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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

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Fireball Run Recap – Bringing More Films To Putnam

Fireball Run has come and gone but its effects on our County’s future are just beginning.   It was nice to not only see so many people come out to cheer the contestants but also to see Putnam featured in so many tweets, blogs, and online pictures. For a change we weren’t the forgotten country anymore, but the center of worldwide attention. This is significant because film and TV productions can have a big impact on the economy of communities they choose to feature.

But back to Fireball Run: it was great to see Team Putnam participating in this epic event. Thank you to Gianni from Villa Barone Hilltop Manor and Sean from Well Dunn Maintenance & Contracting for piloting the GT500 and giving it your all on our behalf on this wild journey. Some great Putnam County destinations were featured in the filming, namely Boscobel, the Putnam History Museum, the Stadium Bar and Restaurant, Southeast Museum, NYC Polo Club, the Freight House Café, Putnam County Veterans Memorial Park, the Massaro House, and Walter Brewster House. Saturday morning was a blast as the teams lined up on South Lake Boulevard and roared off towards the finish line in Amesbury, MA!

Thank you to Fireball Run Adventurally for making Putnam County one of its 10th Anniversary Destinations!!  Here are the local businesses and individuals who made this a reality:

J.Philip Commercial Group, Dynamic Productions,  Mahopac Marina, Sacred Heart Gifts and Apparel, Briante Realty Group LLC, Bucci Brothers Deli, Bull & Barrel Brewery/Restaurant, Putnam County Tourism, Putnam County Chamber Of Commerce, The Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber of Commerce, New York Audio Video Design, Local Boys Junk Removal, Cartwright & Daughters Tent & Party Rentals, Lake Mahopac Graphic Design.

A future fundraiser is planned to support a TV and film commission. For more information contact the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce at (845) 228-8595 or visit putnamchamberny.org .

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

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Fireball Run – A Call To Action For Putnam

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Fireball Run is coming to Putnam County September 30/Oct 1, and this is our chance to mobilize as a community to make a difference for our area’s future and let the world know that we are much more than a backwater, bedroom community.

Courier readers know about the great reasons to live here, because we all do.   But to most of the world we fall into that great obscurity known as “flyover country”.   To change this, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce and the Putnam Tourism Bureau in conjunction with local chambers and municipalities have teamed up to bring an international film production to our area. Putnam will have a team among the 40 teams which participate, some on an annual basis. This is the 10th season for the show and it will film 13 out of 26 episodes in New York State, so we are in good company. Every second of air time makes a difference in sharing visions of our communities with Fireball Run’s worldwide audience.

People often wonder why Putnam hasn’t been successful in the past at attracting films, bringing more attention to our County and attracting more tourists to shop in our stores and eat in our restaurants.   This is why it’s important to ensure that the one show that is coming here makes as big an impact as possible. Residents and business owners can do that by coming out on September 29/30 to cheer on the Fireballers, and/or buy tickets to the VIP reception to be held on Lake Mahopac the evening of the 29th. Your participation will also aid in the fight to locate America’s missing children, of which Fireball Run has helped find 48 in their 9 year history.

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

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Calling Adventure Seekers – We Need A Hometown Team For Fireball Run!

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We are currently looking for two people to embark on the 2,000 mile epic journey to commemorate the Fireball Run’s 10th Anniversary. The 8 day adventure begins in Western New York, winds through Pennsylvania, Maryland, and back into New York before concluding in Amesbury, Massachusetts. Putnam County will be featured near the end of the trek, on September 30/October 1. Half of the show’s 26 episodes will be filmed in the State of New York which is a tremendous opportunity to showcase our home state to the world!

As a contestant, your objective would fall into three categories: Personal promotion, serving as the Putnam County representative, and to simply have fun during a unique experience. The total cost for the event is $8,500. We plan on neutralizing the cost through sponsorship efforts, because we want the community to get behind your team. Some of the support will be coming from the Putnam County Visitors Bureau. You’ll also be helping in a very worthy cause – each Fireball Run team is assigned a missing child and spreads the word through distribution of posters, etc. Some 48 children have been found in the show’s 9 year run!

Contestants will need to satisfy entry requirements, be able to drive for long periods of time, and carry certain items in their vehicles for use in the Show. Organizers go to great pains to ensure safety for all involved, including respect for applicable laws, procedures, and customs. We think that this is an unbelievable opportunity for outside-the-box business thinkers to network and represent themselves, while also serving as a spokesperson for Putnam County, and enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of a worldwide film production.

If interested, please call Frank Smith, Acting Director of Tourism, at (845) 808-1015 AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Our deadline to submit contestants is fast approaching!

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

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Don’t Miss These Great Upcoming Events!

As September approaches, the fall season of events and festivals is just around the corner, so please mark your calendars for the following:

Kent Community Day will take place on Saturday, September 10, 2016, at the Edward Ryan Memorial Park from 12 Noon-5PM, with inflatable amusements and activities, pony rides and petting zoo, community groups and vendors, and is open to all residents to attend and enjoy. Rain date is Sunday, September 11.

Patterson Family Fun Day will follow on Saturday September 17 on Front Street. Patterson Recreation, host of the event, maintains this tradition of families, friends and neighbors sharing a fun-filled afternoon. Featured attractions include arts & crafts, bouncy houses, demonstrations, DJ, dunk tank, European Bungee Jumping, face painting, vendors, workshops & much more! Also on September 17 is Putnam Valley’s annual Town Day (Rain date September 18). There will be music, merriment, vendors, activities, presentations, ceremonies, shows, classic cars, a baked pie contest and of course lots of food!

The Coalition for a Better Brewster invites area residents to attend the 25th annual Founder’s Day Street Fair on September 18 from 10-4.  This year’s lineup includes inflatables (such as an over the top Velcro wall!), dunk tank, face painting, sand art, balloon animals, a “selfie station” with playful props, Brewster Police Department K9 demonstrations, Brewster Fire Department exhibition, Putnam Sheriff Operation Safe Child fingerprinting program, music & dance performances, vendors and food.

On Saturday, October 1, is the annual Mahopac Street Fair, with vendors, attractions for kids, food, and more, presented by the Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Columbus Day Parade sponsored by the Italian American Club of Mahopac.   This year the Fair also intersects with the visit of Fireball Run, which will be having its sendoff from the area that morning. There will be more to follow on this important showcase event!

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

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Preserving And Promoting Putnam County’s Small Business Background

Putnam’s small businesses, aside from being the backbone of our economy, provide the amenities, services and jobs that make our local community the place that two thirds of our well- educated and talented workforce are happy to come home to each night.

While we certainly hope that our county is able to attract a “big” business to the area, we must realize and respect the fact that creative and dedicated “small business” people are what make our local economy run. They also pay taxes, generate sales taxes that help support all of us, and are the ones who support our local social, recreational and charitable programs.

A stroll through the Villages of Brewster or Cold Spring, the hamlets of Carmel or Mahopac or a stop at one of our many restaurants or public spaces is an opportunity to experience the unique life “rhythm” of Putnam County. We are fortunate to be in such close proximity to the metropolis of New York City yet live in view of such pristine countryside and quaint downtowns. We should cherish that uniqueness and continue to promote it in any way possible.

At the same time, it would do us well to highlight those businesses and organizations which have distinguished themselves in making our communities what they are today. That is what chambers of commerce are all about – giving businesses a chance to be recognized and to keep them on a course of economic prosperity.

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

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45th Annual Putnam County 4-H Fair Introduces Agriculture to Young and Old Alike

There’s a farming revival and a “farm-to-table” movement going on in Putnam County. From young novices to older second-career enthusiasts, more and more people are becoming involved and growing the fruits, herbs and vegetables now found in our local Farmers’ Markets.

The 4-H Fair not only highlights the relation of our “rural” heritage to our modern suburban lives, but also attracts city visitors to what may be their closest contact with “the other way of life”. The goal is to bring these folks back to our local shops and eateries for subsequent visits, and to that end the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, Putnam County Tourism and our friends at Metro North are promoting the 4-H Fair along with other events and programs throughout the year, such as the Shakespeare Festival at Boscobel.

County Fairs are important attractions throughout New York State, and Putnam would do well to continue to grow our Fair in a similar fashion to our neighbors. Dutchess County, for example, boasts a Fair that is one of the largest in all of New York State. While that is not likely to happen in Putnam given our much smaller agricultural base, we may be able to find other facets of community life that would complement the Fair’s offerings and attract stronger support from the rest of the business community.

The 45th Annual Putnam County 4-H Fair will be held Friday, July 29, 2016 from 12-6PM, Saturday July 30 from 10-7PM, and Sunday July 31 from 10-5. Admission is free, with free parking and shuttle bus services from Brewster and Carmel. There’s antique farm equipment, local musicians and dancers, exhibits, demos, Civil and Revolutionary War encampments, “Touch-a-Truck”, pet shows, a chicken barbecue, horse demos, a fishing contest, plants and tools for sale, theater and more! For more information visit http://putnam.cce.cornell.edu/putnam-county-fair .

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

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Helping Kids Make Better Changes Stops Drug Abuse, Helps Business

There is a theory that when young people make good choices in their spare time (studying, doing chores, learning a skill, serving the community, getting an internship, working at a job) it reduces the chances of their making bad choices (smoking, alcohol, drugs, or simply hanging out with the “wrong” crowd). Therefore we as business people will be doing not only our community but our own businesses a favor by taking the time to help provide direction, guidance and even mentorship to our young people. This will pay big dividends later in terms of an engaged, trained, well prepared and well-intentioned workforce. Please consider getting involved by mentoring a young person, giving them an internship, working on a community development project or other endeavor which encourages good choices.

Sometimes though, those bad choices have already been made, and stronger measures are necessary to provide an avenue for rehabilitation. Arms Acres, located in Carmel, helps outpatient and inpatient addiction treatment, and medically supervised detoxification and crisis counseling services, and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Drug Crisis In Our Backyard aims to spread awareness of the drug epidemic facing families right in our neighborhoods. This organization deserves our support, so let’s mark our calendars now for a September event in honor of Arms Acres CEO Patrice Wallace-Moore, LCSWR.

The September 10 event, called Dancing in our Backyard, will run from 7-11 PM at the Putnam County Golf Course, 187 Hill St, Mahopac, with a live DJ and special performance by Westchester Ballroom. Tickets are $75 per person (tax deductible) and sponsorships are available. Visit www.drugcrisisinourbackyard.org/dance-party.html for more information.

The choice seems clear: we should help our youth make the decision to stay out of trouble and prepare themselves for productive careers in our communities. But if intervention is needed, Putnam County is blessed with resources that can provide them.

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

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Will Tax Free Back-to-School Shopping Become A Reality Again This Summer?

Legislation to eliminate the county portion of sales tax in Putnam during 10 days in August, requested by Putnam County government, has been approved by the state Senate. This would mean shoppers enjoy an almost 50 percent sales tax reduction, from 8.38 percent to 4.38 percent (3/8 % is the MTA surcharge), when shopping in the county from August 20th-31st, for clothing and footwear under $110.

Due to high taxes and with Connecticut retail centers less than 20 minutes away, Putnam County retail businesses are up against the stiffest competition in New York State. Our retail stores rise to the occasion with excellent customer service and unique offerings. This sales tax free week would give them an edge on sales and be an effective “thank you” for their commitment to our county. However, the Assembly still needs to vote on the measure.

“We still need the Assembly to pass the bill,” says Putnam County Executive Maryellen Odell. “Putnam has requested the tax holiday in previous years, but it has not been OK’ed by the Assembly. This year, we hope they will vote in accordance with the needs of Putnam constituents.” The County Executive has made a major portion of her platform this year the continued revitalization and support of the Putnam business community. With strong efforts being undertaken in neighboring communities, we must not lose our focus on making sure area businesses have the best chance to succeed in an ever more challenging environment.

Of the total 8.38 percent sales tax rate in Putnam County, 4.38 percent of the generated revenue goes to the state and the MTA and the remaining 4 percent goes to the county. This bill would eliminate the local share during the 10-day period, dropping rates by almost half. County government and business leaders agree that we need this tax relief to maintain competitiveness at a crucial time of year.

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

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Assessing The Business Value Of Divided Government

When (if ever) is it acceptable for business community leaders to weigh in on the political makeup of the state Legislature? According to a recent article by POLITICO New York’s Jimmy Veilkind, Heather Briccetti thinks the time is now. The leader of the Business Council of New York State (BCNYS) has maintained for awhile that preserving an upstate-downstate balance in state government means supporting Republicans in upstate districts in order to offset the predominantly Democratic representation downstate.

Last fall at the BCNYS annual meeting, Briccetti pointed out that “Republicans, generally speaking, are from Upstate and from Long Island and the Democrats – the vast majority are from the metropolitan New York City area.” Veilkind’s September report forecast potentially difficult circumstances for upstate, as Briccetti said “if the Democrats regain control of the Senate, that means both houses of the Legislature will be controlled by leadership from New York City, which means Upstate and Long Island will be in the minority.”

As the 2016 legislative session concluded, she again expressed concern about this upstate-downstate political disparity, saying “I don’t think there’s a full awareness of the stark differences in the economic conditions of Upstate versus New York City,” according to Veilkind’s latest POLITICO article. Despite the tension between the Republican and Democratic camps, the BCNYS President/CEO views this as a geographic and not a political issue, and this seems reasonable given the unique and divergent needs of the different communities.

Navigating such treacherous political waters is not easy for any business community leader, but Heather Briccetti has proven to be particularly adept at such matters. An accomplished lawyer who lives on a farm in the Capital Region, she has been willing to take criticism while pushing fervently for causes deemed important to her organization. We would do well to pay attention to her guidance regarding upstate-downstate balance in our legislature.

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