Saratoga Business Report: Saratoga County: A Post COVID-19 Plan for Economic Development

February 1, 2021 Published by the Saratoga Business Report

Saratoga County: A Post COVID-19 Plan for Economic Development

To say that 2020 was challenging is an understatement. It was a year marked by a global pandemic that disrupted our economy, our global supply chains, and changed the way we live, work, communicate, and educate. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered the March recession, ending 128 months of expansion, the longest in U.S. history.

On a local level, Saratoga County’s billion-dollar hospitality sector was especially hard hit with the Saratoga Racecourse closed to fans, the lawns of SPAC eerily silent and regional conferences cancelled. These tourism shortages rippled through the county economy, reducing demand for hotel rooms by 37.6% versus prior year.

Hope and opportunity is on the horizon

2021 may be the year of a remarkable bounce-back. Pent up demand and cabin fever have consumers ready to get out and spend. With vaccines now available, and more supply on the way, this will be a much needed “shot in the arm” for hospitality, tourism, and arts. It is plausible to expect a comeback in those sectors by mid-year, and conferences and venues are starting to book up in anticipation

Opportunities for Growth
The economic impacts of COVID-19 and disruption of global supply chains is increasing pressure from lawmakers to bring manufacturing plants back onshore. The CARES ACT called for an analysis of manufacturers’ supply chain resiliencies. With available sites, infrastructure, skilled workforces, and business friendly forward-thinking communities, this creates unique opportunities for Saratoga County.

Computer Chips
As businesses and families pivoted to adjust to new realities, demand for computer chips skyrocketed and one local company may expand their Malta location to handle this growth. In June, GlobalFoundries, which is owned by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, secured an option for 66 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to Fab 8. GlobalFoundries told Reuters it could expand output at its flagship and install new equipment to take advantage of 30% to 40% of unused floor space. This would boost output within 12 to 14 months.

In a second phase, it may build an adjacent plant that could produce chips by 2024. CEO Tom Caulfield said the plans would hinge on customer demand – and could be significantly sped up if U.S. lawmakers pass a stimulus bill to bolster domestic chip manufacturing. On January 1, congress enacted the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation which authorizes federal incentives to promote semiconductor manufacturing and federal investments in semiconductor research. According to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) the next step is for leaders in Washington to fully fund the NDAA’s domestic chip manufacturing incentives and research initiatives. Doing so will make America one of the world’s most attractive places to produce semiconductor chips and Saratoga County could see new jobs, investments, and construction jobs on the horizon.

Growth in the life sciences sector is going to be a hot topic in 2021. America’s dependency on China and India for active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) has increased dramatically since the early 2000’s with over 80 percent of pharmaceutical ingredients coming from these two countries. Currently Boston is a growing hot spot in the life sciences market, but they are lacking a critical piece: real estate. Companies that make these drugs are scrambling for solutions and the Capital Region could fill that need. Regeneron has shown that this region can support their rapid growth, and Saratoga County could benefit from this next wave of domestic growth.

Warehouse Space

New market opportunities in e-commerce and last mile delivery will also create opportunities for growth in the warehouse and logistic sector. Scannell Properties of Indianapolis is poised to spend up to $255 million to construct five buildings at the Luther Forest Technology Campus and attract a range of tenants, including manufacturers, research and development companies, warehouse and distribution and final product assembly. Tentative plans call for the construction of five large buildings

To leverage these opportunities, we need a cohesive plan for economic development. If we are successful, we will attract investment, businesses, jobs, and much needed revenue to support our communities. On the federal level, additional relief could assist state and local governments and bring investment for infrastructure. Communities that have a plan in place will be best positioned to attract federal resources needed to support their efforts.

Whatever challenge our economy faces, the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership stands ready to support recovery efforts and position our economy for a better tomorrow.

Written by Shelby Schneider President and CEO of the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership