Officials still optimistic over county’s future

Fulton County Planning Director James Mraz discusses county development progress at a Site Selector Forum on Friday at the Johnstown Holiday Inn. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County officials said Friday they are striving to revitalize the local economy with efforts such as industrial parks, educational institutions, and the Smart Waters initiative.

Officials commented on the current state of the county at a Site Selector Advisory Forum Friday morning at the Holiday Inn.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Kinowski made some remarks about three site selectors who gave their insights. He called the selectors — Dennis Donovan, Jay Garner and Jim Renzas — “interesting gentlemen.” The main speakers were part of a 47-member Site Selectors Guild who size up areas for future development and work with companies to bring in new businesses.

“Fulton County the last several years has decided to get into some initiatives that are very unique,” said county Administrative Officer Jon Stead.

The county is looking to improve the tax base, he said.

“We think it’s important step — the site selector event,” he said.

Stead said the Board of Supervisors is trying to “boost intermunicipal cooperation,” and last week the site selectors visited HFM BOCES and Fulton-Montgomery Community College. The site selectors also visited business and industrial sites in the county such as Pioneer Window with county officials, as well as event co-sponsor the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth.

Stead said the site selectors represented a “broad spectrum” of geographical areas – New Jersey, California and the Southeast.

“Its been a busy couple of days,” added county Planning Director James Mraz.

He said county officials shared information about Fulton County with the site selectors and gave a “rundown” on the local economy.

“We talked about the county’s strategic location here in the Northeast,” Mraz said.

Officials discussed how the population is declining, aging, and the school age children are declining, Mraz said. The workforce is also declining, he said.

Mraz noted that 30 to 40 years ago, the glove industry dominated the local economy. Back in the 1980s, the unemployment rate was as high as 18 percent in Fulton County, he said.

But he said the county has achieved a great degree of success since then, such as 2.5 million square feet of manufacturing space created at industrial parks and 2,000 jobs filled.

“We talked about all the hard work that took place back then,” Mraz said.

Mraz said the Jump Start: Fulton County development strategy was established. He said the site selectors were also informed about other efforts.

“We talked about downtown development,” he said.

During the tour, he said the site selectors were impressed with the educational institutions, such as the P-TECH Program at Jansen Avenue School in Johnstown.

“We’re trying to stress it’s a teamwork effort,” Stead told the gathering.

He said that is evident in the Smart Waters program designed to bring more water resources to the outside area.

“There’s a risk in everything we do,” Stead said. “But we try to have new ideas.”

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

By Patricia Older

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