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New leadership at Metroplex in Schenectady

 Jayme Lahut
After more than two decades as Executive Director, Jayme Lahut has retired from the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority.

Afer more than two decades as Executive Director, Jayme Lahut has retired from the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority. Metroplex chair Ray Gillen says Lahut has led the authority since November 1999.

"Jayme came to Schenectady at a point when the community was in severe distress," Gillen said. "The downtown was arguably the most depressed downtown in the state. The community was suffering from very severe economic distress. Jamie really laid the groundwork for recovery, just by putting in a strong foundation and Metroplex and really helped get the Proctors project going, the major $40 million Proctors expansion; helped land the MVP insurance deal, which brought 900 employees to downtown. Those were two very high-profile signature wins early in his tenure that really helped spur the comeback of that we continue to see today in Downtown Schenectady."

Lahut says Metroplex is a one of a kind state public authority.

"Because it has a dedicated stream of revenue, a portion of the county sales tax income," said Lahut. We also, Metroplex also has powers of eminent domain. The ability to override local zoning and planning ordinances, has bonding capabilities of $100 million. So it's got virtually every tool in the economic development tool chest, but it's the only one in New York state like that."

In stepping down, he says it's "time for some new energy."

“I intend on staying busy, probably will continue to provide a little bit of help to the authority," Lahut said. "But I'm also the chairman of the Capital District Transportation Authority. So that position, which I've had now for four years through COVID, has been very busy. It's been like a second job at times. CDTA is a wonderful organization, doing lots of great things for the community. I'm also involved with the county owned rink in Glenville, which is going through a two and a half million dollar expansion in 2024. I’m helping out on that. So I would expect those things will keep me busy with the things that keep me very interested and engaged.

Gillen says David Hogenkamp has been tapped to succeed Lahut.

"David is a skilled economic developer and was able to work closely with Jayme for the last 10 years. We're excited to see David pick up the reins from Jayme and continue to move the community forward," said Gillen.

Hogenkamp said "I've been here now for 10 years, wearing a few different hats. Served as a project director, so worked directly on some of our real transformational projects here, from Mohawk Harbor to the transformation of the lower State Street Neighborhood. At the same time I have also since 2016, served as Executive Director of the Capital Region Land Bank, which is administered through Metroplex to deal with the issues from vacancy and abandonment in the city of Schenectady, Schenectady County and in the city of Amsterdam."

Gillen says Metroplex has been a critical component in shaping what's now being touted as the "new Schenectady."

"We took an old Brownfield site on the river that was vacant for 50 years and built a $600 million waterfront development with the Galesi Group, which features our casino, apartments, tech office space, it's the biggest waterfront development in upstate," said Gillen. "Our downtown is continues to be revitalized. And we have strong growth in our major employers and our small businesses around the county. Most recently, GE is investing $50 million to bring a wind turbine manufacturing line to their plant in Downtown Schenectady. So these are very good positive signs that point to a continued recovery and revitalization in Schenectady."

GOP mayoral candidate Matt Nelligan reminds everyone Metroplex was created by Republicans.

"The benefits that Democrats are claiming credit for and have been claiming credit for for some time, all had their genesis in Republican philosophy and the Republican approach," Nelligan said. "I'd like to see Metroplex reform moving forward. The new leadership is a new opportunity for Metroplex to expand its mission. We need to revitalize our neighborhoods. That's the focus. It should be the focus of city government. Metroplex's focus remains almost unilaterally downtown. That focus is not enough anymore."

Democratic Mayor Gary McCarthy, seeking a fourth term, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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