Hiring entity for Economic Development Director is hard to determine

Allegany County, NY, is seeking a new Director of Economic Development but it may not be readily apparent to potential candidates.

The county has posted an advertisement for the position to head a new associated department, approved last week along with other subsequent actions by its Board of Legislators, but the primary focus, shown in the solicitation accompanying this story, is directed toward the county’s Western NY Wilds tourism campaign.

Legislator Gary Barnes of Wellsville brought the branding issue to the forefront at an unrelated special Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting this week, saying he has a concern that one has to “search through (a county tourism brochure) to find Allegany County.”

Planning Director Kier Dirlam had brought a request to the committee for a board resolution to continue using Josiah Brown and New York Welcomes You, Inc., of Orange County to update marking products for the tourism effort at the cost not to exceed $19,995.

Barnes said he feels there should be a “little bit more emphasis” on Allegany County, noting that with “Western New York Wilds …. not all of it is in Allegany County.”

He said he doesn’t want to “go overboard. I just want to be able to look at it and say, ‘oh, yeah,’ this is from Allegany County.”

Current Allegany County tourism brochures, as Allegany Hope has reported previously, no longer carries a graphic for Allegany County on its covers, using only logotypes for Western NY Wilds and I Love NY.

Dirlam told the legislator that “we do try to incorporate that where we can, for sure.”

Multiple actions taken
Last week, the Board approved creation of an Office of Economic Development, an Economic Development Advisory Board, a position of director of the office, and appointed former County Administrator and Assistant County Administrator Timothy Boyde to the new position on a part-time, interim basis at a salary of $69,000 annually.

This week, the Personnel Committee approved a request to be sent to the full board for establishment of a position of Deputy Director, although county officials they aren’t yet intending to proceed with hiring for that position.

Community versus economic development
At the public hearing on creation of the positions, Allegany Hope Executive Director Casey Jones, as he had at a previous hearing in June, called for creation of a broader Community Development Director position of which economic development would be an important part.

“As has been identified previously,” he said, “(community development) components include housing, public health and safety, mental health and well-being of employees and their families, parks and recreation, libraries and information centers, general infrastructure, including broadband availability throughout the county, and many, many more.”

He said that “without viewing economic development as simply a part of an intricately woven matrix, communities and counties often end up with many vacant and abandoned buildings, and fewer jobs, such as the dilemma being faced throughout the country of many commercial and industrial buildings, shopping centers and malls, the latter often having already decimated downtowns and their communities, now struggling to stay alive and consequently becoming a blight upon entire areas.”

Having representatives of all aspects of community development at the table, instead of a focus on business, education and government only, as is proposed, “helps provide a balance for creating quality economic development,” the director said.

Jones also noted it would “appear telling that the county is proposing to spend $50,000 on an economic development strategic plan AFTER creating an economic development department. It would seem that we have the horse trying to catch up with the cart.”

He discounted an approach of starting a process and attempting to grow it without a plan, saying he has seen “many organizations which no longer exist because they started something but never focused on addressing the overall issue.

The director said one bright spot in the proposal was designation of Boyde as an interim director for the purpose of aiding in transition, due to his government human services background, expressing hope that the “current narrow viewpoint will be broadened out to enable county efforts and expenditures of millions of dollars in taxpayer dollars to be beneficial and sustainable on a long-term basis.”

First steps
Legislator Deborah Root of Scio, chair of the Planning and Economic Development Committee, prior to board approval of the new positions, said that she was “giddy” about the pending action, saying it has “been very long in the making.”

She said she believes it is “one of the first steps that will be very crucial as we move forward with the county and economic development.”

Barnes remarks are available at https://bit.ly/3fPmXGO, starting at about 2:35 minutes, with Jones’ full comments and recommendations at https://bit.ly/3ef9dEM, starting at approximately three minutes.
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