• Helped create 20,000 jobs
• Seen 450 companies either move here or expand
• Witnessed $3.8 billion in construction investment
• Added more than 25 million square feet in industrial and office space.
Photo courtesy of Orange County Partnership
OC Partnership President Maureen Halahan in a JetBlue Airplane at Stewart International Airport
The Orange County Partnership is on an important mission: to increase the county’s tax base by bringing in strong, new and expanding companies while also keeping existing businesses healthy. As such, Partnership President/CEO Maureen Halahan notes that her agency “never likes to say no” when it comes to coordinating economic development.
Such a can-do attitude was especially important in 2010, when the national economic situation was dire and the local pipeline was, as Halahan describes it, “lean.” Instead of retreating to the sidelines, Halahan and her team redoubled their efforts. The results were impressive: Orange County gained 530 new jobs, 20 companies either came to the county or expanded existing operations, 973,220 square feet were added to inventory, and slightly more than $80 million was invested. Says Halahan, “the entire economic development team here never worked better.”
Evidence of that claim is apparent in the county’s biggest get of the year, the arrival of President Container, which moved from New Jersey to take over the largest vacant industrial space in the county. One key factor that tipped President Container’s decision in favor of Orange is the county’s transportation system at the epicenter of the Boston-Washington corridor. Says Halahan, “our location and infrastructure helps companies solve distribution challenges.”
Prior to the Partnership’s creation 25 years ago as the brainchild of former County Executive Louis Heimbach, the individual agendas of various economic development organizations located here often put them at cross-purposes. The formation of the Partnership was a seminal change in the way the county does its economic development business; today the environment is one in which “every agency shares, works together and gets along,” Halahan says. Much of the credit for that goes to Halahan, who injects a measure of dynamism into the Partnership. She’s a tireless advocate for the county and so good at her job that she makes public relations redundant.
In essence, the Partnership is an amalgam of public and private interests, working on behalf of Orange County, the county’s Industrial Development Agency and its powerful private-sector membership. In fact, much of its funding comes from the private side, which has input into the kinds of decisions that affect the whole county.
As a public-private agency, the OCP is governed by a board of directors that includes the most prominent business professionals and governmental officials in the County. These community leaders clearly understand the value of commercial business growth.
Bringing new businesses and jobs here has a trickle-down effect that’s healthy for all and is reflected across the board.
The Partnership sees itself as a full-service agency for economic development. It has established a number of strong relationships with site selection companies and commercial real estate brokers. It also works with larger, regional agencies like the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation, which Halahan says is “the champion of the valley.” And it’s a constant partner to Orange County government, including the Office of Business Assistance, headed by James O’Donnell and the IDA under Board Chairman James Petro, as well as all of the municipalities in the county.
Those searching for a new location for a business will take advantage of the Partnership’s many services. Beginning with inventory search and site selection and facilitating partner meetings with supporting agencies to gain incentives, they also address workforce and workforce training, distribution and transportation. Relationships that the Partnership has cultivated over the years yield huge benefits for the newcomers. Some of those advantages include a streamlined application and permit process, open doors to the possibility of financial incentives and access to problem-solving advice from companies already familiar with the county.
Direct marketing aimed at small and mid-sized companies plays a role in the Partnership’s pursuit of potential clients. Currently targeted are companies in the New York metropolitan area and New Jersey. “It’s where we’ve enjoyed our greatest success,” Halahan says.
As important as attracting new business to the county is, the Partnership always has its eye trained on retention and expansion of existing operations. Marge LaPerle, in her role as Director of Business Retention/Expansion, focuses on aiding Orange County businesses, some of whom are certainly being pursued by other economic development agencies.
Meanwhile, Meghan Taylor, Director of Business Attraction, works with Halahan on the recruitment side of the equation.