The Hudson Valley is Open for Sustainable Business
The Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation (HVEDC) was formed 15 years ago by a coalition of concerned leaders from government, civic and business sectors: The regional economy was hurting and proposed solutions were not accelerating fast enough. President and CEO Laurence P. Gottlieb says the HVEDC’s core mission remains the same—growing the Hudson Valley economy through strategic business initiatives—and notes the regional economy has morphed significantly since 2003.
Q: How has the HVEDC changed to respond to the shifts in the Hudson Valley economy over the past 15 years?
A: We are a business organization, not a charity, by design. People who approach us are interested in the economy and the ecosystem, but today there’s an increased focus on “live, work and play” and how those three weave together to create our economic DNA.
We’ve become more nuanced as start-ups, entrepreneurs, businesses and business models that didn’t exist ten or even five years ago have emerged. These models are different from those, like IBM, who laid out a major footprint here. The resurgence of Kingston is one model for our future: The diversity of the populace is reflected in its businesses, and its growing tech community complements the city’s history of the arts. You have a kind of urbanization, but the city keeps its feel as the type of exurban, suburban and rural community valued by people who are seeking a greater work-life balance. Our Cluster Initiatives reflect this “Live, Work, Play” model.
Q: Were the HVEDC’s Cluster Initiatives directly related to unanticipated developments?
A: When we started talking about forming the HV Food & Beverage Alliance (HVF&BA) six years ago, there was tremendous pushback from those who thought we were focused solely on creating lower paying service jobs. But we had noticed an influx of highly educated, well-funded and skilled entrepreneurs who were making significant investments in under-utilized areas of the region. They were creating a wave of revitalization that extended into rural areas with farm brewing, tasting and production facilities, farm-to-bottle/table operations and more. They were—and then, we were—looking through a very different lens to seize opportunities.
When we finally launched the HVF&BA, the Hudson Valley as an epicenter for craft beverage production was not on the radar screen. At our first meeting at the Culinary Institute of America, about 50 people attended. We knew the Governor planned to change the way economic development dollars were invested throughout the state, and the craft beverage industry was key to this change.
The Hudson Valley has since experienced 150% growth in the craft beverage industry and is top in the state for craft beer. We’re just under the Finger Lakes in terms of craft manufacturers with an eclectic mix of wineries, farms, apple orchards and spirits producers. Increased cider production at smaller farms and the addition of Angry Orchard’s research and development facility inspired further expansion of our focus. Our annual “Beer, Wine, Spirits & Cider Summit” at the CIA is an educational event with a tasting component, unlike the vast majority which are taste events. Entrepreneurs respect that we fill their minds, not their stomachs.
Simultaneous to our investment in the Hudson Valley 3D Printing (HV3D) initiative, we were speaking with artists, inventors, architects and others who needed assistance. When we created the Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center at SUNY New Paltz, our mantra from day one was that it had to be accessible to the public and not hidden in a lab somewhere. Now, the Center is a global model for other academic institutions, and people visit from all over the world to tap into what’s established here.
You create a thriving cluster when you have a growing industry base and a tremendous number of highly skilled workers. Our other four clusters—Hudson Valley Eds & Meds (HVE&M), Hudson Valley Play (HVPLAY), NY Biohud Hudson Valley (NYBioHV) and Hudson Valley Economic Development Network (HVEDN)—each play distinct (and often interrelated) roles as well. With the growth of biotech in 2010, and some 80 Hudson Valley companies (Regeneron, Pfizer and others), we had a fantastic cornerstone. Medical devices and digital health are two industries at the intersection of art, science and engineering that we’re seeing in the NYBioHV cluster: These things collide nicely.
Likewise, with our HVE&M focus, there’s been an explosive growth rate in the need for higher education institutions to feed into healthcare jobs. We’ve been able to facilitate greater communication and opportunities between these entities.
While our clusters may seem separate, they often work in synch. A manufacturer may need to create 3D prosthetic devices or a heart model. A food and beverage facility might want a 3D prototype design for packaging or a beer tap. In our newest initiative, HVPLAY, recreational industries, gaming, amusement and tourism are producing jobs and innovative partnerships. One example is the new Resorts World Catskills, where healthcare will be offered on campus due to their large number of employees. Our HVEDN encourages business education and training to enhance economic opportunities and seeks to be a bridge between the general public and our network.
Q: What do you say to folks who insist “We need another IBM to ‘save’ our economy”? Aren’t smaller businesses and cottage industries the wave of the future?
A: The Hudson Valley is different from the way it was in the 70s, 80s, 90s or even the 00s. People feel it, though they can’t always put their finger on why. Before, the Hudson Valley had a few major employers and services that complemented those companies. The Hudson Valley was a classic bedroom community for NYC.
We hosted an event last summer, “Disrupted: The Future of the Hudson Valley Economy,” which focused on regional technologies, the gig economy and how classic models are being challenged. In the past, people got married, bought a home, had kids, and relied on downtown shopping areas. Today, there’s a rise in online shopping. There’s great interest in the types of restaurants and nearby recreational choices. Family makeups are changing. With the gig economy, artificial intelligence, robots, medical advances and other changes, we have to ask what those shifts mean for the Hudson Valley. When we spend time talking, there’s more nuanced thinking about future planning.
In the past 15 years, I’ve seen ups and downs, but never this level of powerful diversification. It gets really interesting when you consider how romanticism about the Hudson Valley has elevated it. It’s a big part of why people want to come here and why people want to keep it as it is—and congestion, environmental impacts and sustainability play a huge role. Real estate and other developers have accepted that they must seek a balance between growth and sustainable growth. Amy’s Kitchen, for instance, talked about sustainable practices right out of the gate.
Our job is to help people find a good balance between economic diversity and sustainability so the Hudson Valley doesn’t become stagnant, sanitized or romanticized. The beauty of our natural landscape is part of that painting, and when considering buildings, homes, roads, restaurants, manufacturing sites and all the rest, you have to meet in the middle.
The Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation (HVEDC) is a comprehensive resource for businesses relocating to, or expanding within, the Hudson Valley, including Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Ulster, Dutchess and Sullivan counties. The full array of HVEDC services to help businesses succeed features regional and state collaboration; data and statistics; site search consultation; and business education and training. For more information, please call (845) 220-2244 or visit www.hvedc.com.