Griffin earns top state developer designation
COOPERSTOWN--The New York State Economic Development Council has named Steve Griffin the 2017 Economic Developer of the Year.
Griffin, president and chief executive officer of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center in Penn Yan, was presented the award at the state's economic group meeting in Cooperstown, May 25.
"Steve Griffin has achieved an enviable record of success over the past decade," said NYSEDC Executive Director Brian McMahon in a statement. "He is highly respected by his colleagues in economic development throughout the state, and by business leaders in the Finger Lakes region."
The Observer asked Griffin to reflect on a few of his top projects in Yates County and also look forward to some top priorities in the future.
Griffin noted one the projects he is most proud of is the renovation of Water Street because of the economic and visual impact it has had. Griffin said, "Water Street was one of the most unsightly streets in Penn Yan, which was a shame considering its location on the Keuka Outlet. Once we focused on it I was amazed how fast it turned around. There were so many moving parts on the different projects it will be hard to succinctly describe it. The Birkett Landing project alone could take an entire page or two of a newspaper to describe what it took to make that successful. From finding a willing developer, to creating the financing package and ultimately negotiating the successful resolution of multiple municipality disagreements, it was trying. But to see how it has now become one of the main sights in Penn Yan is really rewarding. In addition to Birkett Landing, the project included the facade restoration of the former Garrett Winery building and the renovation and build-out of Water Street Wine and Spirits, it wasn't long before Water Street Wine Bar and LyonSmith Brewing Company opened up as well. Now we have NYSEG working on the cleanup of the gas plant and are excited about the opportunities for further investment that will bring once they are completed."
Thinking about which local project may have the largest impact Griffin said the construction of the Microtel and Hampton Inn hotels will be impactful for a long time from a tourism, sales and lodging tax perspective. Their addition to the Best Western have already had a great impact in all those areas. KanPak's continued expansion has added another large manufacturer that helps from an employment (over 200 employees now) perspective and local milk purchasing. To that end, Horizon Business Park (where KanPak's main plant is located) now has over 420 employees working for the numerous businesses located there. The eventual development of the former Penn Yan Boats property will help from a tax base and a proof of the housing demand in the area. It will also lead into future developments along the waterfront, including the Keuka Outlet.
Looking at waterfront development in Penn Yan, Griffin said, "I believe we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg for Penn Yan waterfront development which includes the Outlet. As I mentioned, it seems as if the former PY Boats property development will finally start construction this year. It has been too long in development, but it's finally within reach. We believe the success of Birkett Landing, the opening of the Hampton Inn and the successful buildout of the Boats property will drive even more development along the Outlet and waterfront. I am really, really excited to see what comes next."
The labor pool in any area is key for economic development and Griffin emphasizes that priority for Yates County. Griffin said, "The labor pool priority is goal number 1, 2 and 3 right now. To help with employee attraction and retention we know we have to improve our housing supply. We are in desperate need for additional housing across all income levels. We hear from local employers nearly daily that they have employees looking for housing locally but cannot find any which affects their ability to attract new personal and hindering current employment. We are also making more of a push to get the county, and local municipalities, to start investing further in cultural and recreational activities. Residents and visitors alike are demanding this. The availability of these activities play a role in the decision factor of why people choose to live in an area. It also plays a role in how long visitors will stay in the area during their visit. Obviously keeping visitors here longer and helping attract new residents will generate additional sales and property tax revenues that would more than pay for the investment by local government into these activities. My agency is putting together some examples and ideas around this right now to present to the county in the near future. It's on us to show them that it will be worth the investment."