County Executive Ryan Announces Completion of New County Economic Development Strategy

Ulster 2040 Working Group’s Report Calls For Building “People-Centered Economy,” Targets Investments in Key Economic Clusters

KINGSTON, NY – Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan announced today that Ulser 2040, a twelve-member group of business and community leaders from across the County, released their report. The findings, delivered a year after County Executive Ryan established the group, is intended to guide and focus economic development investments by the County and its partner agencies. The report comes in advance of the County Executive’s 2021 Executive Budget proposal on Thursday, setting the stage for several new programmatic and capital investments. County Executive Ryan states that the report lays the groundwork for Ulster County to build a “People-Centered Economy.”

“Our Ulster 2040 report paints a vivid picture of the enormous potential we can achieve if we really do the work to put people back at the center of our local economy,” County Executive Ryan said. “This report outlines a bold vision for us to emerge from one of the most difficult years in living memory with a stronger, more equitable, and more resilient economy. Witnessing firsthand the grit and ingenuity of our businesses and our residents during the COVID pandemic, I am tremendously optimistic and excited about the future we can build if we all continue to work together and take care of each other.” 

The report identifies four primary industry clusters that are seen as promising targets for growth in Ulster County, based on historical and regional successes, and are also in alignment with the community’s values. The “Makers and Creators” cluster covers a wide range of businesses that share a common bond in their passion for creating things, including artists, musicians, designers, manufacturers, digital media producers, and software developers. The “Agriculture, Food and Beverage” cluster encompasses all the local businesses engaged in putting food and beverages on our tables, including growers, food and beverage processors, distributors, wholesalers and retailers. The “Healthcare and Wellness” sector covers our hospitals and other medical providers, but also includes childcare, senior care and holistic wellness businesses. Finally, the “Clean Energy and Environmental Protection” cluster leverages our tradition of protecting our natural resources by prioritizing the growth of businesses in the emerging green economy, including energy installers, specialized manufacturers, building efficiency retrofitters, green tech companies, and research and development in environmental science and clean energy. 

In addition to recommended investments across these four sectors, the report also highlights the importance of overall community development to help ensure Ulster County’s economy can remain competitive. It calls for broad investments in new, 21st-century infrastructure including housing, education and training, transportation, broadband access and other community development projects. These investments are not only important for improving our quality of life, but also for the ways in which they contribute to the success of our economy by improving opportunity and prosperity for all residents.

“Our experience in 2020 shows us how important it is to care for one another,” COO at Ellenville Regional Hospital Ashima Butler said. “This report extends that concept into our economy by calling for greater equity, which reminds us that our economic development priorities should be focused on improving the lives of our residents.”

“Throughout history and across the nation, our economies have relied on exploitation, usually of people of color and new immigrants,” Founder and President of TRANSART & Cultural Services, Inc. Greer Smith said. “When some people struggle to feed their families, while others count their fortunes in the billions, we have to recognize the fragility and unsustainability of that system. I’m glad that here in Ulster County we are brave enough to imagine a different way.”

The Working Group’s members included Cheryl Bowers, President, Rondout Savings Bank; Ashima Butler, VP & COO, Ellenville Regional Hospital; Scott Dutton, Founder & Principal, Dutton Architecture; Matt Igoe, Rondout Valley Growers Association, Rosendale Town Board; Kale Kaposhilin, Radio Kingston, HV Tech Meetup, Moonfarmer; Arif Khan, Founder & Owner, Hoot Owl Restaurant; Nels Leader, CEO, Bread Alone Bakery; Chris Marx, AVP for Workforce, Economic Development & Community Partnerships, SUNY Ulster; Stacey Rein, President, United Way of Ulster County; Arnaldo Sehwerert, Regional Director, Mid-Hudson SBDC; Rev. Dr. Gregory Simpson, Pastor, Nauraushaun Presbyterian Church and STEM Education Consultant; and Greer Smith, Founder & President, TRANSART & Cultural Services, Inc.

Tim Weidemann, the County’s Director of Innovation, along with Evelyn Wright, Deputy County Executive, and Lisa Berger, Director of Economic Development helped guide the group through a twelve-month process that included two public informational meetings and over a dozen working group meetings. The group reviewed and discussed past economic development plans and studies, including several recent reports that point to common challenges that many communities across Ulster County and the region are facing: rising cost of living, coupled with declining real wages and a perceived lack of meaningful career opportunities for both young people and older displaced workers.

The full Ulster 2040 Working Group Final Report is available to download at County Executive Ryan will present his 2021 Executive Budget at 11am on Thursday, October 1st.