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Local Sign Ordinances Need To Be Developed In Concert With Business Needs

The Town of Carmel is looking to enact a new sign ordinance, which potentially threatens efforts to improve the local economy and may hamper the conducting of business in the area. While in theory a sign ordinance is a good idea, it should be done in conjunction of a larger vision and plan for the Commerce districts. The Chambers, business owners and residents of the community have been asking for revitalization for a long time and a sign ordinance at this stage of the game could be counterproductive to the overall business climate.

No one wants to have signs strewn all over town in a haphazard manner. At the same time, the various signage options available to business allow their message to be clearly shared with the public and, as often is the case in our crowded shopping plazas, make it easier for people to safely find the store or office that they are looking for. So it’s important to strike a balance between aesthetics and utility. In our opinion, some of the features of the planned ordinance do not accomplish this goal. For example, the language asking for signs to be “muted in Earth tones” runs counter to why a business needs a sign. Signs need to be highly visible and easy to read, not “muted”. In the case of sandwich boards, they should be allowed 10′ from the shoulder on private property. The new code would ban them altogether. The new fees to hang banners also appear high and restrictive to our not-for-profit organizations. It is imperative that the groups most affected by the proposed sign ordinance are given input into its design and implementation.

Let’s work together to ensure that such an error doesn’t happen in Carmel as it has in other Towns.

– Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce

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Former Chairman Zacotinsky Honored As Mahopac-Carmel Businessperson of the Year

Recently the Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber of Commerce awarded their Businessperson of the Year to longtime local business owner and former Board Chairman Bill Zacotinsky of East Road Motors in Carmel. Zacotinsky received the award after more than 30 years running his automotive and small engine repair business and over a decade of service to Putnam County’s largest local chamber of commerce. His service to the chamber included stints on the Shop Putnam Business and Home Expo committee as well as the annual Mahopac Street Fair.

Residing in Mahopac with wife Pam, where they raised their three sons, Zacotinsky started out in the corporate world, having worked for McDonnell Douglas on the space shuttle program before the 1986 Challenger disaster disrupted the entire industry. In order to keep the family local, he chose to go back to the auto repair business which his father had toiled in for many years. Thus East Road Motors was born.

Zacotinsky was chosen for this year’s award because of his years of dedicated service to the community and the countless volunteer hours that he and wife Pam have put in while helping to make a difference in the home community they know and love. “We need to recognize community service,” says Mike Bucci, CEO of the Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber of Commerce. “Bill has volunteered so much time for community, business and cultural events. He and Pam are very valuable members of our organization.”

The Businessperson of the Year award is given annually to a member of the chamber who has distinguished themselves above and beyond their peers through their service to the community and the independent entrepreneurs which are the backbone of local businesses. The Zacotinsky Family is a great example of those who have built both the chamber and our beautiful, vibrant community into an economic engine for Putnam County.

– Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce

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Putnam Scores Big In Regional Economic Development Council Awards

The Mid-Hudson Region has come out on top in the 4th annual quest for state funding of initiatives, with $82.8 million going to 118 projects/initiatives which will preserve and develop the valley’s “green” infrastructure and foster the continued growth of industry clusters, while creating new jobs and sustaining a vibrant regional economy.  Putnam County got a big boost which should help Meghan Taylor and the Putnam EDC as well as the Chambers of Commerce in fostering more growth and promoting our business community.

Among the recipients, Green Chimneys will get $750,000 to renovate two buildings and enhance their offerings to special needs and preschool children. The Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail can expect $935,000 to create a nine mile trail that will connect the downtowns of Cold Spring and Beacon, adjacent to the rail lines. Also in Cold Spring, the Hudson Shakespeare Festival will receive $71,600 for arts education programs and workshops, while nearby in Garrison, Manitoga is going to get support in the amount of $16,700 for a series of intricate large-scale interpretive sculptures.

A new Opportunity Fund will help Hudson Valley businesses with $1,000,000 dedicated to an SBA-certified microlender, Community Capital. Mid-Hudson Pattern for Progress, a regional economic development and advocacy group, will receive $60,000 in support for its research on infrastructure investment. Finally, the Greater Hudson Heritage Network will get the opportunity to expand its Program Coordinator position with a $49,500 award from the state coffers.

The Regional Economic Development Councils have been a major initiative for New York’s growth plans since 2011.   Over $300 million has been invested in 350 projects endorsed by the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council. This is regional collaboration at its finest. All across the state, groups compete for these dollars, and we are fortunate that, this time around, we have been very persuasive in our case for state support.

 -Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce

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Shopping Local…. Via A Web-Based App

Finding the perfect gift in Putnam just got easier. Putnam County Tourism has teamed up with the Putnam Chambers of Commerce to launch an interactive map to promote ideal places to shop this holiday season and beyond. The mobile friendly map can be found online at www.visitputnam.org/perfect-gifts-in-putnam, and businesses interested in being identified on the map can submit their information though a link found on the site. “The shopping opportunities in Putnam are really some of the county’s hidden jewels,” said Libby Pataki, director of Putnam County Tourism. “Our commerce districts and Main Streets have businesses that carry the must-have items and provide top-of-the-line customer service. This map shows people all the wonderful gifts that can be purchased within the county.”

The map can be customized to reflect the user’s location and identify various retail, dining and gift-oriented service businesses in close proximity or throughout Putnam County based on over 20 categories of interest. A person can click on a category, find a store and get directions and/or a link to the business’ website. The map is a great tool to promote commerce in Putnam County, and this was an opportunity to partner with Putnam Tourism with the blessing of County Executive Maryellen Odell to develop a resource that can be used at the holidays and any time of year. With so many people using their cellphones and tablets to help in their shopping decisions, this new initiative is putting the businesses in Putnam on a better playing field than ever before.

It is refreshing to work with a team that is prioritizing the business communities’ needs. I am so excited to see what 2015 has in store for the business community! The map will also be available under the Shop Putnam tab of the Putnam County Cares app, available through the Google Play Store and on Mac App Store.

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce

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Small Business Saturday Brings Opportunity to Putnam Entrepreneurs

Each year, an event designed to support and promote the approximately 80 million independent businesses in this country has grown larger and stronger. Known as Small Business Saturday, the event takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving (this year is Saturday November 29) and continues to draw attention on the need to support local small business entrepreneurs despite living in the era of the big box stores. Admittedly in Putnam County it’s a lot easier to support small business since the overwhelming majority of business in our county are run by families.

To support the initiative, the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce is once again coordinating a group effort in conjunction with County Executive Maryellen Odell and its six participating chambers of commerce (Brewster, Carmel-Kent, Cold Spring Area, Greater Mahopac-Carmel, Patterson, and Putnam Valley). Members of the Chambers and our county executive will be visiting businesses in each of our commerce districts in a “cash mob” style, making purchases and helping instill a little extra excitement in our communities. Stores in each commerce district will be visited, as designated by each of the participating local chambers. Last year, it was so exciting to be able to participate in such a powerful marketing tool, directly helping some but indirectly focusing attention on all of Putnam’s independently owned business.

You can make a difference in helping support small businesses – simply Think Local First when choosing where to purchase items. With a little research you’ll be surprised at how many needed items you can get here, from a local merchant, where your dollars stay here in the county and help your neighbors support their families. Given a month to prepare, perhaps you can support our Small Business Saturday initiative – plan ahead as to where you might begin your holiday shopping, and after putting the Thanksgiving dishes away come spend a Saturday shopping locally in Putnam County!

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce

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New Putnam County Budget Promises Fiscal Strength, Integrity

The latest county budget has been proposed to taxpayers, and it is now in our hands to review and comment on. At first glance, it appears that we have a useful plan to work with that will provide for strong government services while staying within the New York State mandated Tax Cap and keeping the burden on residents to a minimum.

As outlined at the October 1 presentation, the 2015 budget calls for a 1.75 percent increase to $145.4 million, a net increase of $2.5 million over 2014. The average homeowner assessed at $261,219 will pay $989 in 2015, an increase of $13. This is a rather commendable result given that mandated costs continue to rise and constitute over $103 million of the 2015 Budget. Experts have generally viewed this budget as responsible and acceptable by the legislature. Minor “tweaks” have been proposed in the initial Legislative Committee hearings – for example libraries received a modest additional increase. The significant discussions were in regard to personnel issues, and were held in executive sessions.

This week, the full Legislature, which constitutes the Budget Committee, will work out the proposals to come up with a final Budget. A public hearing on the proposed final budget will be held at the Historic Courthouse on Monday, Oct. 27th, and the final adoption of the 2015 Budget will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 29th – or continued into Thursday, Oct. 30th, if additional adjustments are required.

Staying within the proposed budget, and under the NYS imposed Tax Cap, has important implications for future incentives offered by the State, such as “refunds” of surpluses. It appears that our leadership has done their homework, and prepared us to have a positive year in 2015.

As always, be informed and participate. Your vote counts in choosing Putnam’s best representation. Exercise your right and Vote on Tuesday, November 4th!

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce

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The Putnam County Business Community’s Legislative Agenda – Setting Priorities

Each year, many countywide chambers of Commerce and business councils develop a legislative priority booklet, with input from their business members, to help establish priorities for upcoming sessions in Albany and Washington as well as local governments. To be an effective advocate, chambers of commerce need to interact with elected officials at all levels, and gain member input as to the challenges and opportunities faced by businesses in the course of daily operations. It is time that Putnam County had such a resource, and the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce is planning to put out its first-ever Legislative Priority Booklet in early 2015.

As an example, our neighbors in Westchester have a 24 page document that highlights the issues of importance to their members, listing the reasons why certain positions are being taken and how a particular stance will positively affect the business community if enacted. Their Business Council reviews areas such as health care, energy policy, education, transportation, workforce, regulatory issues, and general economic development concerns, as well as taking positions on general best practices that a smoothly running state or local government should adopt, such as fiscal reforms by the New York State Legislature.

We plan to do the same for 2015, and businesses throughout the county are urged to share their thoughts with us. A committee is forming which will prepare the Chambers’ agenda and develop the priority document, which will then be made available to everyone and shared with public officials. Our aim in this process is to create a document which best illustrates the most significant issues affecting our business community today, and help provide a pathway to their resolution. To get involved with this project, please contact me Jenn@jennifermaher.com.

Be informed and participate. Your vote counts. Exercise your right and Vote on Tuesday, November 4th!

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Candidates Meet and Greet An Important Exercise In Democracy

The Putnam County Chambers of Commerce recently presented the 3rd annual Candidates Meet & Greet at Villa Barone Hilltop Manor in Mahopac, with over 70 members of Putnam’s business and political communities at the September 30 event. They came to listen to 16 of this year’s candidates for offices in Putnam County at the State, County and local levels, give 3 minute positive, non-confrontational presentations about themselves that were video recorded and will be shown on our cable networks and here on the Chambers’ website.

In contrast to the often heated exchanges seen on TV and the talk show circuit, each of the presenting candidates were polite and proper, under the watchful eyes of the League of Women Voters and the capable moderator, Marc Pekowsky. Most of the candidates for the local Senate and Assembly races, County Executive, County Clerk, County Legislator, and the Patterson Town Council were in attendance. Many stayed throughout the presentations and enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and refreshments afterward while joining in friendly conversations about their campaigns and conditions in Putnam County. This Meet & Greet was designed to establish a civil prelude before the serious campaigning leading up to the General Elections on Tuesday, November 4th, and we are pleased to be able to say that the mission was successfully accomplished.

The Chambers views this event as an important exercise in the democratic process, because it provides our members, colleagues and concerned citizens an opportunity to be informed as to the major political issues of the day and to have a say in shaping the future. Our freedom to elect our representatives in government is a right, a responsibility and a duty that must be exercised in an informed manner for us to continue our special benefits in our American Democracy. So please – get out and Vote on November 4th!

– Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce

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Mrs. Putnam County An Entrepreneur, Mother, Wife And Active Citizen

Mrs. Putnam County has been named by the Mrs. New York America Organization, and this year’s honor goes to Laura Rudovic Waters of Mahopac, NY. She is a 30 year old mother of two boys, Christopher, 4 and Brandon, 2. Laura and her husband Steve Waters, a firefighter for the FDNY in Jackson Heights, Queens, found love at first sight and have now been married for 5 years. Laura is not only a wife and mother, but she is also an entrepreneur. A career fashion designer, store owner and business manager, she is the owner of Laura’s Boutique, a new shop in Kent, NY which carries glamorous fashions at half the price of upscale stores.

Laura will be traveling to Rochester, NY at the end of October to compete for the Mrs. New York State title. The Mrs. America pageant is a pageant system for married women that has been around since 1977. Should she win the Mrs. America Title, Laura will then compete in the international Mrs. World pageant. It is a tremendous honor to participate, made especially satisfying knowing just how active she is a mother and business owner. Laura loves to spend time with her sons and it is her number one favorite pastime. She also loves being a wife. When she is not with her family, she loves to design clothes. Fashion is her passion. She is looking forward to getting involved in her community and to start attending events as Mrs. Putnam County.

She is passionate about helping people and is currently holding a charity fashion show to benefit the A Skate Foundation, Therapy on Wheels for Children with Autism at the Coliseum in White Plains on October 3rd. Laura’s Glamorous Fashion Show will feature designs from her couture line. Celebrities have already signed up to attend. For tickets, visit www.boutiquelauras.com.

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Mixed Picture for Hudson Valley Home Sales In First Half Of 2014

Through the first three months of 2014, Putnam County saw a promising rise of nearly 12% in residential home sales leading to increased speculation of a strong economic recovery, but a fairly strong second quarter tail-off throughout the Hudson Valley put a bit of a damper on such rosy expectations. Still, given that 2Q-1Q sales were off just 2.9 percent in Putnam and that the difficult winter weather may have had an impact (home sales usually have about a 90 day lead time in our region), it’s conceivable that our County may have fared rather well in comparison to others in the region which endured a fairly steep drop in the second quarter. Interestingly, our neighbor Rockland County was the only one to show an increase (6.2%) in this period.

Putnam’s median home price fell to $285,000, an 8.2% decrease which was a bit of a surprise, and home inventories throughout the Hudson Valley rose by about 8.8% overall. These events are not considered to be severe, an there is no particularly strong reason for the downturn except for the influence the severe weather we had in the winter months leading to the statistics of the second quarter. Mortgage rates remain low, and Putnam County’s unemployment rate is, at 4.7%, the lowest in the region. So people should be able to afford a house, yet the results clearly showed that the market was somewhat soft. My thoughts? The market is still on the path to recovery. I equate to walking up a hill made of sand. Sometimes you feel like you are making no traction, even losing ground, yet all the while progress is being made.

On the other hand, if you’re buying a house, take heart. Home prices and interest rates are still low, and you probably have a job to support paying a mortgage. The stigma of loans being difficult to acquire is becoming an exaggeration. Also lenders have put some realistic loans back on the table such as 1 year income verification for those of us that are self employed. You can even cash in on this hot rental market with a mere 10% down Speaking of rentals, that market continues to climb which is opportunity for those looking to invest.

The Putnam Chamber will continue its quest to enhance the business climate and work alongside the EDC and the County to beautify our Commerce districts to ensure a vital Real estate market here in Putnam County

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce