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Announcing the 2018 Trailblazer Awards

The recipients of the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce 2018 Trailblazers – Women in Leadership awards are in!!!  We are still fact checking and verifying names, place of business etc., but wanted to get the list to you hot off the presses!  This year, we strongly felt every single nominee was worthy of recognition, so if you nominated someone and their name does NOT appear, please reach out as soon as possible!  Complete bios and information will be up on our website by June 1, so please join us in celebrating and recognizing these amazing women!

The “Women in Leadership” of 2018 to be recognized are: Nohemi Bao, Mary Kate Acquisito, Tara Caroll, Carol Schmitz, Stacey Tompkins, Tallie Carter, Patty Turco, Megan Castellano, Josephine Carmody, Claire Tsakanikas, Candice Sciarrillo, Rita O’Brien,  Terry Raskyn,  Elizabeth Hudak, Beth Ann Lewis, Roberta Velichko, Irene Rohde, Jessica Vanacoro, Eileen Reilly, Ellen Hayes, Andrea Rudkowski, Katherine Doherty, Amy Sayegh, Maryellen Odell, Barbara Reitz, Nicole Barile- Stern, Tracey Walsh, Brittany Alvarez,  Patty Rathschmidt, Sabine Cknazik, Jen Zwarich, Rose Aglieco, Christi Acker, Hailey Knox, Kate Liberman, Jill Varricchio.

The sole purpose of the Trailblazer awards is to highlight, showcase and celebrate Putnam County businesses, not for profits, and those who support the business community.  Women in leadership is an extra special award to recognize women who blaze the trail and go above and beyond in their work, volunteerism and  community while balancing life and family. Please Join us on June 12, 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Villa Barone to recognize these women at the county’s largest networking event! Sponsorship and journal ads available We will have one hour of networking, lunch and a keynote speaker, Jennifer Ostrega.  Ms. Ostrega is a spokesperson, writer, and teacher based in the New York City area. Formally a comedic improvisational actor who gained national recognition for her one-woman show about corporate America.

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

 

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Elected Officials Forum Brings Smart Dialog To The Table

This past April 15th was the annual Putnam County Chamber of Commerce Elected Officials Forum.  Each year town/village, county, state and federal level officials are invited to discuss the overall business climate, economic development, and our legislative priorities for the upcoming year.

Some very honest conversations took place.  Cost of permitting and development in area towns were discussed, including an example of a Putnam Valley individual who will pay $9,000 for a building permit of ONE single family home, in addition to other costly fees. In the town of Carmel site plan updates require payment of the entire fee again. Everyone at the table realized that we should be encouraging new homeowners and especially new commercial development to come to our county.

Regarding commercial development, Town of Kent supervisor Fleming was asked about Patterson Crossing.  Ms. Fleming responded that, while she was now supportive, many people are believed to not be in favor.  Historically, the Town of Kent so vehemently opposed the project that they will only get a parking lot as a rateable should it come to fruition.  Kent councilman Bill Huestis and Supervisor Fleming both spoke of a possible hotel and truck stop coming to the Route 52/311 corridor – it would be interesting to see if those against Patterson Crossing would accept this.   A proposed water park got a positive reception.  Patterson was represented by Supervisor Rich Williams who is focused on pushing Patterson Crossing to the finish line. Lynne Eckhart and John Lord of Southeast spoke of projects being pushed through and then not performing and being left vacant.

Town of Carmel Supervisor Schmitt discussed the downtown Mahopac revitalization and parking project.   The Village of Brewster was not represented, but “Envision Brewster” was mentioned as a good example of county and local government working together scoring a $180k hotspot grant as well as the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce’s support role. Barbara Scuccimarra was the only representative from Philipstown.  We hope to increase communications between east and west in upcoming years. Putnam Valley was well represented by Supervisor Oliverio, legislator Bill Gouldman and councilwoman Annabi. and discussed the need for water and sewer and huge progress on the town shuttle to take Putnam Valley residents to the train.

County Executive Odell reported on some positive work with the NYC DEP, and its effect on Envision Brewster, Tilly Foster, and the sewer projects in Carmel and Southeast.  Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, Matt Slater of Terrance Murphy’s office and Senator Serino’s office all discussed the difficult budgets and commitment to bringing money in for needed infrastructure and improved roads.  Putnam County District Attorney Bob Tendy offered good insight from his past Supervisor role.

In this successful forum, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce sought to allow participants from all levels of involvement to freely discuss the important issues from an economic development standpoint and consider options for working together to address them.

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

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“Women In Leadership” Nominations Being Sought For Annual Trailblazer Awards

The nominations are open and pouring in! We are looking for “Women in Leadership” to be honored and recognized at our annual Trailblazer awards. Seven-plus years ago The Putnam County Chamber of Commerce decided that the Trailblazer awards was a great way to highlight and showcase Putnam County’s businesses and not-for-profit organizations.  The Trailblazer event has been a major event over the years, and participants throughout the county have been recognized for their hard work in helping grow our economy or making life better for local residents.

There are many benefits to a business participating in an awards event, most prominently a lot of free marketing.  The positive PR from an award alone can give a company validity and name recognition. Also, the application process for entering a business award can often force entrepreneurs and business owners to look at their business from a different perspective and assess how it stacks up against the competition.  Company morale is usually up as well when a business or employee is being recognized for everyone’s hard work.   Such notoriety can be helpful for attracting talent. A business award win, or even nomination can act as a 3rd party endorsement for your business. It’s a great way of differentiating a company from competitors, will send out good vibes to potential clients and customers, and the bragging rights last forever!

Being that County Executive Maryellen Odell has named 2018 “Year of the Volunteer”, I am sure we will see some amazing women from the non-business sectors as well.  So get your nominations in! Also check out the sponsor opportunities and information on purchasing tickets. The event is June 12th, from 11:30 to 2 P.M. at Villa Barone Hilltop Manor, 466 Route 6, Mahopac. Please visit http://pcctrailblazers.com/ and submit your nominations today!

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

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Economic Development Impact of New York’s 2018 Budget

The new state budget has been approved, and with it a host of economic development features that may be of interest to the local business and legislative community. Here are some highlights:

Middle class taxes will continue to go down, in a phased in strategy between now and 2025.   This will affect income earners between $40,000 and $300,000. The state will also develop an alternative Employer Compensation Expense Program aimed at reducing personal income tax on wages that might be affected by the new Federal tax plan. The state tax code will also be decoupled from the Federal code in places where increases might automatically be necessary under the new Federal program.

Funds will be made available for workforce investments to support strategic regional efforts to meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, expand apprenticeships, and address the long term needs of expanding industries such as clean energy and technology.   This is aimed at helping the workforce of tomorrow find opportunities today to grow and prosper, and hopefully stay here in New York State rather than seeking careers elsewhere.

Regional economic development councils will be continued for the eighth year, with a wide range of programs totaling $750 million. There will also be $100 million allocated for the Downtown Revitalization Program Round III. The Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit will be extended, and there will be expanded investment in areas as far ranging as Photonics (Rochester), Life Sciences (Capital Region), the Olympic Regional Development Authority and lodging/tourism (North Country) and Industrial Hemp production (Southern Tier). The MWBE Program, which was due to expire this year, has been extended for FY2019.

The Environmental Protection Fund will continue receiving massive resources ($300 million), and there will be continued investment in clean water infrastructure and the completion of the Hudson River Park in New York City. Increased funds will support higher education, combat the opioid epidemic, improve public safety, repair and upgrade transportation infrastructure, and combat homelessness and sexual abuse.

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

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Ensuring Reliable Power Delivery For Putnam County

On Thursday, March 15 County Executive Maryellen Odell presented a State of the County Address with a loud and clear message that our county is fiscally strong and responsible. It was a lengthy event which included an update on the County response to the double-fisted storms and power outages we experienced. Infrastructure has been one of Odell’s priorities ever since she took office. It is obvious that water and sewer is sorely needed to develop and support economic growth, yet the state of our power supply is appalling to say the least. Was the reaction time of New York State Electric and Gas a factor?

According to Odell, the County took all the right precautions for the storm, yet crews were sitting around for days waiting for NYSEG to identify the live wires so roads could be cleared. This is unacceptable. Personally, I found it extremely difficult. 6 days of no power at my home or office. A week of no school. I am blessed however to be able to work from the car, if need be. Other local businesses however did not have it so easy. Many local business owners have stated losses of anywhere of $4,000 to $40,000 in income and damaged inventory.

8 days after the initial power outage, power went out again for a few hours in downtown Mahopac during prime time on a Saturday afternoon. Shops were full of clients. One local restaurant had a party of 125 that had just walked in. The damage and the loss are one thing. The loss of momentum is another. Area elected officials plan to hold NYSEG accountable. This was not only an inconvenience but also affects the value of properties and businesses in our area. People will surely think twice about locating in an area where power outages for over 24 hours have become common. NYSEG should address these concerns, and a more comprehensive plan for backup power should be put in place at the local level.

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

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Diligence in Planning About to Pay Off

The Putnam County Chamber of Commerce board members have been bringing to the forefront key issues for nearly 10 years. We recently put together a County Planning task force to drill down and implement. Here are some highlights of our efforts:

County Chamber Planning: Meetings will be held with the County Executive, Planning board and various legislators to see what plans are being developed or on the punch list. This will give not only a sense of priorities, but also an overview of a county vision. Then we will go to local municipalities to discuss their current plans, a potential update of their Master Plans in line with the county plan, and identify where the county can provide support.

Mahopac-Carmel Planning: With the proposed Swan Cove Park and subsequent Tompkins Mahopac Bank lot, the downtown Hamlet of Mahopac has a starting point for revitalization. After contracts are settled, the Chamber has discussed conducting a roundtable discussion of all local business & building owners in an open discussion of redeveloping the business districts. The sidewalk/lighting project can finally be finished and improved upon, and parallel parking should be introduced with wider sidewalks adorned with planters and/or art, kiosks and benches.

Envision Brewster: Here is a great example of collaboration between the Village, Putnam County, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, Pattern for Progress and the EDC all working together to achieve results. This is the type of planning and action that we would love to see in all municipalities. A forum is planned for for town and village elected officials so we can catch up with the entire county. Long term strategic planning has been a buzz word in the county for a long time, and in 2017, under the leadership of MaryEllen Odell, Putnam has aggressively gone after funding and is starting to succeed. Let’s keep this momentum moving forward!

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

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Lessons From 2017 – Twists and Turns of Political Fortunes

At a time when Hubris seems to be the guiding force in the political world at all levels (local, county, state, country), people are tired of the status quo, and fighting for change and new ideas.  Donald Trump, a man with few qualifications for the role, became the 45th President of the United States on January 20, elected by a powerful plurality (in just enough states) who are tired of politicians who sell their soul to get into office.     He is so far from the typical politician it seems inevitable now that he would get elected!    Pride and egos of the political parties enabled him to defy the odds and win.

More locally, here in Putnam County, Sheriff Don Smith was deposed by a democrat in a very “red” county. This was a surprise, but it makes sense. Our sheriff had taken advantage of his position of power, made some poor choices and the people are just sick of perceived corruption. In Carmel a local business owner with no party backing won a seat on the town board with a campaign slogan of. “Change is Needed”. Though that was all that was needed, Mike Barile has been an advocate for our town for years and he campaigned hard.  The Town Board has been “business as usual”, overspending and under performing in a time where – Mike is right – change is needed.

Doing things for self-serving agendas or “that’s how its always been done” is no longer acceptable.  The “silence breakers” has been one of the most amazing movements of our time and one that I am so grateful for.  Perhaps no longer will people misuse positions of power to fulfill their sick egos and fantasies.  This movement really opened my eyes to who I am and what are my standards, and what we as a people will not stand for.

There are many other powerful lessons in the year 2017, but the biggest one is always to be grateful for one’s family and friends.  Here’s to a great and prosperous New Year!

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

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Is Putnam Business Ready for 2018?

The Small Business Administration continues to report that most net new jobs created in our economy come from the independent entrepreneurs that comprise the backbone of counties such as Putnam. Area small businesses need to adapt to the rapidly progressing technology that is moving our world forward, and it’s a continual transformation process to remain competitive and, indeed, to survive.

Businesses must budget to take advantage of whatever changes are happening in their industry, for example online shopping with smart phone capability is a MUST for retailers. The online and offline customer experiences are merging – one can no longer be just brick and mortar or just online. You must be all things. Creativity, and engaging the community online has helped many small businesses grow at rapid rates.

Interactivity on websites and social media using chat bots should soon become the norm for small businesses, to engage, provide information and answer questions in real time. Easy payment options such as the application of a fingerprint or a few clicks is vital to the rapid pace of today’s busy customer. Interactive marketing is something we can really take advantage of in Putnam County. Sponsoring a local event or festival helps build your brand and provides familiarity. Collaborative marketing of such events, for example #hashtags and interactive posts between vendors helps to extend one’s brand out to a much larger audience.

Investing in new, millennial leadership and staff is also crucial. Consider hiring and training promising young talent now. Millennials will soon be the majority of the workforce. With the housing trend now moving back to more rural areas there is huge potential to attract millennials to move here, work and raise their families. Given millennials’ natural desire to learn, grow and develop, this is a winning situation for all. Embracing these goals will pave the way for a bright business future!

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

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To Survive, Local Retailers Must Make The Shift To Online Sales

On Small Business Saturday, the county executive and I conducted our 5th annual tour of Putnam County small businesses. Stores were filled with great selections, beaming with community pride and the kind of service only small town retail can provide. We visited flower shops, gift shops, boutiques, liquor stores and more. It’s amazing how much you can buy locally!

However, in the past 2 years I have made a shift in my shopping habits, now doing about 80% of my shopping online. Being a shop local advocate, I fought this for a long time, but my busy lifestyle has made it nearly impossible to keep up with the demands of my household as well my office. There simply is no time to “go out” shopping.

According to Forbes magazine “For the first time ever, shoppers are going to the web for most of their purchases.” An annual survey by analytics firm comScore and UPS found that consumers are now buying more things online than in stores.” Based on a poll of over 5,000 online purchasers, there has been an increasing trend of online purchases, from 47% in 2014, 48% in 2015 and 51% last year, with corresponding increases in smartphone purchases too.

The local implications are clear: to be competitive, shopkeepers need to enable customers to find them online, via “apps”, their website, smartphones, etc. The shift needs to happen NOW, and already has in some industries. For example, car or boat dealers rarely help customers decide on vehicle, upgrades and price. People show up already knowing the packages they want and the price they are willing to pay. If they come at all – one can buy a car from their living room if they choose to do so. Similar shifts have taken place in real estate (Zillow, Trulia) and in the taxi business (Uber, Lyft).

Remember…. to keep things local you must make it simple for people to buy your goods in a couple of clicks, wherever possible!

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

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Stick To Solutions – Not Bickering!

Recently I came across a Facebook post by one of our county legislators, entitled “RTE. 6 – MAHOPAC SEWER PROJECT OVER BEFORE IT BEGINS”.  The post was expressing delight over how a County-led attempt to build a sewer line which would run down Rte. 6 in Mahopac, through Union Valley Road, Lovell Street, and eventually the Heritage Hills Sewage Treatment Plant, utilizing over 3.2 million dollars of state grants, had been a failure.

The legislator’s allegations continued: “In a letter from the Town of Somers Supervisor, Rick Morrissey, to Carmel Town Supervisor Ken Schmitt, Morrissey stated the County never notified the Somers officials of this sewer project which runs through their town. Instead they had to read about in the paper and press releases.”  The post also alleged that the County “did not do their due diligence” by verifying the capacity at the Somers plant nor gauging their interest.  The legislator lamented that the County lacks a Commissioner of Planning which “had been the subject of many heated debates.”  The legislator then boasted of being the only “NO” vote when the Putnam County Legislature approved a $160,000 feasibility study back in April, and how the sewer would have served the controversial Union Place and a possible hotel.

Several things strike me about this post. WHY would a member of any board be bragging about a failure of the board?  Not only is this counterproductive, but is it not the job of the entire board to seek options for infrastructure improvement?  Nowhere in this post does it speak about solutions, options nor praising the county for their efforts in this attempt to put a sewer down Route 6.

I participated in the meetings on this sewer extension.  Due diligence was done on the capacity for Heritage Hills, however, because Heritage Hills is privately owned, conversations took place directly with Heritage Hills.  The Town of Somers does have a district formed for Heritage Hills which was not obvious until a bit later on. The good news? Action was taken to improve the infrastructure in our county and money for studies have already been approved. Being controversial for the sake of being viewed a hero and for political gain as opposed to working as a team to improve the county is not what we elect our officials to do. More action and less negativity is what is in order.

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