Bridget Gibbons: Westchester County IDA's role in helping business thrive and create jobs

https://westfaironline.com/107094/bridget-gibbons-westchester-county-idas-role-in-helping-business-thrive-and-create-jobs/

Bridget Gibbons

In Westchester County, businesses don’t have to go it alone. Research has shown that the young workforce wants to live and work in small cities — cue Westchester County’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA) to provide financial incentives to make this happen. 

The IDA plays a vital role in promoting economic development and job creation in the county. Since 2010, hundreds of companies in Westchester — both large and small — have received IDA benefits for a wide array of projects ranging from expansions to renovations to new construction. In turn, these projects have produced billions of dollars in private-sector investment in Westchester County and created, attracted and retained nearly 30,000 new permanent and construction jobs.

The IDA is looking to make Westchester a destination for young people to live and work — and we are doing that by providing developers with sales tax exemptions, mortgage recording tax reductions as well as tax-exempt bonds with interest rates lower than conventional debt. These benefits are provided at no cost or risk to the taxpayers of Westchester. 

Along with attracting young talent, we also want to make sure our staple major corporations stay here. We are incentivizing them to renovate or expand their headquarters in Westchester and for this the savings are significant. For example, Danone received approximately $1.3 million in sales tax exemptions for the acquisition and renovation of office and research space for its new American headquarters in downtown White Plains. The location is walkable, new and interactive with the community — very 2018. 

Danone isn’t alone; other major Westchester companies that have benefited from IDA incentives include Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Tarrytown, MasterCard Worldwide in Purchase, PepsiCo in Purchase and Acorda Therapeutics in Ardsley. Westchester’s economic vitality is dependent on these companies, and they are part of our cultural fabric.   

We are focused on updating the county and making it appealing to a new young fresh market — part of that includes the commercial office market. This market has greatly benefited from the IDA. Old and outdated office buildings are getting a new life from developers such as Onyx Equities of New York City that completed a $4 million renovation of 1311 Mamaroneck Ave. office park, a project that received more than $167,000 in sales tax exemptions from the IDA. On a larger scale, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. received approximately $2.9 million in sales tax exemptions from the IDA for its $38.5 million renovation and reconstruction of 100,000 square feet of office space at 1 North Lexington Avenue in downtown White Plains. The bank, which is one of the largest financial institutions in Japan, moved its back office and IT operations from Manhattan to the new space, creating hundreds of new jobs in the county.   

Here in Westchester are continually looking for new ideas — we think innovation and outside the box. Sometimes, that means repurposing office properties for other uses. The former Journal News building in Harrison was replaced by a new Life Time Fitness facility. Life Time received more than $275,000 in sales tax exemptions from the IDA for construction of the 209,000-square-foot fitness center. In another repurposing project that received incentives from the IDA, developer Wilder Balter Partners converted the former Reader’s Digest headquarters building on the Chappaqua Crossing campus into 32 affordable rental apartments.  

All this talk about work — where are the workers living? The IDA is also playing a big role in the housing market. Multifamily developments receiving IDA incentives include Harbor Square in Ossining, The Lofts at Saw Mill River in Hastings-on-Hudson, The Continuum in downtown White Plains, Hudson Steppe in Ossining, Norben Lofts in White Plains, Sheldrake Station in Mamaroneck and The Collection in White Plains. 

While we are in the business of promoting business, the Westchester County Office of Economic Development is also committed to assisting minority and women-owned businesses. The County’s  Minority and Women Business Enterprise Program (MWBE) offers services to help level the playing field for companies that may not have the resources to jump start their businesses. Westchester County Executive George Latimer recently appointed a task force of community and business leaders to review what assistance is now being given and find ways to improve outreach and simplify the process for registering as an MWBE.  

In Westchester, we want to see the business community thrive. We want to see growth and we want to see change — we are taking a leadership role to drive both goals.

For more information contact the Westchester County Office of Economic Development at 914-995-2952 or visit westchestergov.com.

Bridget Gibbons is deputy director of the Westchester County Office of Economic Development. In this role, she is focused on attracting and retaining business and talent in Westchester. Prior to working for Westchester County, Gibbons was founder and owner of Gibbons Digital Consultants, an award-winning digital marketing agency. After nine years, her company was acquired by a larger marketing agency in White Plains. She can be reached at BGibbons@westchestergov.com.

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