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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”

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Small Business Development Center returns to Putnam 

After more than a decade’s absence, the New York State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has returned to Putnam County with a satellite office alongside the Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber of Commerce in the Tompkins Community Center, 953 S. Lake Blvd., in Mahopac.

“Over 90 percent of the companies that operate out of Putnam County are small businesses,” said Faith Ann Butcher, chairwoman of The Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber of Commerce. “We want to provide access to educational and financial resources, and teaming up with the Small Business Development Center makes sense.”

Regionally headquartered in Rockland County, the SBDC provides technical, management, and business development assistance to businesses and entrepreneurs. It combines federal, state, and university resources into powerful business counseling and training services available at no charge to small- and medium-sized companies, including women- and minority-owned businesses, veterans and entrepreneurs throughout the state.

“Having an office in Putnam County is a great opportunity for the SBDC to serve the small business community,” said Regional Director Thomas Morley. “I’d like to express my thanks to Faith Ann Butcher, Amy Sayegh and Erin Meagher for initiating this partnership and for always being on the lookout for resources for the area’s economy. We are excited to be working with The Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber of Commerce.”

The SBDC offers free, confidential business advisement services, training and workshops in areas such as: business plans, accounting guidance, financial planning and cost-analysis, loan information and packaging, start-up guidance and entrepreneurial education, organizational structure and productivity enhancement advice branding, marketspace, and positioning.  It can also assist in exporting and international business development, technology & innovation,  cybersecurity, energy efficiency, disaster recovery, regulatory compliance, government contracting and procurement 8(a), HUBZone, MWBE, WOSB/EDWOSB, StartUp NY, and veteran certification.   The Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber and the SBDC will host several educational workshops together in 2017.

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The New York State Small Business Development Center will open a satellite office to its Rockland regional office through The Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber of Commerce office in Mahopac. Pictured left to right: Amy Sayegh, chamber vice chairwoman; Thomas Morley, regional director of NYSSBDC; Jose Colon, deputy regional director of NYSSBDC; Faith Ann Butcher, chairwoman of the chamber; Erin Meagher, CEO of the chamber and Larry Zacks, chamber board member.

For more information or to schedule a confidential, one-on-one appointment, call 845-628-5553.

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

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The True Meaning of “Shop Local”

Whether you live, work and/or play in Putnam County, you are in one of the most beautiful and unique counties in New York State!   As all business owners know there are many facets to marketing and attracting customers.   As a small county it is often counterproductive to confine ourselves to just one side of the county or our community when making out the shopping list.  It broadens the scope when you have the whole county to shop from and market to.   Consider these examples – it is so much fun to take visitors for a stroll through the shops in Cold Spring after a visit at the Monastery.  Also worth considering, go for tea at Florrie Kaye’s Tea Room and stop by Katherine’s Gift Shop to see what new items from local artist have arrived.   Or enjoy a pleasant detour to Niese’s Maple Farm for local honey and syrup.

We as residents of this County need to remember that we are not 7 isolated communities. Government and other organizations understand this.  We see service vehicles crossing all over the county.  After eight very slow economic years, why would business owners even think of starting an isolationist policy (as opposed to working together building strong countywide bonds)?   I think it is great to see a farm stand in Kent was selling honey from Putnam Valley.  It’s sad to hear someone say, “I will not use them for service or eat there because they are from the other side of the county.”  We really don’t have the luxury to be so territorial in this day and age.

The country is celebrating Small Business Saturday.  Why don’t we business owners make a promise to each other to take a minute to explore what the other communities in our county have to offer?   Remember, “shop local” means shop PUTNAM COUNTY!

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

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Trump as President – Good For Business?

Through this intense election season, there has been much discussion about how Donald Trump’s policies would affect the business community. In his victory speech he boasted, “We have a great economic plan – we will double our growth and have the strongest economy anywhere in the world.” This is certainly a lofty goal, but how do we get there? Let’s examine some issues.

On immigration, Trump seeks to “establish new immigration controls to boost wages and ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first.” Area contractors often seek immigrant workers to fill jobs that they struggle to fill with US citizen applicants. It is also likely that there is a larger number of non-citizen business owners here in Putnam County than one would think. So the President-elect’s plan would need to be examined before determining its effect on our businesses.

Regarding manufacturing, Trump wants to place barriers to companies wishing to leave the USA and make it more expensive to produce goods outside our borders. This may be good in that companies would presumably stay in the US, but it may not help Putnam attract more manufacturing.

Healthcare is an area that may see improvement under a Trump Administration, though more details are needed. Repealing and replacing Obamacare may be a popular idea, but what are we going to replace it with? How will that help the many business owners and employees who choose to go uninsured and pay the penalty under current rules?

Trump’s best chance to help business lies in regulatory reform. Businesses are drowning under an avalanche of government rules. Wherever possible, efforts should be made to relieve the burden on businesses without compromising public or employee safety, so hopefully he will share details on his plans soon and we as business advocates need to pay attention.

The world in which we do business changed on November 8, 2016. Hopefully it will be for the better.

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

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Restaurant Week Highlights Importance Of Dining Establishments

With Hudson Valley Restaurant Week (November 1-13) once again upon us, we have an opportunity to see how blessed the Putnam County community is to have so many great places to dine. These predominantly family- and locally-owned establishments are some of our greatest visitor attractions.

The multiplier effect (direct, indirect, and induced) of family owned businesses is well documented. 48% of the money from purchases at local businesses is recirculated locally, some 3 ½ times more than that of chain stores. This is quite intuitive, given that local businesses and business owners have a vested interest in helping the surrounding community do well. Plus it’s a simple fact – you do business with who you know, and restauranteurs are among the most well-known local businesspeople.

Putnam County has 12 restaurants participating in the event, some of which (Dish in Mahopac and Clocktower Grill in Brewster) are part of the ” Farm to Table movement”. Farm to table dining involves preparing more locally-sourced food, reducing the amount of time a product takes to get to the consumer, and ensuring more quality and freshness and lower delivery prices.

The restaurants (full listing available at www.valleytable.com) offer a wide variety of options including American, Continental, Italian, Nuevo Latino, and Steakhouse. This means residents and travelers alike can enjoy something for every taste and budget. Many of these restaurants include some of Putnam’s newest, eager to showcase their culinary talents to an ever growing array of new customers.

In 2017, the Tilly Foster Farm will offer an educational farm-to-table experience called “Tilly’s Table”, using local farm produce from the Hudson Valley. This will be an interesting way to learn more about agriculture and the work that goes into preparing and harvesting our food.

Participating restaurants are offering $20.95 lunch and $29.95 dinner specials for the duration of Restaurant Week.

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

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Can Eco Tourism Boost Putnam County’s Economy?

We have only a handful of hotel rooms.  Our commerce districts are relatively small and often overlooked.   But Putnam County has a vast ecological, historical and cultural resource within commutation distance of New York City, potentially making us an ideal ecotourism destination for the millions of people to our south.

Given the undeveloped nature of our county,  a form of tourism which focuses on the observation and appreciation of nature as well as the traditional cultures prevailing in natural areas would seem very appealing. According to the World Tourism Organization, ecotourism is often designed around small group tours, contains educational and interpretation features, and usually involves small, locally owned businesses as service providers.  It minimizes negative impacts on the natural and socio-cultural environment.  It supports the maintenance of natural areas which are used as ecotourism attractions and increases awareness towards the conservation of natural and cultural assets, among local residents and tourists alike.

This sounds very attractive for Putnam County, a type of tourism which can take full advantage of our natural resources and beauty, highlight our cultural centers and historic artifacts, and support our family owned, small business community which is the majority of our local economy.   We could properly integrate the ecotourism concept with our existing infrastructure and fully utilize our trails, commuter rail networks, area roadways and any future development (i.e. hotels, shopping complexes, etc) to better facilitate the ecotourism experience for visitors.

The business community will also have to adapt to take full advantage of this concept.  Business advertising, for example, might start saying things like “convenient access to trail system”, “located close to scenic reservoir views” or “adjacent to monastery” in order to convey the proper message to attract this type of tourist.  We need to find more ways to make people choose Putnam, and this may just be the way to do it!

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