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Carmel “Reval”: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance claims that municipal-wide reassessments are the best way to ensure that assessments are fair and accurate, and that such assessments are designed to ensure you pay only your fair share of taxes.  The Town of Carmel went 20 years or so without a reassessment, and therefore some properties have been over-assessed and some under-assessed over the years.  This is because some properties will have increased in value, while others may have decreased or stayed the same.  This is where some of the havoc has come from, especially since some things were not taken into consideration before taking on the task of a Town wide Reassessment.  Some thoughts:

  1. It is not the property owners fault that the reassessment has not been done for 20 years, and some people’s tax bills are going to nearly triple. How is it fair to expect any property owner come up with in some cases $10,000 to $60,000 more for a tax payment in 1 year?
  2. The impact of the reduction on watershed and utility property taxes should have been calculated.  Millions of dollars has been lost through an arrangement that has held us hostage to NYC.  This handicaps us greatly from building up our own rateable properties to highest and best use.  Commercial development would substantially ease the burden on area taxpayers.
  3. The search continues for balance between taxes and services.  County and town taxes are minimal, burdened with a 2% cap and state mandates.  We need to put more town money towards beautification and economic development, plus vital county services.  School taxes are exorbitant, and need a new funding model.  We should be going after CFAs and other available resources for main street revitalization and infrastructure improvements.

The Carmel Town Board should be commended for making a brave and tough decision, in most ways it is the proper thing to do and was very necessary. I just think some wise adjustments need to be made.

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, “A business advocacy group”

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CALLING ALL BUSINESS LEADERS!!

The inspiration for this week’s column came as I reflected on the brunch supporting our County Executive’s campaign. Maryellen Odell is someone that I respect, and I truly feel she cares about the business community and is passionate about the economic well-being of our county.  During the meeting, she spoke about the need to make words like sewer and infrastructure into “buzz words” as these are the biggest challenges to our economic development.  Her words prompted some thought about road blocks. People tell me every day their opinions on what should be done to make things better. Well, this is my challenge to those people: GET INVOLVED.  Get involved today, join our board, get on a committee, help write our legislative priorities for 2017. Below are some roadblocks in doing business in this county that you and I can overcome together.

  1. Communicating who you are and what you do. The chambers, tourism, EDC/IDA and the county need a streamlined process for a new or existing business to post events, grand openings, specials, sales etc.
  2. Workforce development. This is the number one issue I hear from business owners. We need training and education and one place to find out who is hiring.
  3. A hotel is so needed for us to attract people to come to our events, attractions, parks, commercial recreation, shops and dining. We have so much to offer, but people either leave the county to get away with friends and family or drive right past us seeking destinations like Beacon or New Paltz that have overnight accommodations.

These are just a few ideas that come to mind. We need fresh blood to get mobilized and ensure a great future for Putnam County businesses. We cannot sit around and complain about our elected officials if we are not willing to help ourselves.  Please…. Get involved!

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, “A business advocacy group”

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The Year of the Millennial

County Executive MaryEllen Odell’s 2017 “State of the County” address, which will celebrate the “Year of the Millennial.” The Putnam County Chamber of Commerce has been saying for years now that to attract and engage the millennial generation and anyone of similar lifestyle, we must improve a few things. Hopefully, the “Year of the Millennial” will bring some new life into the issues we have been discussing for nearly a decade as we carry the torch for those that came before us.

Item number 1 – Public Transportation: There was much talk in the current County administration about public transportation being revamped. This effort must continue, identifying locations that buses can transport people to and from and placing bus shelters at strategic locations. The public transportation system should partner with tourism experts and local businesses to bring people into the county who will shop and dine with our merchants, and attend area events.

Item number 2 – Truly Affordable Housing: We need more market rate rentals and homes available to be purchased for under $200k. This will require some cluster development and mixed use properties in downtown areas. Brewster has incorporated this into their “Envision Brewster” plan in hopes of bringing millennials from the south into Putnam County and the village.

Item number 3 – 12 to 18 Hour Commerce Districts: We need to attract businesses that would be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday past midnight, plus boutiques, galleries, gourmet shops and more. Mahopac, Brewster, Cold Spring and Patterson are ideal candidates for this type of downtown destination. Zoning would need to change, as well as adopting business friendly sign ordinances for these areas. These communities would also need improvement of traffic flow, parking and pedestrian friendliness.

This agenda takes leadership, courage and vision. I feel our County Executive is on the right track but we need to help sustain the momentum. We need to stay focused and hold our elected officials and other leaders accountable, and keep moving forward!

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, “A business advocacy group”

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Who Was The Best President?

With all the talk of the pros and cons of the current Administration taking place throughout the country, I asked friends who our best President was, especially from a business perspective.

In a lively Facebook discussion last week, some of the most popular answers were Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, and George Washington. Someone even mentioned Trump, though that would seem a bit premature!

The business community was helped by the relative stability that Ronald Reagan’s 8 years in office brought to the world. Defeating the Soviet Union without a direct conflict was a major factor, as was the regulatory and tax relief he delivered.   A major detriment, however, was runaway deficits and an inability to curb spending to the degree originally anticipated.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was mentioned for similar reasons – he held the country together through first the Depression and then World War II, and was able to institute programs which incentivized business investment and strengthened our economy. Of course, the natural progression of mobilizing for war would have had this effect anyway, but the fact is this President successfully led our nation through some amazing trials.

Abraham Lincoln wins respect and admiration for his adaptability, dedication, honesty and patriotism. He clearly wanted to preserve our Union at all costs, and had the vision to implement the end of slavery through the conduct of the Civil War.   Repercussions from this period in our history still reverberate today, and the economics of our country is still shaped by its aftermath.

George Washington was an interesting mention, given that he was the very first. People felt that the tradition of the peaceful transition of power was very significant especially given the challenges we face today.

Finally, just-departed President Obama wins admiration for his trailblazing ascent to the nation’s top office as well as the positive economic period which lasted virtually his entire Administration. There are perhaps no right answers to this very interesting question!

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, “A business advocacy group”

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The State Of Our State

Our Governor has chosen an unusual delivery for his 2017 “State of the State” message, visiting multiple sites as opposed to the customary presentation in front of a joint session of the Legislature and invited guests. Some of his proposals have garnered attention from the business community.

His signature proposal, to make state-run college tuition free for middle class families, has drawn mixed reactions ranging from overzealousness to fears of a cynical market share grab for SUNY schools at the expense of private institutions. Some point out that SUNY education is one of the best bargains available in the college world today, so why subsidize the most affordable college option? Business leaders seem to agree that increased investment in K-12 education may be less controversial and more effective – perhaps by extending the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative.

There are other, low-cost education possibilities, for example encouraging more privately-funded P-Tech programs or holding open houses at area schools so companies seeking future employees can showcase career opportunities. It’s also vital that more emphasis be made on those available career paths that DON’T require expensive 4 year degrees, because they are so readily and easily attainable.

The Governor’s proposals for clean water infrastructure and water quality protection, and enabling access to ridesharing throughout the state meet with much more acceptance across the business community, because access to vital natural resources such as water, and transportation resources such as Uber and Lyft are needed to spur business grown throughout the state. This is money well spent and should pay big dividends.

The Governor also discussed the property tax burden on residents and businesses. Everyone seems to agree that this burden must be reduced, however there are numerous policy disagreements. Unfunded state mandates, onerous regulations and long-obsolete legislation continue to drive up costs, reduce operating efficiency and compromise New York’s competitiveness versus other states. Business needs include long-sought Scaffold Law and Workers’ Compensation reform, repealing the Wicks Law and the aforementioned school district funding inequities.

Governor Cuomo rightly wants to reduce the burdens facing all New Yorkers. Let us find the right combination of public and private investments and strategies to bring about prosperity in the Empire State.

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, “A business advocacy group”

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Indian Point’s Premature Closing To Hamper Regional Economy

The announcement by Governor Cuomo of the planned closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plants is a severe blow to the economic future of the Hudson Valley and indeed the state, say many business experts including Business Council of Westchester President/CEO Marsha Gordon. In a letter to her members, Ms. Gordon notes that “…the power generated at Indian Point has played a direct role in stabilizing electricity costs in Westchester and the State of New York. We have repeatedly called for the plants to be relicensed, a process that has been unnecessarily dragged out for 15 years and counting.”

She also drew attention to the uncertainty surrounding the closure, something that is never a good thing for business. Ms. Gordon stated, “We wait to learn how [Cuomo] intends to deal with the prospect of increased electric rates, the reliability of electric supply for Westchester, the Hudson Valley region and New York City and the myriad of environmental and other issues the shutdown inevitably will bring.”

Entergy has been a good community citizen and an active participant in bolstering the economy of the lower Hudson Valley. There is also the issue of what happens to the 1000 jobs at the plant, and the loss of tax revenue both to the surrounding community and the school district. This is going to create quite a mess, and the question to be asked is, “why???”

As Ms. Gordon puts it, “We recognize that for some members of the community and a number of elected officials, the announcement is good news. Unfortunately, the shutdown poses an entirely new set of questions with no certain answers…” That assessment, sadly, is something every resident of the Hudson Valley and beyond should be concerned about. Energy availability and reliability is a vital part of any future economic growth for our state.

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, “A business advocacy group”

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Preparing For The Return Of The Trailblazers

The Putnam County Chamber of Commerce (PCCC), the county’s largest business organization and primary advocate, voice, and resource for the business community, is calling for nominations to be considered for the Chamber’s seventh annual “Best in Business” Trailblazer Award. Nominations may be submitted online at pcctrailblazers.com. The nomination deadline is February 7, 2017. Winners will be announced at the Awards dinner at Villa Barone on Thursday, March 23, 2017 from 6-9PM.

Each year we nominate the best and brightest in the Putnam County business and nonprofit community for a series of awards to recognize their dedication and achievements. Now in our seventh year, the “Best in Business” Trailblazer Award ceremony serves to bring the business community together to celebrate and honor the talent and success of those nominated by their peers.

This year there are 18 new achievement categories, including: Company of the Year, Best “New” Company of the Year (must have been started in 2016), Most Innovative Company, Best Company Comeback, Most “Socially Responsible or Environmentally Friendly” Company, Most “Customer Friendly” Company, Best Company to Work For, Best Law Firm, Best Advertising/Marketing Company, Best Not-For- or Nonprofit Company, Best CEO/Executive, Best Sales Executive, Best Entrepreneur/Founder, Best Innovator, Best Marketing Campaign of the Year, Best Business Web Site, Best Social Media Campaign of the Year, and Best Restauranteur.

So save the date! The Best in Business Trailblazer Awards will be given at Villa Barone on Thursday, March 2, 2017 from 6-9PM. Sponsorships are available ranging from $500 to $5000, so please consider getting in early and maximizing your exposure and recognition through this marquee, countywide event. There will also be a printed program for the evening, with various sized ads available. For more information on sponsorships, program advertising, or nomination of award candidates, please call me at (914) 330-7222 or for info on chamber membership call President/CEO Bill Nulk at (845) 225-8595, or email info@putnamchamberny.org.

– Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, “A business advocacy group”

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Preparing Workers For The Real World – The Time Is Now

There’s a new curriculum being adopted by the Westchester-Putnam Workforce Development Board – based on the READI concept.  The acronym stands for Respect, Enthusiasm, Articulate, Dependable, and Initiative, and is intended to help students understand the basic “soft skills” requirements to enter the workforce and obtain better paying jobs.  Area volunteers will be trained in how to administer this curriculum, so that area youth can learn these skills.

“The feedback from our employers of the first several youths who went through the READI pilot program was very positive. Employers felt the students were properly prepared for the 6 week work experience,” says Ebony White of Business Council of Westchester, who worked to place the READI graduates. “We look forward to the program expanding and helping more READI graduates connect with employment.”

Using READI, students perfect and utilize basic yet vital skills such as giving & earning respect, striving for personal well-being, promoting self-awareness, setting goals, knowing what’s important, speaking well, listening carefully, and communicating with confidence.  They develop a positive work ethic, a problem-solving mentality, and learn to keep their emotions in check. Finally, they are given encouragement to take the initiative, overcome challenges and work towards stated goals.  Supported by Westchester and Putnam Counties, there are high hopes that the program will help build a strong future workforce for our region.

With the change in ownership of the Putnam County Courier and News & Recorder to longtime Editor Doug Cunningham, I wanted to take a moment to wish Doug well as he assumes the leadership mantle for our community newspaper, and thank Elizabeth Ailes for her steadfast support of our business community for nearly a decade.  As we enter the 240th year since Sybil Ludington’s ride and celebrate the Courier’s 175th Anniversary, we are truly blessed to have this great institution.

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, “A business advocacy group”

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Barge Anchorages On The Hudson – An Evaluation

Concerns are being raised by environmental interests and some business groups over the US Coast Guard’s proposed 10 new anchorage grounds in the Hudson River, to improve navigational safety for large commercial vessels between Yonkers and Kingston. With the River on the mend from years of neglect and abuse, it is understandable that people want to keep it on that way. The scenic beauty has been revived from the NYC suburbs to the Capital Region and beyond, with forgotten buildings giving way to parks, cultural centers and public promenades.

However, the Hudson remains a commercial corridor. Freight and passenger trains run along its shores, and seagoing ships can be found making the run to the Ports of Albany and Coeymans. The canals to the north are home to an ever growing population of tugboats ( love!) and barges, carrying increased volumes of cargo, and joined by new types of vessels powered by alternative energy. New commercial facilities are planned, and this means more opportunity for high paying jobs making American made products right here in the Empire State.

Certainly this balance of economy and ecology is a delicate one, and must be carefully maintained. Are we really going to see that many new vessels that these anchorages are needed? And for what cargo? Some have suggested this will allow numerous oil barges to be moored, risking serious pollution in the event of an accident.

Still, precious cargo means precious jobs. If there are concerns over the type of commerce being transacted, then perhaps regulatory efforts should be aimed there versus the means of transport. Tugboat operators need to safely move and moor their vessels.

Old timers probably wonder what all this fuss is about, remembering that the “mothball fleet” of some 189 ships once rode at anchor near Tomkins Cove. For them, the Hudson is and has always been a working River.

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, “A business advocacy group”

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Annual Tour Of Putnam Small Business A Great Success

With the advent of Small Business Saturday, Putnam County Executive Maryellen Odell and I have made it a point to visit as many area small businesses as possible.  This year was no exception, as we stopped in on an extensive list including Mahopac Marina (Lake Mahopac), Fanny Doolittle’s (Patterson), Kathryn’s (Kent), Archipelago (Cold Spring), Smokin’ Joe’s (Putnam Valley), Verizon/Wireless Zone (Brewster), and finally Bucci’s Delicatessen in Mahopac for gift baskets.

Thanks to American Express and their promotion of the event, our local press, including radio and TV seemed to give Small Business Saturday as much or more coverage than Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Reports from our local businesses all seemed to be positive, and Amex is continuing to emphasize local businesses in their promotions.

It’s been a long, slow climb out of the toughest economy since the Great Depression and this is perhaps a sign of increasing consumer confidence and better times to come.  The event is but one day, and hopefully the momentum generated can continue throughout the year.  These family-owned establishments mentioned above are but a miniscule sample of the kinds of great local businesses eagerly waiting to serve people who forsake the Internet once in awhile and go out into the community to see what is out there.   People are very pleasantly surprised to find out just how much is available when they shop locally and keep not only the tax dollars but the revenue generated right here at home.  This means more money to reinvigorate our neighborhoods, improve our schools, build infrastructure, and reinvest in our community.  We all have a role in bringing prosperity to Putnam, and it can be as easily as choosing our shopping locations more wisely.

With the holiday season upon us, its time to make Small Business Everyday a reality in Putnam County!

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce,
“A business advocacy group”