Three years ago when I was running for office, I described my goals for Rockland as a three-legged stool.
Our core priories were and – still are – stabilizing Rockland’s finances, preserving our quality of life and, critically, making Rockland work again.
When I became County Executive, the unemployment rate in Rockland County was 5.8 percent.
I am happy to announce that as of January, our rate is now down to 4.3 percent – a drop of more than 25 percent.
Interestingly, the unemployment rate in Rockland County is lower than any other county in the Hudson Valley, including Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster or Sullivan.
I don’t think so. What we are seeing reflected in the low unemployment numbers is the promise I made to revitalize this county.
We have worked hard to create an atmosphere where businesses thrive. We are a county where businesses want to be and want their employees to live.
Who would want to locate a business in a county where double-digit tax increases, a bloated and inefficient government and a free-wheeling tax-and-spend culture are the norm?
That is what was when I walked in the door three years ago. No longer.
Under my watch we have actually cut county spending by 9 percent – saving $67 million. We stopped the endless tax-and-spend cycle and stayed within the very strict state-mandated tax 1.17 percent tax cap.
We have reorganized our county government for maximum efficiency – abolishing jobs that are no longer relevant and creating new ones that are. Along the way we have reduced the size of our county government 22 percent.
Lower taxes lead to more economic growth. And we have taken strong steps to encourage that economic growth.
We have put out the welcome mat for clean, environmentally responsible businesses that respect the quality of life people in Rockland County enjoy.
Look at Urban Electric Power, a new company located on the grounds of the old Pfizer property in Pearl River.
That site was attractive to them as they develop their business manufacturing rechargeable zinc-manganese dioxide batteries for stationary energy storage applications.
We didn’t just welcome them to Rockland County. We helped them apply for and win a $1 million grant through the State Regional Council to continue to grow and create jobs.
That’s not the only company finding a home in Rockland County.
Look at Warby-Parker, which makes and sells designer eyeglasses. The company recently opened a manufacturing facility in Sloatsburg and is hiring to fill 128 new jobs. They were also helped by a package of tax incentives.
Other companies are either starting, moving or expanding their business here.
Streit’s Matzo is now in Orangeburg. Golden Krust is investing $37 million world headquarters in Orangetown. We kept Celtic Sheet Metal, which moved but stayed in Rockland County.
We worked with the REDC, Empire State Development, the towns, the Chambers of Commerce and the RBA to make sure that those businesses found or kept a home in Rockland.
By bringing wealth to Rockland, we form a strong economic foundation that stems the tide of increasing property taxes on homeowners.
Collaborations and partnerships between the county and other community groups are helping us match people who are looking for jobs with employers.
Last week, Lucy Redzepowski, Rockland’s director of Economic Growth and Tourism, joined officials from Rockland BOCES at a statewide conference to highlight a collaboration that helps young people get jobs.
The program, Youth Connections, involves a partnership between the Workforce Development Board of Rockland County, Rockland Community College and Rockland BOCES.
The program helps young people who are out of school get employment and training services including work experience that leads to a successful placement. It also helps young people who are still in school with career planning and tutoring services.
On April 6, I will be at Rockland Community College for the 19th annual job fair. More than 100 employers ranging from large companies to small start-ups have already committed to being there.
Our goal? That no one who is willing and able to work has to be without a job in Rockland.