Growing up just outside of Amsterdam, Shelby Schneider saw firsthand the immediate and real-life consequences of a negative economic event. “A lot of people in our community worked for GE Power Systems,” she says. “When the company would downsize or shift business to different states, you’d see the impact on the local community.” It was that experience that got the Skidmore College graduate started on a career in economic development. Today, Schneider is the president and CEO of the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership (SCPP), a publicly funded organization whose mission is to secure jobs and capital investment in Saratoga County by attracting new businesses and helping the ones that are already here grow.
“First and foremost, our job is business retention and expansion,” Schneider says. “It’s the same kind of concept that works with businesses: It takes you a lot less time, energy and money to keep the customers that you have than it takes to actually go through the process of attracting a new customer.” In practice, that involves making sure local businesses have the resources they need to operate—a job that kicked into high gear when COVID hit last March, just two and a half months into Schneider’s tenure as head of SCPP. Over the past year, SCPP has been making sure Saratoga County’s businesses, both small and large, know about the grants and programs they’re eligible for. SCPP has also been collecting data on the challenges the county’s businesses are facing and providing it to the policymakers in charge of creating said grants and programs.
The second part of Schneider’s job is bringing in new business to the area. That involves making Saratoga County look like an attractive place to open a business in addition to actually making Saratoga County a good place to open one in. “In the business attraction game, it’s a lot easier to work with a community that can offer predictability, that has infrastructure in place and whose planning process is relatively predictable, because time is money for a business,” Schneider says. “We are working actively to prepare the environment and prepare the product, which is our communities in Saratoga County.” One example, which Schneider cites as a highlight of her career, was when semiconductor company AMD committed to building the Luther Forest Technology Campus (i.e. GlobalFoundries) after two-plus years of municipal meetings and marketing the location. Since it opened in 2010, that project alone has created more than 3,000 jobs and brought in $15 billion–plus in capital investment.
Luckily for Schneider, the City of Saratoga’s rich history, location at the foothills of the beautiful Adirondacks and world-class brand (namely, those iconic blue Saratoga Spring Water bottles) make it an easy sell to businesses. But those assets aren’t necessarily enough: The city needs organizations like SCPP, the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation and the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, to make sure it stays the vibrant, economically well-rounded community it is today. “It’s wonderful to have a downtown that has businesses and shops, and that is thriving,” Schneider says. “It makes up the character and complexion of your place. But if you don’t take care of it, it will go away.” And it’s people like Schneider who are working behind the scenes to make sure it doesn’t.