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Governor’s Budget Proposal Offers Putnam Hope But Also Challenges

Governor’s Budget Proposal Offers Putnam Hope But Also Challenges

 

On Tuesday, January 21, Governor Cuomo spelled out his 2014-’15 budget proposal, an ambitious plan that calls for numerous incentives to spur business growth, Universal Pre-K and publicly funded political campaigns, among many other features.   Under his plan, state spending would remain below the self-imposed 2% cap that has been a hallmark of recentAlbanybudgets.  He also called for numerous state spending cuts, additional staff to help implement the plan for new commercial upstate casinos, phase out the 18-a assessment on electrical bills more quickly, and freeze state property taxes for two years.

From an overall business perspective, it seems positive.  Heather Briccetti, President/CEO of the Business Council of New York State, said “There is much for business to be encouraged about with the emphasis on holding growth in overall state spending to under 2 percent while promoting private sector investments and job creation, and increasing in-state personal income, through broad-based business tax relief.”   The Business Council of Westchester’s Marsha Gordon added, “…achieving these goals must be a priority in the state Capitol so that businesses all across New York can expand, thrive and succeed in the years to come.”

The picture for Putnam is a bit less clear.   Some communities, such asCarmel, have voted to exceed the 2% cap on spending, and continuing that policy means we residents wouldn’t be eligible for the property tax freeze.   Plus, the second year of the property tax freeze would require communities to adopt shared services and consolidation, a daunting prospect in a county with multiple villages used to working independently.  Being within theMTAregion, Putnam’s manufacturers would also be ineligible for any of the tax breaks being afforded those further upstate.   We should view this budget with cautious optimism but also the realization that much of its benefits will be felt elsewhere inNew YorkState.

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, thePutnamCountyChambers of Commerce

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CFA Awards Bring Putnam Optimism But Also A Challenge

CFA Awards Bring Putnam Optimism But Also A Challenge        

 

The annual round of CFA (consolidated funding applications) awards are in and the Mid-Hudson Region received $59.6 million for 87 projects, far behind some regions but still a hefty amount of economic development support.  Thanks to some hard work largely in part by Putnam EDC President Meghan Taylor, Putnam County will receive state funding for three major initiatives totaling $1,175,000.00  which is less than one half percent of the regions total.  The largest sum goes to Clear Solution Labs, LLC, who is moving to the old Watson building in Brewster and plans to produce health and beauty products at their new manufacturing site.  They garnered $1,000,000 of the CFA funds.   The Town of Philipstown was promised $100,000 to link Constitution Island to the Beacon train station via a multi-use trail.  Finally, the village of Cold Spring will receive $75,000 from NYSERDA to develop new zoning and historic district standards for their waterfront district. The Village of Brewster was also successful with $175,000 being added to their “Envision Brewster” efforts.

These are all great initiatives.  It would be very beneficial, however, if we could develop a more comprehensive approach to applying for CFA grants and put Putnam in the running to receive significantly more funding.  It appeared that much of the county was learning the process and playing catch-up, which may have put us at a disadvantage in the race for state dollars.  Remember, each region is judged against each other in this annual competition, and our neighboring regions certainly are skilled at making the case for support.  For example, the Capital Region received $82.8 million across 100 projects, and Long Island received $83 million for 98 projects.   New York City, which did relatively poorly in this year’s competition, will certainly be ramping up its efforts for the next go-round.  So the message to Putnam is clear:  If we would like a stronger showing in the CFA race, we need to work more closely together, formulate a game plan, get started early, and develop a strong case for what our needs are and why they are worthy of state funding support. “This is the beginning” says Meghan Taylor, “I can assure the people of Putnam that the EDC will do everything in its power and within its abilities to ensure that we obtain the financing necessary to move our County Forward”   Senator Ball says “ I would like to see Putnam get an even larger share next time, yet we need the towns and local stakeholders to get more involved to do so”, And I could not agree more. In 2014 when the CFA training class is held I expect to see every municipality represented or shame on us for not holding them accountable. The  Chamber  meeting in Downtown Mahopac with Congressman Maloney, Senator Ball and Assemblyman Katz, County Executive Maryellen Odell and even Sheriff Smith in attendance leaves us confident that all levels of government are on the ball seeking funding for Putnam County.

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

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Putnam County Housing Market Improves Over Past 12 Months

Putnam County Housing Market Improves Over Past 12 Months        

 

Data from the Hudson Gateway MLS indicates the Putnam County housing market is holding its own compared to our neighbors.  Compared to 2012, Putnam saw a 22% percentage increase in closed transactions, a 5.0% median sales price increase, and a slight inventory decrease while neighboring Westchester boasted an 11% decrease in inventory.  The numbers point to a steady recovery.  Interestingly, homes in the $100-300K price range have been strong sellers while the homes over $600K have been much weaker, likely a result of an oversupply of these high-value homes built just prior to the economic downturn.

 

Putnam County does possess some things in its favor when it comes to

property values:

 

● We have a low unemployment rate of 5.8%.

● We are an affluent community with an median household income of $92,711.

● Since 2009, Putnam County’s crime rate has decreased 34.2% making it the most

improved county in New York State in this metric.

● Our home ownership rate is 83.4% which is much higher than surrounding

counties.

● We are still a small, closely knit community with our population just under 100,000.

 

There is room for even more optimism. Our current County administration works hand in hand with our EDC/IDA, Chambers of Commerce, and Tourism and is focused on quality of life issues such as infrastructure improvements, revitalization, smart development, and transportation improvements. The county has even partnered with local Realtors to sell county owned properties. Putnam County is a place that has astutely avoided overdevelopment and over commercialization and instead is famous for its bodies of water, parks and mountains. As we well know the county still lies within a short, easy commute to Manhattan.

 

Putnam County is building an even stronger community and an attractive place to live, work and play, which will continue to be reflected in stronger real estate values.

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

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Putnam County Small Businesses Have Earned Our Support 365 Days Each Year

Putnam County Small Businesses Have Earned Our Support 365 Days Each Year

 

Small Business Saturday is in the news lately, nestled in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Is it just another sales gimmick designed to separate people from their money?  Or is there a more noble purpose behind the attention focused each year on the small business community?

Conceived by American Express in 2010 and promoted via social media, Small Business Saturday has been recognized by the US Senate and credited with prompting $5.5B in consumer spending in 2012 as surveyed by the National Federation of Independent Business.   As a leader of a major business organization, I think the event is a good idea. I do, however, admit to some chagrin at the need for a special day to encourage shoppers to shop in Putnam County.   Small businesses provide up to 70% of all jobs created in the USA, are often the first employers of our young people and last employers of our seniors.  When I dine out I usually know the owner server, bartender and busgirl. The same goes for the local Jeweler, Gift shop Fish market, Fence Company and many other locally owned businesses we can shop. They are owned and operated by neighbors and friends so why does it take a special day to focus customer attention on Putnam County’s small businesses?

Perhaps we need to remember why they went into business in the first place.   Small business owners created their businesses around expressed needs of people in their area, meeting them in ways no one else could through personal relationships with customers. In addition to the personal service, just look at any local Baseball, Soccer or football team and you will see the small businesses certainly support our communities more than one day a year. Parades, Festivals, Tree lightings, Races and more are all sponsored by the local business community. The local business community also alleviates a huge portion of the property tax base in our County allowing commercial building owners to keep investing in Putnam County.  In the words of Putnam County Executive Maryellen Odell, “Everyone comes out ahead when customers shop locally.”  Unsurpassed quality and timely service should ensure that small businesses always have a prominent economic role in our communities.

-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, thePutnamCountyChambers of Commerce

 

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The Putnam County Transportation Advisory Council – Increasing Mobility For All

The Putnam County Transportation Task Force recently released its findings which, if adopted, promise to help improve our county’s mobility index and get more people on mass transit, thus connecting all of our towns via a more durable thread.  Plans call for the modification of various bus and trolley lines, adopting competitive fares, adding services to connect to Metro-North, adding services specific to seniors, veterans, students, commuters and tourists alike.  A County agency would regulate the operations of taxis, limousines, shuttles and bus services to protect the consumer from improperly licensed operators, and an advertising agency would be retained to promote the new operation.  It’s an ambitious plan, but one rooted in economic reality – the only demographic currently growing in Putnam County is its senior citizen population.  We love our seniors, but in order to have balanced economic vitality we also need to attract young people to  our county as well as the existing population to stick around after college and build their careers here, and tourists to stop and visit as they explore our wonderful state.  The wonderful work being done by Meghan Taylor of  Putnam’s Economic Development Corporation and by Libby Pataki over at the Visitors’ Bureau deserves all the assistance possible to succeed, and bolstering our transportation system will provide a huge benefit.

 

It will take some time to implement the new arrangements and to get people to travel on them, so the Task Force also recommended operating closely with the local business community including the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce.  By incentivizing employers and employees alike to use the new system, riders will take advantage of clean, affordable and user-friendly transportation, and higher real estate values, better business development and increased job opportunities should follow.  Today’s ever-changing world requires adaptability on the part of our business community, residents and the public sector.  This new transportation initiative could well be the ticket to Putnam’s future prosperity.

 

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

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Leveraging Economic Rewards On Our Bike Paths

The many miles of converted “rail trails” which traverse our county provide a great way to enjoy nature, get our exercise and spend quality time with family and friends.   However, we would do well to also remember that those trails were once commerce corridors that brought passengers into our towns to conduct business.   Without that method of transportation, it can be argued that we have been missing out on a lot of economic opportunity.  Besides, the trails need to be maintained and that costs money.   So how can we enjoy the amenities of our rail trails in a sustainable manner so that they remain well-groomed and available to our citizens for generations to come?

 

A company called Bikepath Country has a plan.  Called “Socially Responsible Sponsorships” (SRS), Bikepath Country finds marketing opportunities to help pay for signage along the trails, alert cyclists, hikers and other users to nearby attractions, food and supplies, and raise revenue for neighboring municipalities.  Through Bikepath Country’s engagement in the community, local business becomes a partner in putting together the message that will be shared and the means in which to share it.   Even the signs themselves are socially responsible, made of recycled, and pressed cardboard and very durable. I think perhaps people are envisioning the adopt a highway signs and the answer is NO.  The Adopt a Highway signs are a blight on the visual landscape whereas the Bikepath Country signs are beautiful and blend into the natural surroundings.

 

Putnam County Executive Maryellen Odell is interested in seeing how these ideas can work on our trails, and a presentation has been planned in conjunction with the Putnam County, Brewster, and Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chambers of Commerce and the Putnam Visitors Bureau.  Come to the Putnam County Golf Course on Monday June 17, 2013 from 6-9PM to explore exclusive and unique sponsorship opportunities and enjoy complimentary food and beverages

Aimee Cunningham Owner of the Terrace Club restaurant in Mahopac says “The signs are to support the local business community and some of the money goes to the up-keep of the bike trails and restoration for our people in the community who use the bike trails. It’s a “win-win” for local businesses who want to advertise, encourage people to shop “local” and for users of the bike trails who will appreciate the maintenance of the trails, b/c there are not being maintained now. I can’t wait to put up a Terrace Club sign to advertise for my business and know that I was responsible for a trail I use recreationally.” I personally could not agree more.

Ivan Bellotto and Richie O’Keefe are just two of the Company’s founders who reign here from Putnam County, both extremely excited for the launch and are confident it will be a big hit!

 

To RSVP call 914-920-3121. Get a first shot at these signs and locations and special discounts This promises to be a great event, helping shape yet another benefit for our local community .I even encourage the naysayers to attend and really get to know the product.

 

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