Site selector eyes cooperation in region

JOHNSTOWN – Regional cooperation was stressed during this week’s two-day visit by international site selector Michael Mullis to Fulton and Montgomery counties.

“You can’t market a county, you have to market a region,” Mullis said at a news conference Friday at the Holiday Inn to cap off his visit. “It’s easier to market a region.”

Mullis said he and his firm often look to “regional capability” to market a location, and this area has many positives. Mullis said he liked the former Tryon Detention Center property in the towns of Perth and Johnstown, which Fulton County wants to turn into a technology park.

“I’ve looked at many properties the state has closed,” Mullis said. “I think the Tryon property has as much potential as any site I’ve seen.”

Mullis is founder of J.M. Mullis, Inc., an independent and privately owned, professional project location specialist firm in Memphis, Tenn.

Site selectors are consultants who help businesses find the optimal location for construction or expansion of their facilities. Factors they consider include accessibility to – and availability of – customers, spaces for businesses, zoning regulations and tax incentives, along with the quality of the local workforce.

Mullis said the area has a great workforce, is served by excellent utilities and there is plenty of regional cooperation.

The visit by Mullis to the two counties Thursday and Friday was funded by the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth, the Montgomery County Business Development Center and National Grid.

CRG President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Reese declined to say how much the visit cost.

Mullis was hired to assess the ability of Fulton and Montgomery counties to attract new businesses. He toured locations that included Fulton-Montgomery Community College, area industrial and business parks and the Tryon site. He praised the CEO Roundtable group, which he called a “major plus,” for bringing together business officials to tackle economic and development issues.

A regional approach to bringing business in was spotlighted by Mullis and those who attended Friday’s news conference.

Kenneth Rose, CEO of the Montgomery County Business Development Center, said the two counties need to forget about “the borders.” Both his agency and the CRG need to do a better job of working together to market the two counties, he said.

“I think we need to take that to the next level now,” Rose said.

Rose said his county is looking at 60- and 90-acre sites to develop, but really needs a 300- to 500-acre site.

Mullis said as the area looks to generate more jobs, it should be marketed separately from the Capital Region.

“The bottom line is you have to have a product,” he said.

The area also has an opportunity to cash in on some new state programs after the start of the year, Mullis said.

“It’s exciting because one of the things we have to do is act on a regional basis,” said state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, who represents Montgomery County. “We have a lot of assets here.”

Reese said local officials are still looking at more development along Route 30A.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, who also represents Montgomery County, added, “Economic development and job creation has been a top priority in our area. I think we can work together to accomplish some of the goals we talked about today.”

Reese said the two counties’ economic development agencies are collaborating. Now, he said, the local politicians need to do the same.

“We want to bring the local governments together and have them work together,” he said.

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

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