President and CEO of Yonkers Industrial Development Agency’s Melvina Carter Helps Spur Economic Growth
Attracting new businesses and growth to Yonkers is Carter’s primary goal, which is not to say she’s focused on only one project at a time. She’s a mover and a shaker with plenty on her to-do list.
The Yonkers Industrial Development Agency (IDA) has, among all other municipalities in Westchester with an IDA, the highest number of jobs created, one of the lowest rates of cost-per-job-created, and the highest net tax exemptions. It’s also noted for being one of the most active IDAs in the entire state of New York. Furthermore, the IDA’s crown jewel, Westchester’s Ridge Hill—one of the largest IDA-backed projects in the state—has brought nearly $1 billion in investments and 3,200 permanent jobs to Yonkers. We caught up with Melvina Carter—who has been with the Yonkers IDA since 2005 and last April was appointed president and CEO—over coffee (“with cream and sugar”) to discuss the IDA’s impact on the city.
What, specifically, is the Yonkers IDA doing to attract new businesses to Yonkers and further Yonkers’ economic growth?
We have a two-pronged approach. First, we promote the advantages of Yonkers as a location. Second, we offer specific financial incentives for a business to come here, or expand if they are already here. Working with Mayor Mike Spano, we are stepping up our efforts to promote Yonkers. We are planning a regional marketing campaign in 2013 and are working with the Westchester County Association on an April 24, 2013, city showcase for developers and investors.
In addition to Ridge Hill, are there any other huge developments the IDA is eyeing, or, perhaps, already in the works?
Ridge Hill has exceeded my expectations in every way. The development has introduced a host of new retailers to Yonkers and is sure to be a regional attraction with the anticipated opening of Legoland Discovery Center in the spring. Another project involves Cross County Shopping Center, which is currently under renovation. We have just announced the development of a new hotel there. Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway continues to expand and enhance its entertainment experience and is now the second biggest revenue producer in the state. Yonkers IDA expects to assist with future plans at that site as well. In August, the IDA gave initial approvals for Yonkers Rising. This project will transform the downtown by redeveloping five properties there and adding forty live/work lofts and over seventeen thousand square feet of cafés, restaurants, and retail shopping.
How is the IDA ensuring that these developments benefit local businesses and citizens?
All applicants are asked to disclose the amount of local labor that will be utilized during the construction period. It is imperative that the IDA facilitates the inclusion of residents of Yonkers and Westchester County as a whole. We are looking to move to a more structured policy to require a local component so there is a clear ongoing economic benefit for the local businesses and residents.
What are you doing to prevent companies from leaving Yonkers?
The IDA tries to identify companies that we can help before they make plans to move somewhere else. We know other states—and countries—are trying to lure our businesses. That’s why I provide a detailed explanation of the financial assistance available to retain businesses in Yonkers. If you look at the growing number of proposals for development, especially in the downtown and along the waterfront, it’s clear that investors are seeing Yonkers as a good location for business and residential investment.
As CEO, what are your plans to help further the IDA’s impact in the future?
We have a lot of projects in the pipeline. Since my appointment in April, I’ve increased the coordination with the Yonkers Department of Planning and Development to move those along. I like projects that are planned, but I like them better when they are finished. We’re also taking a closer look at the size of property tax abatements to make sure they balance the interests of developers with those of the city’s other taxpayers. Finally, we’re in the process of implementing requirements so that developers who get incentives make a strong commitment to hire local residents during construction and that they patronize local businesses.