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Seneca County IDA prioritizes Willard site redevelopment amid economic shifts

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

The Seneca County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) is set to focus its efforts on the redevelopment of the vacant Willard Psychiatric Center campus in Romulus in 2024. Sarah Davis, the executive director of the IDA, emphasized this new direction in her annual report, attributing the shift to a slowdown in new projects due to high interest rates.

In 2023, the IDA concentrated on community engagement and long-term strategic goals, with a significant focus on the Willard property. Davis reported increased business retention and expansion visits, from 63 to 70, and noted heightened public involvement in the “highest and best use” study of the Willard site, a significant step towards its redevelopment.

The IDA’s commitment to Willard was highlighted by 12 task force meetings, extensive public participation, campus tours, and an investment of $147,000 in the site. Additionally, the IDA finalized financial aid for three solar projects in 2023, expected to invest $22.1 million and generate 13 megawatts of electricity with minimal job creation. Looking ahead, Davis outlined the IDA’s 2024 goals, which include fostering community collaboration, strategizing countywide site development, supporting existing businesses, and resolving at least five business expansion or attraction projects.

In other developments, the IDA board unanimously endorsed a revised agreement with del Lago Resort & Casino’s owner, Churchill Downs Inc., adjusting job creation metrics linked to IDA financial assistance. This amendment reflects the casino’s current revenue and employment realities, offering a scalable employment commitment tied to gross gaming revenue. Davis noted this approach ensures both transparency and accountability, while adapting to the state’s gaming market conditions. The board’s decision underscores a pragmatic approach to supporting local businesses amid evolving economic landscapes.