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Economic Development Leaders Discuss Changing Economy In Virtual Town Hall

Business development leaders met in a virtual town hall on Wednesday to discuss what the Capital Region economy might look like after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Capital Region Town Hall event hosted by the Troy Innovation Garage brought together sectors across the local economy. Representatives of small business, banking, public transit, the arts, and local politicians spoke about how the COVID-19 crisis has affected them, and some offered their predictions for the future.

Ryan Silva, Executive Director of the New York State Economic Development Council, says businesses across the state are finding ways to help each other during the pandemic.

“Several of our industrial development agency members have reached out us about the ability to take some of the funds that they’ve generated, create loan programs for small businesses that may not have been able to access PPP or other SBA programs. It’s an ongoing conversation, but we view anything that our members can do to help businesses right now in their time of need is a good thing,” said Silva.

Silva says the state’s industrial development partners are finding ways to share best practices.

“An example is there was an industrial development agency out on Long Island that started issuing an incentive program to manufacturers that were making PPE or where switching over their manufacturing capacity to make PPE,” said Silva.

Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership President Shelby Schneider said many of the Capital Region’s manufacturers and high-tech companies have been deemed essential, giving the area an advantage as the economy slows from the outbreak.

Schneider said SCPP and its partners are currently coordinating with the region’s hospitality and tourism industry, buoyed by entities like Saratoga Race Course and Saratoga Performing Arts Center that could see impacts in the summer season.

“We are planning recovery now. And we’re doing everything whatever possible to make sure that retailers, when they open, they have hand sanitizers, they know best practices to ensure that their employees are safe, that their customers are safe,” said Schneider.

Bob Pasinella, Executive Director of the Rensselaer County IDA, said there’s also an effort underway to draw outside companies to the region, as the pandemic disrupts the traditional ways of doing businesses.

“I think we’re going to see opportunities and that’s where folks like  myself and Shelby and other economic developers can reach out to those folks and say, ‘Who in your critical supply chain is somebody that you see an opportunity to have them locate here in the Capital Region?’”

With downstate areas hit hardest so far by the coronavirus, there’s also a prediction that businesses and residents could relocate upstate. Maureen Sager, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Creative Economy said there may be an echo of what happened almost 20 years ago.

“People are going to be looking for places that are affordable, that are vibrant, and that are stable. And that’s what we afford people. I came up with that wave of people after 9/11 and I can say it was life-changing,” said Sager.

One trend that could continue even after the pandemic subsides: telecommuting.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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