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May 16, 2013

County to lose its economic playmaker

After more than 12 years on the job, Otsego County Economic Developer Carolyn Lewis announced she will be leaving her position Aug. 9 in order to devote more time to raising her three children.

Since joining county government in October 2000, Lewis has been a central part of many of the biggest business developments that have taken place in the region, and has sought to aggressively market the region to companies looking to expand their operations.

“I’m finding that it’s more important to my family right now for me to be at home,” said Lewis, 42, a mother of children ages 5, 8 and 10.

As both the county’s economic developer and the administrator of the Otsego County Industrial Development Agency, Lewis has played a key role in the Bresee’s Redevelopment Project in Oneonta. The building at 155-165 Main St. which was once home to the department store, is being converted into commercial spaces on the first floor and dwelling units on the upper floors.

The county, she said, has an appeal to those seeking to start or grow existing businesses, and she said she hopes it can be successful in the often highly competitive business of attracting new business.

“We have a shovel-ready industrial site that has good transportation access; we have a strong work force; we have two colleges and a strong health care industry, and the downtowns in Cooperstown and Oneonta,” she said. “People really do look at the importance of the downtowns and the quality of life that they provide for the communities.”

Rep. Betty Anne Schwerd, R-Burlington, the chairwoman of the county’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, said Lewis has been a diligent and dedicated economic developer despite the fact many of her colleagues in other counties are paid far more than the $48,500 a year salary.

“If we’re going to promote economic development in this county, we have to invest more money,” said Schwerd, noting she is perhaps the most fiscally conservative member of the county board.

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