Candidates Focus On County’s Economy

Both county executive candidates are laying out more plans for economic development and growth.

Fredonia businessman Ron Johnson, Democratic party candidate, and current Chautauqua County Legislator Vince Horrigan, Republican party candidate, have each released details for important platforms for their candidacy.

Johnson recently outlined his economic development plan.

“My approach to job creation and economic revitalization will be asset-based economic development,” he said. “We are blessed with the underpinnings and resources to be a stable and vibrant economy. Key among these assets are the top-ranked academic institutions of SUNY Fredonia and Jamestown Community College. Partnership between campuses, the state of New York and the Chautauqua County business community will be a top priority.”

Johnson said his team will commit to forging partnerships that will build off the energy of the high-tech potential of SUNY?Fredonia’s Incubator in downtown Dunkirk.

Additionally, Johnson said his team will look at the potential of the expanding science and technology programs at both colleges, as well as the innovation of faculty and the talent and enthusiasm of the student population.

“We will be certain the county and its partners are ready to take advantage of every opportunity to seek funds, create jobs and expand the economy,” Johnson said. “One such example is securing a designation for our area as part of the brand new Start-Up NY program.”

Start-Up NY is a program created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Under the initiative, businesses geared toward the academic mission of a SUNY campus would be free of sales, property and corporate taxes for 10 years if they move to or open on a SUNY campus. Additionally, the company’s employees would have their income taxes waived for the same amount of time.

“Start-Up NY promotes entrepreneurship and the creation of jobs by aligning public higher education and the creation of tax incentive communities across the state,” Johnson said. “The program will help businesses locate in a Start-Up NY community. It targets start up and expanding companies to locate in direct proximity to a state college or university campus.”

On the other hand, Horrigan places water infrastructure in the county at the top of his economic development agenda. Additionally, Horrigan outlined the role for returning veterans as job coaches.

“I believe it is essential that Chautauqua County has a robust regional water system that can support economic development by retaining, growing and attracting businesses such as food processing companies,” he said. “My recent conversations with business leaders and elected officials in the northern Chautauqua County area indicated that there is broad consensus that a regional water system is essential.”

Horrigan went on to say attracting new businesses to the county required the development and marketing of competitive advantages such as the lower cost of utilities, saying regional solutions to the county’s infrastructure investments would provide “more bang for the buck.”

As a former military man, Horrigan said returning to the county as a veteran, he found transitioning from a military career to a civilian career was challenging. Therefore, he outlined a plan to put returning veterans to work as job coaches.

“I want to put our veterans to work as job coaches in our county’s work experience program,” Horrigan said. “Job coaching is a mentoring program which helps those who are newly employed or previously unemployed successfully overcome the challenges to successful employment. This program would be patterned after the ‘Mission Continues’ program, which has been successfully piloted across the country.”

Horrigan explained the program uses the skills and experience of returning veterans to help their communities in a variety of roles, and said he sees the county program as a public-private effort, using the veterans to assist in a job coaching role, while veterans network with area employers to find a job that fits their civilian objectives.

“Over the next several weeks of my campaign, I will be reaching out to area veterans’ service clubs and not-for-profits to refine the ‘Veterans Job Coaching Initiative’ to ensure we incorporate the best ideas into the program.”