said, “Although the WCA and HVEDC share a common vision and mission to attract new business and innovation in our region, the nuts and bolts of integrating the two organizations became increasingly difficult with the differences in business philosophies. We continue to have great respect for HVEDC’s leadership and remain committed to working together on issues of mutual importance.”
Harrington cited differences in business philosophies that arose during the period of due diligence. He did not elaborate in his statement on just what those differences are.
Harrington said that the WCA is moving ahead with the search for a new CEO, “which we aim to be in place by late fall,” when CEO Bill Mooney plans to retire.
Leaders of the two organizations had visited the Business Journal’s newsroom on Jan. 28 and discussed plans for the merger. The WCA has represented businesses in the county since 1950, while the Poughkeepsie-based HVEDC, founded in 2003, focuses its programs in Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Ulster, Dutchess and Sullivan counties, with some programming in Westchester as well.
Longtime WCA leader William M. Mooney Jr. told the Business Journal in January that it was time for the group to think regionally. HVEDC President and CEO Michael Oates said that his organization viewed the WCA as a name known statewide, capable of strengthening the HVEDC regional efforts.
Back in January, Oates told the Business Journal: “Economic development has to be looked at as regional. You have your programming and your initiatives from your own county – and we’ll work within those parameters – but you also have to look bigger picture. If a big company lands in Westchester County, employees can come from Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess, and vice versa.”
The original plans called for Harrington, a partner at the law firm Bleakley Platt, to be chairman of the merged organization. Levine, HVEDC’s board chair and a founding member of the law firm Corrigan, Baker and Levine LLC, was to assume the role of first vice chair of the new organization’s board.
It was in October 2018 that HVEDC and WCA announced that the two organizations had formed a strategic partnership in which Mooney joined the board of the HVEDC and Oates joined the WCA board. Conversations about potential programs between the two organizations eventually turned to the discussions of a possible merger, leading to the January announcement.