Kingston Mayor Announces Business Advisory GroupFeb 2nd, 2012 | By HV Insider | Category: Featured Articles
New Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo told business leaders on Jan. 24 that he would appoint a Business Advisory Council for the city in the next week or so.
Gallo, addressing the monthly breakfast meeting of the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Kingston Holiday Inn, said the council would assist him and the city on “economic development recommendations,” including spending, taxes and consolidation of government services.
The mayor, in office less than a month, said the council would include members of the Chamber and other business professionals from throughout the city.
“I’m very excited about it,” Gallo said. “I look forward to working with the Chamber and the Business Advisory Council to ensure that Kingston does become economically vibrant, but also a model city that we can all be proud of and take advantage of the assets we have in this city to make it a model city.”
Gallo said he also wants the council to help businesses work with the city assessor to see if there is “any kind of tax relief upfront” when starting or expanding a company.
The mayor said he plans to hold city department heads accountable on spending and also touched on reforming the budget process. Calling the current system “clearly dysfunctional,” Gallo said he wants a more open and partnered budget process with the Common Council.
“You’re all professionals,” Gallo told the Chamber. “You pay big taxes. You want government to do those things and that will be a hallmark of my administration.”
Gallo said another priority would be the development of a comprehensive plan to help the city leverage state and federal grant money.
“It will be a blueprint for its economic future,” Gallo said of the city.
Gallo said he also plans to restructure the city’s Office of Economic Development to focus more on grant writing and grant administration. He noted how the city’s Waterfront Revitalization Plan resulted in money for a host of improvements in the Rondout area.
“By analogy, the same will be the result of our comprehensive plan,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon my office to restructure economic development to ensure that we are competitive in a very competitive grant-writing process.
“Without a comprehensive plan we’re actually losing in that competition,” he said.
As for economic development in the city, Gallo said the city plans to seek Requests for Proposal (RFPs) soon on the King’s Inn property in Midtown and the site of the former Uptown parking garage.
Gallo said he wants to recoup the $500,000 the city has poured into the King’s Inn site; in the interim, the mayor said the property could be used for parking for the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC), block parties and to show outdoor movies.
“What I’m attempting to do is try to generate interest in Midtown,” Gallo said.
The mayor said he has other plans for Midtown, including extending rail trails from the waterfront to that part of town. He also would like to see a farmers market similar to the one now in Uptown.
While some businesses are popping up in Midtown, Gallo said he is buoyed by the increase in digital media companies.
“We are having an influx of young entrepreneurs and artists and those involved in digital media,” he said. “It’s quite exciting and we need to encourage that influx of those young entrepreneurs and artists.”
Besides addressing the ongoing parking issue in Uptown, Gallo said development of the former parking garage location on North Front Street is crucial.
“We need to put something there to anchor Uptown and stimulate Kingston as a destination,” he said.
Gallo constantly referred to creating alliances in his speech and he stressed how much he wants the business community to be a part of that.
“There is so much homegrown talent in this room,” Gallo said. “I look around and it really is humbling. There is a lot of brainpower in this room. I need to tap into this room as a partnership.
“That includes not only business professionals and residents, it includes clergy, it includes not-for-profits, it includes citizen groups and volunteers. Together we can do it. Together we can make this a model city.”