ONEONTA, N.Y. - Otsego Now started a series of town hall meetings in Otsego County to give updates on regional, countywide strategies for economic development.
Otsego Now is an economic development agency which includes the county's Industrial Development Agency (IDA).
At Thursday nights meeting at Oneonta Town Hall, Jody Zakrevsky, Otsego Now CEO, spoke to a room full of Oneonta residents who had a chance to ask questions and voice their concerns. Among many topics discussed, a few of the main topics were energy, jobs, housing, and the Oneonta Rail Yards.
"I think its important for us to get out and explain what we're actually working on and then to talk about what other projects or other types of clusters or other priority projects to get involve with," Zakrevsky said.
Zakrevsky says he started his series of town hall meetings in Oneonta because there have been some environmental concerns about projects being worked on, one of those projects being the Oneotna Rail Yards.
"There's been a number of concerns whether there's been enough environmental testing done on the site," Zakrevsky said. "There has been a series of engineering firms that did a detailed analysis that was approved by DEC on the water quality and soil conditions and once we finish that review, then we're actually going to sit down with residents and figure out what we want to do with the property."
Another environmental concern is energy.
"What they want to see is controlled and environmentally sensitive development," Zakrevsky said. "Its difficult sometimes to work on those projects but I think if we get support of the community to work with us we can make those things happen. Its difficult when you look at projects where you're going to be 10 to 15 to 20 years down the road, but we've got to start thinking about those and its very difficult to thing where energy is going to be in 50 or 20 years."
Housing is another topic that Zakrevsky touched on, saying that there hasn't been any new housing built in the Oneonta area in about 10 years.
"We need newer housing that we really don't have," Zakrevsky said.
Residents also asked questions about creating jobs and raising wages.
"A big issue that some of the residents raised is that they want quality of living, they want better wages for people and that's what we're trying to do," Zakrevsky said.
Zakrevsky briefly talked about the projects that are happening this year.
"Our biggest projects are to continue to work with Corning Enterprises on their $11 million expansion. We've also added this year a solar array project that is going to be built on their properties. We're in the process of working with custom electronics to see that their expansion goes through, they're doing a $2.2 million expansion. Their employment will go up to about 125 which is a significant number for our county, Corning's is at 175 so those are decent size employees."
Wednesday night, Zakrevsky talked with college students at Hartwick College’s Shineman Chapel, and a lot of the suggestions given by the students there were about tourism and attracting more people into the community.
"The other area is, what type of programs, cultural and artistic programs that we're not promoting as much as we should that would make residents and people who visit the area enjoy their experience here more," Zakrevsky said.
Zakrevsky said more town hall meetings are to come and he plans on visiting Maryland, Cooperstown, and Richfield Springs next.