The Center for Discovery is area’s largest economic engine ever

In a 1954 newspaper article, the New York Times reported that the 538 hotels, 1,000 rooming houses and 50,000 bungalows that made up Sullivan County’s resort industry at the time contributed about $55 million to the county’s economy. Adjusted for inflation, that amounts to about $485 million in today’s dollars.

Part of The Center for Discovery’s Michael Ritchie Big Barn Center for Environmental Health and Education in Hurleyville.

Most of those who have studied Sullivan County’s history consider the mid-1950s to be the peak of its internationally renowned resort industry, and the economic impact of those hotels, bungalow colonies and other tourist venues is indeed impressive. But it is an impact that is matched, or nearly so, by a single county employer these days.

The Center for Discovery, which has been a visible factor in the resurgence of Hurleyville’s Main Street over the past several years, employs more than 1600 professionals and para-professionals on three campuses in the county and continues to grow. The Center passed the 1000 employee benchmark nearly 15 years ago, and has surpassed 1500 for more than five years now.

Never in Sullivan County’s history has one employer provided so many jobs for so long.

The Center expects to have a new Economic Impact Study completed by a reputable international firm by mid-year which will assess the sum total of its financial and societal impact on the region. Even absent that, it is apparent that its value to the area is considerably more than the tens of millions of dollars in wages and hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes it pays or the products and services it purchases, and reaches well beyond Sullivan County and New York State.

“What is more telling is the work we do every day, and the role we have assumed as a national and international leader in developing innovative care for children and adults with severe disabilities and autism spectrum disorders,” says Patrick H. Dollard, President and C.E.O. “Our strong commitment to patient care, education and research makes us a model in our industry.”

Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Vegliante is particularly eloquent when discussing the various impacts The Center has had on the town and on Hurleyville in particular. And those impacts, he says, transcend the economic.

“History tells us that in Florence, Italy, in the late 1300s a group of scientists, artists and philosophers were supported by those with means and asked to think, create and learn. What grew out of that vision was a focus on humanity, and a lifting of society out of the darkest of ages and into the light,” Mr. Vegliante says.

“In Hurleyville, thanks to the vision of The Center for Discovery and the generosity of their supporters, we are being given the ability to follow this same model. An Arts Center, with diverse cultural programming nourishes our appetite for expression and beauty. A Makers’ Lab, gives all of us an outlet for inspiration and creation. With a coordination of resources with the Town of Fallsburg, we have begun an overall rehabilitation of the rail trails, to build a linear park, nature preserve and natural art installation. Looking at the transformation of Hurleyville from a struggling hamlet to a cultural center, we can be inspired to do our parts and continue to build on this movement.

“When I think about what is happening in Hurleyville, I think about the Renaissance,”

District 6 Legislator Luis Alvarez, whose district includes Hurleyville and who serves as the Chairman of the County Legislature, also pointed out the broad impact The Center has on the area.

“I don’t think there has ever been a single larger sustained economic engine in the area than The Center for Discovery,” Mr. Alvarez said. “They have had more than 1000 employees for more than a decade now, and these are well-paying jobs with great benefits, not to mention the other contributions they make to the economy. In addition, The Center for Discovery is a pioneer in the healthcare industry and has been paramount for the community especially in Hurleyville. They are progressive and they are always looking forward. In many ways, it is like having a university in our midst. ”

Mr. Alvarez says The Center’s attitude toward its employees, such as pro-actively encouraging them to eat healthful diets and engage in physical activity, is especially significant in a county where health outcomes rank near the bottom of the state, something Mr. Vegliante also noted.

“Fallsburg, and our county in general, have their share of challenges,” Mr. Vegliante says. “We are a poor community, with many of us in declining health. Many of our residents have made poor personal choices. Unfortunately, too many fail to take advantage of schooling and trade education opportunities, and instead are living in poverty or winding up on the opposite side of the law. They can’t see the opportunities…they fail to hope. This cycle of poverty breeds addiction, unhealthy physical bodies and wasted potential. Programs like we now see in Hurleyville, that focus on health, education, arts, sciences, and most importantly, critical thinking, can be a game changer for a community in crisis like ours. They can be the inspiration for us to make our bodies healthier, our minds sharper, and our future brighter.”

Mr. Vegliante says The Center’s accomplishments “raise the quality of life for all town residents.”

He points out that The Center’s staff and the consultants it employs “represent the finest minds and talent in their field,” and when they relocate to the area, purchasing homes here and becoming part of their neighborhoods, everyone benefits.

“Medical professionals, artists, farmers, chefs and other staff are recruited worldwide and asked by The Center to join this exciting new movement within our town,” he says. “They bring their families and join our community. They earn living wages which they spend in our local businesses.

“Just as the Medici’s gave the Renaissance to the European world by setting an example and providing the spark, we must not squander this opportunity that has been given to us. The Center for Discovery has provided Fallsburg with the spark. We must support it with our inspiration, our commitment and our actions. Our commitment, coupled with our actions, will bring a Renaissance to Fallsburg.”