Located in New York in the foothills of the Adirondacks, Herkimer County is one of the state’s best kept secrets. The county has long been renowned for its close-knit community and local spirit, but it is more than a fantastic place to live; it is a great place to do business.
With a growing industrial footprint, a high quality of life and an astoundingly low cost-of-living, Herkimer offers residents the benefits of small-town life with the promise of economic balance. Stephen Smith of the Herkimer County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) gave us a look at the county’s ambitious current plans and evolving future.
Manufacturing sits at the bedrock of Herkimer County’s local economy. With a wealth of skilled and experienced laborers and a uniquely advantageous energy infrastructure, the county has created progress with manufacturing in mind. “When it comes to manufacturing in this county, I really want to shout about it. It is just superb,” Smith said.
One of the area’s largest employers is the world-renowned Remington Arms company which began in Ilion, New York in 1816. This year marks its 200th consecutive year of manufacturing guns. Remington Arms is the country’s longest standing business that still performs the same function for which it was created. Employing over 1,400 staff, Remington remains at the heart of Herkimer County’s economic legacy.
Today, Herkimer County is home to several other prominent manufacturing firms such as Feldmeier Equipment, Precision Polish, Custom Tool & Model Corporation (CTM) and Precisionmatics. Many of these firms have taken on advanced manufacturing functions, and as a result, Smith sees the local manufacturing footprint changing and expanding even more drastically in the upcoming years. Due to the manufacturing, there are also dozens of ancillary businesses including machine shops, tool shops and metal fabrication plants.
When it comes to manufacturing, power costs are often one of the biggest considerations for new and growing business. Consequently, it is no surprise that the county’s pro-business electric infrastructure is attractive to manufacturing companies across the country. A large number of villages and townships have their own municipal power systems, a feature that creates significant savings for businesses.
Manufacturing companies, in particular, rely heavily on machines or automated processes. Thus, these savings are pivotal to the manufacturing growth here. These municipal power systems allow areas to control the cost of power, often bringing down the expense to as low as two to three cents per kilowatt. Against an average of eleven to thirteen cents a kilowatt when obtained from large-scale providers, business in Herkimer can take advantage of savings that lead to higher revenue.
In recent years, Herkimer County has achieved several business successes, one of which involved an interstate relocation of a growing manufacturing firm. Many businesses are seeking out the advantageous energy savings available, and further industrial growth is in the pipeline.
“Herkimer County is really accessible. We have all our bases covered: road, rail and waterways.” Herkimer sits at a junction of some of the nations’ biggest trade routes. It is located just off the New York State Thruway, Route 90 and Route 5 which runs east to west and Route 5S highway which runs north and south. Additionally, the area is ten minutes from the rail system in Utica, as well as a canal system.
The county has busy business parks that are the epicenters of the majority of the area’s industry. The existing business parks draw in traffic from across the state and, as such, several of the area’s parks were strategically located with expansion in mind. There are multiple plots available of up to 150 to 200 acres, providing businesses an easy path to breaking ground. Pair the facilities with the generous local and state incentive programs, the location and the energy savings and it is easy to see why Herkimer’s development potential is hard to beat.
In addition to land infrastructure, Herkimer County has an experienced workforce that is uniquely tailored to skilled-labor demands. “We are small, but we have a great heart and a great working ethic here. We have workers who are trained not only through our BOCES program but also through their working experience.” BOCES of Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego provides more than fifty cooperative services and programs throughout the Mohawk Valley region of New York.
As much of the local population has a long history of employment in manufacturing and related industries, the existing knowledge base in the county is a big draw for growing companies. Herkimer County BOCES program is an example of the area’s sustainable approach to applied knowledge cultivation. The program works to up-skill the local talent by introducing auto-body, plumbing, welding and electrician’s training into the public high school system. Many local businesses have worked closely with the program to train students to fill labor demands, encouraging a comprehensive, grassroots approach to job-readiness.
“The beauty of Herkimer County is just tremendous. So, whether you live here or are just visiting, it’s something worth seeing.” The northern part of the county is the area’s scenic hot spot. Home to the village of Old Forge, north Herkimer is a tourist destination for history, scenery and – most of all – rest and relaxation. Travelers from across the country visit for a range of outdoor recreation opportunities which fit with every season and taste. Its lakes, creeks and freshwater areas make it a popular place for summer water sports. Whether it is kayaking, hiking, canoeing or water skiing, the county has every opportunity for active outdoor recreation. Later in the year, the county’s foliage, skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing draws in a new group of visitors.
The population of 64,000 is spread among several villages, townships and cities which each have a distinct personality. In Herkimer County, life is affordable, but the lifestyle is rich.
Its cost of living is estimated at approximately a fifth of the cost of living in most of the nation’s cities. Herkimer offers residents the chance to live life to the fullest, without paying an arm and a leg to do so. In addition to low real estate and lifestyle costs, residents also receive the same extensive energy savings as the area’s local businesses.
Since the cost of living in the county is among the lowest in the state, a large number of young families have sought out the area to invest in their first home. “This is a fantastic place to live and raise a family.”
New residents are also drawn by the education system as it presents no shortage of quality learning. The area’s local college, Herkimer County Community College, is nationally acclaimed for its in-house sports programs and courses. In addition, Utica College, Hamilton College and several other community colleges are only a stone’s throw away.
In the end, Herkimer County’s business potential is matched only by its excellent quality of life, a point summed up best by Steve Smith when he said, “There is just so much opportunity here. It’s a wonderful place to live and do business. The city is great to visit, but this is a place to really call home.”