Fulton County Development strategy could be catalyst for future success

Looking north on the Great Sacandaga Lake from the Northville Bridge. The lake will play more of a quality of life role in Fulton County in years to come, according to the county’s new development strategy. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a four part series about Fulton County’s new development strategy.

JOHNSTOWN — This is an exciting time for Fulton County government and the citizens it serves.

Officials say the county’s new development strategy — released publicly this past week — might be the catalyst for many future large business success stories in the county.

Fulton County in March 2016 commissioned Troy-based River Street Planning and Development in a $150,000 agreement to complete the development strategy. The 10-year plan represents a blueprint for fiscal progress in the county for years to come. Contributing monetarily to the project were Fulton County, National Grid, and the Empire State Development Corp.

The purpose of the development strategy is to create a vision of where Fulton County wants to be by 2027 and identify a strategy on how to achieve it.

“The county is fiscally challenged,” says longtime, retired Fulton County Planning Director James Mraz. “To grow those revenues, you need land development. It’s a long-term plan to grow Fulton County.”

He said the document basically represents a “vision and a strategy” for the next decade.

“We’re hoping that is the impetus that will drive private industry into the county,” Mraz said.

River Street’s final document and work includes: a county profile, marketing videos, marketing brochures for development areas, a county housing strategy, identifying retail strategies for retail trade areas, downtown redevelopment, and information on a proposed regional business park and municipal comprehensive plans. The report also includes a color profile to be used in promotional and marketing materials, and other bits of existing information about the county, including graphs, tables, charts, maps, photos and images.

Mraz, now a county consultant, said the county worked closely with River Street to develop the final development strategy. But he said the county’s effort to create more opportunities for its residents goes back earlier than the Troy firm’s involvement.

Fulton County is increasingly relying on property and sales tax revenues to support the county budget. Officials concede that the county’s property tax rates are too high. The county desires to maintain or decrease rates. But to do so, officials say “growth and development” is needed to grow the property tax base and grow retail sales.

County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said the development strategy will take past county summits and reports the county held and completed the last 25 years and incorporates all data into useable information for the future.

“What it really does is it pulls together things we’ve done in the last decade or so,” Stead said. “I think it pulls it together in one plan or master strategy.”

Among purposes for the development strategy is a document to create strategies on how to develop new housing to grow tax base and grow retail sales. County officials also hope the plan can attract private investment. The county feels developers invest into communities that have a vision for where they want to be and a strategy on how to achieve that vision.

Stead said the planning department is hoping the strategy will result in implementation of a “matrix,” or spreadsheets of valuable information that foster specific plans for groups to work together to get projects accomplished in a focused way. The hope this time is the new development strategy won’t gather dust.

“Sometimes, with these reports, there’s a lot that gets done and they end up being on a shelf,” Stead said.

Stead said Fulton County now has a useable document that many groups can follow up on. He said the Board of Supervisors can now work closer with groups such as the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency to get more accomplished.

Included in the development strategy is a vision statement and Fulton County profile.

County promotional materials, in part, read:

“By 2026, Fulton County, N.Y. is a POSI+IVE it will be a premier place to invest, work, start a business, own a home, raise a family, vacation and retire. Our quality of life, vibrant atmosphere, healthy lifestyles, friendly neighborhoods and scenic lakefronts will appeal to young people, families, empty-nesters, artists, entrepreneurs, local employees and downtown professionals. Fulton County will continue to be a place where one can take a 180-degree turn away from a high cost and high stress way of life toward a relaxing lifestyle with a reasonable cost of living, quality housing and well-paying jobs. Our 44 lakes, featuring the Great Sacandaga Lake, our memorable Adirondack vistas, Mohawk Valley history and diverse four-season recreational opportunities will appeal to residents and be destinations for visitors.

“The cities of Gloversville and Johnstown will be safe, welcoming and energetic places, alive with restaurants, shops, galleries, museums and entertainment venues, parks and farmer’s markets. We will live, work and enjoy life together along bustling streets lined with preserved historic buildings with magnificent architecture that offer a variety of reasonably-priced housing for residents of all ages, abilities and incomes. Outside of the cities, our towns, villages and hamlets will represent all that is good about ‘small town America,’ boasting convenient community centers and neighborhoods that are compact and walkable.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Josh Bovee

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