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May 16, 2013

County to lose its economic playmaker


“We are going to have very big shoes to fill here,” Schwerd said, pointing out that Lewis’ skills have been recognized by the Cuomo administration, which invited her to participate in its regional economic development councils.

Representatives of several businesses that have been assisted by Lewis said they appreciated her efforts to widen opportunities for local entrepreneurs.

“We’re very sorry to hear that Carolyn is going to be going,” said Larry Bennett, spokesman for Brewery Ommegang in Middlefield, one of the largest private employers in the county.

Larry Althiser, operator of Larry’s Custom Meats in Hartwick, said Lewis played a pivotal role in the launching of his business in 2011.

“If it wasn’t for the work she and her agency did, this project wouldn’t have been done,” said Althiser, who overseas both a USDA-approved slaughterhouse servicing local farmers as well as a retail shop. In two years, he said he has gone from four employees to 12. “She looked at our project and saw the potential it had for creating jobs,” Althiser said. “It’s a sad thing that she’s leaving.”

Joseph Bernier, the chairman of the Otsego County IDA, said Lewis was a catalyst who helped shepherd numerous projects, including moving Oneonta-based ultracapacitor maker Ioxus into the building that once housed the National Soccer Hall of Fame. She was also instrumental last year in lining up the IDA assistance that helped Springbrook expand into the former St. Mary’s School building in Oneonta, a structure with 52,000 square feet.

‘Those are two big places that are no longer vacant,” Bernier said.

Lewis, he said, has devoted long hours to her mission, and like other supervisors of county agencies, has gone without a pay raise for six years.

“She is just the kind of person who is really committed,” he said. “She is hands-on, and she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. I’ve seen her out lining soccer fields in spring and picking up garbage in the fall.”

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