In an effort to revitalize Westchester County’s economy, the Economic Development Task Force, part of the Westchester County Association, announced a plan Thursday that would, among other things, tackle creating occupancy for half the 6-million square feet of empty office space here.
The multi-million dollar, multi-year campaign is known as The Blueprint for Westchester.
Developed through a strong collaboration between Westchester’s business, real estate, academic and urban communities, The Blueprint for Westchester is and will be spearheaded by the private sector. The initiative’s immediate goals are to reduce the inventory of unoccupied commercial space by fifty percent (or 3 million square feet), embark on a strong advocacy campaign in Albany for a tax cap and other business-friendly measures, and to raise three million dollars initially to staff and conduct a the first part of a campaign to market the county’s strengths nationwide.
At present, there are six million square feet of unoccupied commercial space in the county; high taxes and high labor and utility costs; aging infrastructure; and limited business incentives. In local communities, the approval process for new development often can stretch into years.
According to William V. Cuddy, Jr., Chairman of the WCA’s task force, “We in the private sector have the muscle, energy, and commitment to make change happen.” He emphasized that although Westchester is burdened with certain challenges, its strengths far outweigh its negatives. “We can overcome the problems,” he said. “We have a first-rate transportation system – three rail lines, ten parkways or highways, an airport, a county-wide bus system, and ferry system. We also have a highly educated workforce; fourteen colleges and universities; a world-class, multi-billion dollar healthcare system; and outstanding cultural and recreational offerings.”
“The advantage is that it is a lot less expensive to do business in Westchester than it is in New York City,” says Robert P. Weisz, CEO of the RPW Group. He added, “the entire real estate community believes The Blueprint is a means of turning the tide.”
“Governments need the help, energy, and vision of the business community”, said County Executive Robert P. Astorino, who also spoke at a press conference in White Plains Thursday. “We welcome this effort, which complements what we are doing in the county to promote economic development.”
The Westchester County Association (www.westchester.org) is a prominent business membership organization in Westchester County.