Westchester County: Expensive But Plenty of Smarts

Westchester County SealLaurence Gottlieb, has been on the job as Westchester County’s new Director of Economic Development for just the past  9 months, but he summarizes his situation as being “ahead of target” particularly, says Gottlieb, since the County has been “relatively quiet” about the advantages it has over other NY counties when it comes to starting, relocating, or expanding a business. Until this assignment, Gottlieb had been Managing Director, handling corporate campaigns at Burson-Marsteller in NYC, and before that, he was Director of Corporate Communication Entergy Nuclear in White Plains, New York.

Gottlieb outlined the three things that all businesses look for when considering moving to a new location.   First, the cost of any new land or real estate must be assessed.  Second is the cost of labor and what kind of labor pool exists in the proposed area and third, the cost of energy that is generic to the new area must be considered. Most business people would agree that Westchester has been classically at the head of the expense list in all three areas.  However, Gottlieb has turned what might seem to be a major disadvantage for the County into a major advantage. To start this process, he has begun a first-time advertising campaign in local business publications to outline what Westchester offers to any business starting up, expanding, or moving to the area.  Uniquely, the Westchester County resident labor pool is 45% bachelor degrees or higher.  The comparative figure for NY State is 37% and nationally the figure is 27%.  Additionally, the area has some of the nation’s top K-12 schools, plus close proximity to some of the nation’s top colleges and universities.

Mr. Gottlieb said that the first phase of the new campaign in promoting Westchester as an “intellectual capitol” will be aimed at the county’s obvious strengths in the area of bio-technology which has gained a major presence in the area with over 60 companies calling the lower Hudson Valley home. Other important industries in the area are those that are in close proximity to the NYC financial district, the healthcare industry and the environmental technology industry.  Each of these business areas demands a very well-trained work force.  When it comes to Tarrytown and environs specifically, there are already several bio-technology corporations that are major employers of top talent.  Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, with some 1500 employees, Progenics and Profectus are all located in the office park near the Tarrytown lakes. Closer to the Village on Benedict Avenue are Bayer and Siemens, each with large employee ranks.

To quickly strengthen Westchester’s reputation as a strong repository of talent and brain-power, Gottlieb has been building what can be described as a “network” of executives and businesses that deal in developing personnel for local businesses.  His network includes a relatively new partnership with Westchester Community College’s  Professional Development Center which provides training for some of Westchester’s largest companies.  “Now, more that ever, workforce training is a critical component in measuring Westchester’s viability as a major business center,” summarizes Gottlieb concerning the partnership. For those wishing additional information on the Development Center, the number at the school is (914) 606-6638.

In yet another new activity for Westchester County, a new website has been developed: www. thinkingWestchester.com.  Several pages in the website provide information about procuring County government contracts, financing and tax incentive programs, how to conserve energy, and finding the perfect office space.  Additional pages help connect fledgling entrepreneurs with the Small Business Administration and the New York State Small Business Development Center.

The timing of all this, i.e. in the middle of a recession, could  be questioned, but given the long-run nature of developing Westchester’s business activities, this affects all of the County, as well as many of the villages and towns in the Tarrytown area. The timing of Gottlieb’s new advertising campaign, plus his emphasis on positioning the county as NY State’s “Intellectual Capitol,” couldn’t be better.  Being next to NYC has not been the problem that many thought it could be in a recession. The financial community has been quick to recover and many other new businesses are starting to develop. In fact, according to recent statistics, 80% of the County’s businesses are made up of five people or less.  

For further information on relocating or expanding to Westchester County, one can be in touch with the Westchester County Office of Economic Development, l48 Martine Avenue, Room 901, White Plains, NY 10601.
(914)-995-2963; Fax: (914) 995-3044;  westchester gov.com.

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About the Author: Arnold Thiesfeldt