Open for Business

Dutchess County, NY
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Dutchess County, New York offers residents, businesses and visitors a flavor all its own. Located north of Manhattan, the county is an affordable and convenient Upstate New York escape from the city and has something to offer to everyone.
In 2013, Dutchess County was recognized by National Geographic Travel magazine as one of the Top 20 Best Places in the World to Visit. It continues to develop, based on the area’s rich history and its multitude of assets.

Several economic development organizations and community groups have come together, sharing resources to make this an ideal place to be, and Th!nk Dutchess is leading these economic development efforts. Th!nk Dutchess is a partnership of local government, educational institutions, economic development organizations and business associations working in accordance with a county-wide economic development strategy for business attraction, retention and expansion.

Th!nk Dutchess is working for the economic benefit of the county, by finding ways to increase job opportunities and investment. By strengthening the economic foundation of the county, the efforts of the partnership are simultaneously improving the quality of life and putting the county on the map.

The efforts have resulted in a diversified economy according to Chief Executive Officer of the Dutchess County Local Development Corporation Sarah Lee. “We are not reliant on one particular employer. We’re shielded to that. We have very strong representation from a lot of the different industries like education and health services, manufacturing, transportation and utilities, government, leisure and hospitality.” She stated that education, health services and manufacturing were the top industries.

Top employers include Gap Inc, IBM, Global Foundries, Health Quest and MidHudson Regional Hospital of Westchester Medical Center as well as local school districts and Vassar and Marist Colleges. The presence of a robust manufacturing sector makes the county unique in the Hudson Valley region as it is the only county in which manufacturing is one of the top two industries.

Having an effective education sector has worked in Dutchess County’s favor. It has contributed to job growth and the quality of life. Local educational institutions have played a role in workforce development initiatives that are tailored to the needs of local business, and the county enjoys a highly-educated and skilled workforce as a result. “One of the organizations that are part of the Th!nk Dutchess network is our local community college which developed professional development and continuing education classes targeted towards this community.”

It has a substantial transportation network including rail, bus, air and marine transport on the Hudson River. The infrastructure supports local industry, commerce and tourism, further strengthening the local economy.

Amtrak stations in the hamlet of Rhinebeck and Poughkeepsie are served by Empire Service trains and other trains on that line. Poughkeepsie also serves as the terminus of the Hudson Line of the Metro-North Railroad.

Dutchess County benefits from its access to Interstate 87 and Interstate 84. It is within a six-hour drive of 68 million U.S. and Canadian customers, 21 percent of American manufacturers and a $227 billion retail sales market.

The county is home to Stewart Airport for commercial service; Sky Park Airport, a public use general aviation facility; and the Dutchess County Airport. The county airport is only twenty-two minutes away from Manhattan by helicopter and is a critical component of attracting development to the county.

“We’re not looking for commercial traffic – mostly private, small and mid-size jets,” said Assistant County Executive for Economic Development Ron Hicks. “We have a total tax-free environment at the airport right now.” Dutchess Community College has expanded its aviation curriculum to include aviation maintenance, and a lab has been established at the airport to support these efforts.

“People find it convenient to live and also work in Dutchess County,” stated Hicks. “The people are being priced out of Manhattan and the Five Boroughs. Where Brooklyn, at one time, was undesirable and dangerous, Brooklyn is now trendy and expensive, and people and businesses are being priced out.”

Education and health services have undergone major expansions including Vassar College, Marist College and the Culinary Institute of America. Together, these investments have totaled hundreds of millions of dollars in construction. Hicks said that Vassar Hospital is currently in the planning and permitting stages of a $450 million expansion.

Ground has been broken on a residential development in Amenia. Silo Ridge will be a nearly $500 million luxury resort community with 245 residential units, an eighteen-hole golf course and many other amenities. The development is expected to create 3,000 jobs during construction and 200 full- and part-time permanent positions once completed.

This development is welcomed by many residents in the eastern part of the county after the shuttering of two state-run facilities which resulted in the loss of well-paying jobs in the region. The 1990s were particularly hard on the area with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs between these closures and the reduction experienced at IBM.

The county has identified opportunity in repurposing old buildings to take advantage of the growing demand for data centers. Significant investments associated with the centers and the secondary and tertiary support of information systems are desirable for the community.

County government is an active partner in economic development efforts. It has streamlined the permitting and review of projects to strengthen its commitment to creating an environment in which business can flourish.

Dutchess County is acknowledged as a top food destination and serves as part of the geographic region that feeds New York City. Its solid agricultural foundation includes maple syrup from Crown Maple – for which the region is known. Residents and visitors can also sample the offering of the county’s wineries, distilleries and farms.

Its farms, flavors and products have been featured by kitchenware company Williams-Sonoma and the county has been selected as gold award winner of the National Tour Association’s Courier Magazine Distinguished Dozen, 2015. Dutchess County was recognized as the magazine’s favorite culinary destination.

Part of this may be due to the county being home to the Culinary Institute of America. “We have some really good restaurants here that rival those in Manhattan,” Hicks stated. “It’s a really great place for foodies.” Dutchess County serves as the ideal Upstate New York weekend getaway location with a number of world-class dining opportunities. Another key draw is the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. Home to the second largest county fair in New York State, the Fairgrounds also boast events such as Country Living Magazine’s County Living, antique and art fairs, car shows, and agriculture shows including the Sheep and Wool Festival.

To address the need for higher-end accommodations, the first phase of construction is underway on what will be the Bellefield at Historic Hyde Park. This luxury hotel is being built across from the Culinary Institute of America and would support the local tourism industry while creating hundreds of jobs in the community.

The $100-million, mixed-use plan’s initial phase will include two hotels plus retail services and amenities including a conference center, a restaurant and loft spaces above the retail offerings. Future plans include the addition of more than five hundred housing units that would bring the overall investment into the vacant property to over $500 million.

The county offers arts and culture and is home to rich history, natural scenic beauty and outdoor recreation, festivals and so much more. Golfing, biking, hiking, boating, fishing, swimming, antiquing, can all be done here. Both residents and tourists can enjoy the Dutchess Wine Trail, adventures along the Appalachian Trail and waterside activities along the Hudson River. The Walkway Over the Hudson is a 1.28-mile-long pedestrian bridge that is the world’s longest of its kind and soars two hundred feet above the Hudson, making for an unforgettable experience. The county is the scenic backdrop for the experience of your choosing.

Dutchess County is home to the Bardavon 1869 Opera House, the oldest continuously-operating theater in New York State. It features music and arts programming at Bard and Vassar Powerhouse summer theater workshops. There are also landmarks such as the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum near Roosevelt’s home in Hyde Park.

The inclusive, welcoming community recently played host to the Special Olympics for New York State. It presents many events like the annual balloon festival and dragon boat races.

Key to the success of the economic and community development strategies has been partnership and collaboration. “That partnership and working cohesively together to provide support really creates a business ecosystem that supports smart business growth and entrepreneurship,” said Lee.

“Partnerships are only possible with the right personalities,” Hicks added. “It’s all about building partnerships and focusing on working across aisles to accomplish our goals together. It wasn’t easy. It did take time, and many personalities have changed, but we have a really good group of individuals leading all of these organizations that are working together as a team.”

The group will continue to focus on community improvement initiatives while supporting smart redevelopment and growth. There is an extensive waterfront renewal strategy in the works, and Beacon and Poughkeepsie will only continue to become more attractive communities to young people and entrepreneurs who want an affordable quality of life.

The county is coordinating efforts to secure investments and expressions of interest for waterfront development. Hicks explained that the short-term goal is to attract investment and development. There are five hundred market-rate residential units in the permitting and planning stages so a great deal of investment and development is happening soon.

Dutchess County is not only open for business but ready to be called home. Whether you are in the market for an affordable, high-quality of life in the New York-Newark-New Jersey metropolitan statistical area, or you simply want to escape to the picturesque Hudson River Valley, Dutchess County has something for everyone.



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