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Tourism Budget Criticism Is Incredibly Short-Sighted

At the recent legislative budget hearing, there was a pretty strong discussion about the 2016 tourism budget and the wisdom of the County’s considerable investment.  The Putnam Tourism Bureau has asked for the same funding in 2016 as they received this year – $142,000.  That seems to be a reasonable request and is an important level of funding necessary to fulfill the vision of Tourism leaders as well as facilitate cooperation with other entities such as the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce which is a willing and active partner.

Tourism is a vital part of the strategic economic plan for improving the economy of Putnam County, and has been recognized as a so-called Cluster Industry by last year’s survey task force.  New York State has “doubled-down” with its promotion of the Hudson Valley Region as a tourist attraction.  Much of the funding that Putnam County provides to the Tourism Bureau is leveraged several times over by matching funding from New York State, Metro North Railroad and many other sources.  The Tourism Bureau is active in promoting and facilitating filming locations in our County.  These provide revenue for private and municipal properties where the filming takes place as well as a variety of job opportunities for the “extras” and the multitude of services required – catering, equipment rentals, contracting trades and more.

Tourist activity is an important income source for our villages, hamlets and diverse commercial districts.  Our restaurants thrive on these visitors.  Our economic development team also relies on Tourism as an important component.   Together with the County EDC and IDA, Chambers of Commerce and other agencies such as Cornell Cooperative Extension, they help make Putnam County the interesting place to visit and perhaps stay and build a business and a place to live.

A great example of a tourism-related activity is this weekend’s Pumpkin Palooza – check it out at http://www.tourputnam.org/event/pumpkin-palooza/?instance_id=15801

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

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The Metro-North Commuter Railroad – a Business Opportunity?

Small businesses often find opportunities as vendors for government, public-private or private corporations, helping them to perform much needed services or provide unique products for their needs. The MTA Metro-North Commuter Railroad is seeking potential vendors who may benefit from contracting opportunities, and held a special event this past Wednesday, October 14 to give area businesses a chance to find out more about doing business with the Railroad.

The event took place in Beacon at the Center for Environmental Innovation & Education (CIEF), and focused on the following areas of opportunity: Safety, Janitorial, Grease/Oil/Lubricants, Chemicals/Glazing/Paints, Electrical Supplies, Batteries, Cables, Track Parts and Equipment, Miscellaneous Metals, Pre-cast Concrete, Building Material, Signage, Construction Opportunities, Station Improvements, Drainage Improvements, Fire Suppression, and System Replacement.

These are tremendous business opportunities. Small businesses should look for these types of events to connect with larger companies and provide products or services. Also, the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce can be of help if your business needs to find a partner. If your business is seeking to expand, contact PCC President/CEO Bill Nulk to discuss options for your business and alert chamber staff and board members as to what your needs are. This gives us an opportunity to seek out potential networking partners and even attract new business to the area.

Another business growth possibility is through the work done by the Regional Economic Development Councils. As state funds become available for local projects, this will present some possibilities for local businesses to gain contracting work. It is wise to observe the activities of the Regional EDCs and see where your business might benefit. Again, being connected through the Chambers or other business organizations helps a business plug into the ongoing economic work.

These days, many efforts are taking place to build business in New York State. The plugged in, well connected business will benefit greatly!

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

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Putnam County’s 2016 Budget Holds Line On Business Burden

During her October 1 address laying out the county’s 2016 budget, Putnam County Executive Maryellen Odell expressed her belief that local leadership was doing everything in its power to keep costs in line despite outside pressures.  “We are sick and tired of having to foot the bill for Albany and its lack of oversight and accountability and New York City’s needs,” said Odell.  The pressure is clearly on Putnam and neighboring counties to find ways to grapple with the huge state mandates while providing needed services on the remaining dollars.

County leadership seems to have struck a reasonable balance – the 4 percent increase in the budget is largely offset by spending some of Putnam’s surplus, allowing for an average rise of only $4 per taxpayer.  This will be helpful to business for several reasons.  First, as local homeowners/taxpayers themselves, business owners will have one less thing to worry about despite impending cost increases in other areas such as minimum wage, health care and other regulatory effects.  For another, their prospective customers will likely have more disposable cash on hand than might have otherwise been expected, offering hope that it will be spent locally and foster business growth.

The complex relationship between the 2% tax cap and huge unfunded state mandates continues to challenge local government leaders to pinch pennies wherever possible, making it harder for the county to invest in local economic development.  The best we can hope for is to keep the regulatory environment under control and give businesses a chance to thrive on their own.  “The budget we are putting together is firm but fair,” said the County Executive.  “It is fair to our residents, to our employees, the outside agencies and most importantly to the taxpayers.”

It’s not perfect, but the budget is the best our business community can ask for given the circumstances.
-Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce

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Countywide Chamber Clout Means A Seat At The Table For Business

When the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce was founded nearly 5 years ago, it instantly added a certain gravitas to the local business communities vis a vis county, regional and state legislators. Putnam businesses needed to be heard, and today their collective voice is heard loud and clear throughout the halls of government office buildings. Conversely, an effective means of communication with elected officials was established, with the Chambers serving as a conduit to the area business community for urgent messages from our political leaders.

Bill Nulk, President/CEO of the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce, attends almost every single legislative meeting and keeps us up-to-date on what is happening that could affect the business community. The administration has allowed us to have a seat at the table and if there’s any decision affecting the business community they give us time to seek the opinion of the stakeholders involved. We are asked to join task force groups and issue forums.

Bill addressed the Audit Committee on July 27, thanking the Legislature for recognizing the Business Community in its decisions. Our presence at these meetings has helped provide the perspective of business that had been lacking in prior years. The issues may not always turn out our way, but there is true communication and collaboration by the Legislature and Putnam’s business leaders.

Some of the this year’s events that promoted Putnam’s business community include the Trailblazer Awards event last February, Elected Officials Forum in March, the Shop Putnam Business and Home Expo with the Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber of Commerce on April 19, the Annual Meeting with Empire State Development and Pattern For Progress on May 5, a CFA presentation by Meghan Taylor, and a great State of the Region review by Pattern for Progress.

Next up – the County Budget, to be announced very soon. The Putnam County Chambers of Commerce will be watching and commenting throughout the budget review process, prior to its Nov 1 adoption date.

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

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Commercial Recreation and Sports Teams Mean Big Bucks

Did you hear the news about Putnam County getting its first professional hockey team? The new Brewster Bulldogs will join the Federal Hockey League, beginning their season on November 7 at the Brewster Ice Arena (63 Fields Ln, Brewster, NY 10509). After a dispute with the league caused another team to pull out, co-owners Bruce Bennett and Edward Crowe took over the Bulldogs as well as another Single A team in Danbury, and are quickly building the franchise from scratch.

Commercial sports bring sponsorship opportunities as well as the chance for vendors to do business with the new team, from food to apparel to transportation and more. The same is true for popular area attractions such as Thunder Ridge Ski Area or Fahnestock Park, which is why the feasibility study undertaken last year by the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce and its partners identified commercial recreation as one of the so-called industry clusters which could be cultivated to bring more business into the county and create jobs. “To the Brewster Bulldogs, I say welcome to Putnam County. Our county is celebrating The Year of the Family this year and this is a great addition to our family here in Putnam. It will boost economic development, create jobs, increase tourism in the county and heighten an already strong sense of community. We recognize the importance of affordable family entertainment, especially in these tough economic times and we applaud Bruce Bennett and his partner Ed Crowe for their confidence and investment in Putnam County. We look forward to working with them and Putnam County Tourism to make sure the Hudson Valley is in prime time again, having now minor league sports teams in baseball, basketball, football and now hockey to root for!” says Putnam County Executive Maryellen Odell. Clustering of industries is one of the best economic drivers, because it builds a critical mass of not only the main businesses but those who interact with them. In other parts of the state where manufacturing is king, these businesses are referred to as being part of the “supply chain.” It may be a bit less obvious, but the vendors who do business with Messrs. Bennett and Crowe will be part of their supply chain too, a vital economic ecosystem which is an indicator of good health in a business community.

Local Businesses such as Bull and Barrel Brew Pub and Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union are already signing up for sponsorship opportunities which will bring a whole new level of exposure to Putnam County businesses. More must be done to build industry clusters that have a lasting impact on Putnam County, but this latest development proves that we are indeed on the right track.

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

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Area Events Present Opportunity For Local Businesses

One of the best ways for local businesses (and business leaders!) to gain much needed exposure, plus make real, tangible connections with residents and business owners of a community who are potential customers and networking partners, is to participate in one or more of the various fairs and festivals that take place during the course of the next few weeks. With summer nearing its end, and children returning to school, the weekend calendar is full of events which will capitalize on the fact that people are home from their summer vacations yet the weather is still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors before the autumn chill sets in.

Some of the upcoming events include the Brewster Film Festival (September 3-6), the Kent Community Day (September 12), Patterson Community Day (September 19), Putnam Valley Town Day (September 19), Cold Spring “Oktoberfest” (September 19-20), and the Mahopac Street Fair (October 4). Some of these events bring out several thousand people to enjoy the food, entertainment, vendors, rides and other attractions of the day.

Small business is the backbone of each of our local communities, and in order to make these events successful it’s vital that businesses participate in and otherwise support them. Likewise, these festivals draw such a diverse audience that they present a wonderful opportunity for our businesses to showcase themselves. As such, the business community should make the extra effort to “spruce up” their storefronts, encourage neighbors to do the same, and present the best possible face of our commercial district. It’s amazing what a difference a good looking downtown does for civic pride!

The Putnam County Chambers of Commerce, and each of our local participating chambers, is working together towards that goal of making more vibrant downtowns and stronger business communities which will in turn attract more residents as customers, an important step in growing the County’s economy.

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

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What Elected Officials And Concerned Citizens Should Know About Economic Development

Is there a preferred skill set and knowledge base for elected officials, business leaders and even concerned citizens when it comes to economic development in a region or community? The National League of Cities’ Center for Research & Innovation thinks so. They’ve published a guide which summarizes the types of things that make for effective leadership in this important part of governance.

The League’s published guide starts with the recommendation to understand local economic strengths and weaknesses, since comprehending what makes the community’s economy work will help shape the vision and economic development strategy. Also, how does the community fit into the broader region’s economy? Like cogs in a machine we are often part of a larger system. Thirdly, officials can facilitate consensus building in developing the community’s economic development vision and goals. Then, what’s the strategy to attain the goals, i.e. specific activities and budget allocation aimed at a more strategic approach.

Fifth on the list is developing connections between the economic development policies and other policies/programs/statutes in the community – for example transportation or housing. How do these fit together? Similarly, what is the overall regulatory environment? Does it favor “timely, reliable and transparent resolution of issues facing businesses?”

Number seven addresses the question of “who are the partners”? Who should be involved in these processes? More broadly, what are the specific needs of the business community and how can they be met? Ninth on the list is the development of a “clear, accurate and compelling message” to get support from the electorate and to clearly shape the direction that leaders wish to go. Finally, who is the staff charged with getting the job done? There must be a strong relationship between elected officials and staff.

These are good ideas for any community and we should ensure that our leadership is following this advice.

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

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Meet And Greet With The Candidates – Why Participation Matters

The Putnam County Chambers of Commerce is pleased to announce its latest opportunity to spend time with political candidates vying for local offices in November. The Meet & Greet will be Tuesday, August 25 from 5:30-9:00PM at the Putnam County Golf Course, 187 Hill St, Mahopac. Each candidate is allowed a three minute period to present themselves in a positive, non-confrontational manner to our audience of the business community and the press. The Putnam County League of Women Voters will be moderating and monitoring deportment. This is not meant to be a debate atmosphere but rather an opportunity to interact with the individuals who are vying for leadership positions in our community.

Joint efforts between the Chambers and our elected officials have enjoyed many successes such as improved infrastructure in the towns, transformed public transportation and partnering with tourism. The business community, through the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce, has participated in our local, County and regional efforts to improve the economic well-being of our neighbors and we will continue to build on our cooperative interaction. Our participation in the planning and implementation of zoning and infrastructure initiatives and the promotion of our commercial districts and the businesses that are the back bone of Putnam’s economy and character are important parts of our mission.

We look forward to continuing this positive and productive relationship between our government leaders and Putnam’s business community. There are several uncontested races, and while that may indicate the incumbent is doing a good job, as citizens we should be diligent to know what plans they have for their term in office and also we should be passing our thoughts along to them. Remember, voting is more than just a right, it is a statement that you are paying attention to the people and the process that affect your health, wealth and happiness.

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

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Putnam Moves – More Mass Transit Options, More Advertising Opportunities

Putnam County’s commuters and other travelers are getting more options than ever before for economical, hassle-free, environmentally friendly travel by taking the bus, and thanks to the “Putnam Moves” program, we now have an economically sustainable model for funding these transit programs for the long term.

Public Transportation is a smart way to travel – today’s savvy young urbanites already know the convenience and safety of taking the bus.   Where the routes are convenient, you save on parking, can enjoy the views (and not worry about other bad drivers or – if you’ve enjoyed a night on the town – maybe your own DWI).  More people on the bus reduces traffic, auto emissions and excessive wear-and-tear on the roads.  The Putnam Moves buses, with their new distinctive look, are servicing many of our communities.   As ridership on our system increases, we can expand the coverage of the routes.

A new Cold Spring-Beacon Shuttle has begun, with an August 6 ceremony touting the collaboration between Putnam and Dutchess Counties.  County Executives MaryEllen Odell and Marc Molinaro and Beacon Mayor Randy Casale highlighted the advantages of using the Shuttle saying that tourists and locals both can ride the inexpensive trolley visiting Cold Spring and then enjoying to short trip up beautiful Route 9D to Beacon.  Trolley riders can get off along the way and hike the Breakneck Ridge Trail or continue into Beacon and shop or visit the various history and art attractions.  All that, without worrying about where to park.  And if you’re traveling on Metro North, you can even start in Cold Spring and return from Beacon (or the reverse).

Other shuttles include the Boscobel-Fahnestock Trolley Shuttle.  Schedules are available by visiting the Putnamcountyny.com website.  Your Putnam Moves system has provided convenient shuttles for the 4th of July Fireworks in Southeast and the 4-H Fair at Veterans’ Park.  Travel packages have been produced in conjunction with Putnam Tourism and Metro North that attract visitors from New York and lower Westchester.

Advertising opportunities on the buses are selling out fast. New Bus shelters will be up for 2016 and we are pre-selling ad space on them at a deeply discounted rate, so contact us today or go to Putnammoves.com for information.

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

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Ideological Battles In Washington Threaten New York Manufacturing

Some significant challenges are affecting New York manufacturing businesses arising from political debates in Washington, and Conservative versus Liberal ideology appears to be at the forefront of the clash. Here are two examples to consider:

On June 30, the US Export-Import (“Ex-Im”) Bank charter lapsed due to congressional inaction. This is problematic for New York’s resurgent manufacturing sector because of the pressure put on large companies to seek stable sources of funding for projects. If the US, in effect, unilaterally disarms by closing our Bank while 60 other countries keep theirs, suppliers to manufacturers like GE and Boeing will be ignored as foreign banks require investment in foreign suppliers as a condition of the deal. There is talk that Congress might be able to reinstate the Bank when it returns from recess in September, but businesses hate uncertainty and are likely unwilling to wait. Even if Congress decides to reinstate the Bank this fall, it may be too late to stop contracts from being entered into during the summer and jobs being lost all across New York.

The above situation is mostly caused by a small group of Republicans in the House. On the other hand, some Democrats are aggressively pushing an equally unrealistic goal called the “Fight for 15”. Giving unskilled laborers massive raises will place small manufacturers at a terrible disadvantage in attracting people to manufacturing jobs which they are already struggling mightily to fill. The only current advantage manufacturing jobs seem to have is they pay pretty well – you don’t need to wait 6 years to get a $15/hour salary. If that differential disappears, industry will suffer here in New York.

This one-two punch could leave New York’s economy as one with lots of fast food workers and few technicians, and that is hardly a recipe for success in sustaining a stable, well-balanced economy.

Any Ex-Im Bank “revival” is now tied to the Senate’s six-year Highway Bill that will be taken up in the House in September. Highway appropriations have been operating on “stop-gap” extensions since a 2 year Map Plan was enacted in 2012, which was the first “longer term” bill since 2005. Federal highway bills can be very contentious because of the amount of dollars involved as well as territorial clashes often causing disagreements over where the money should be spent.

Washington dysfunction has affected the entire nation’s transportation infrastructure by not passing a long-term plan. Short term funding extensions do not allow state and local planners to implement needed projects. Even bus stops for our local Putnam Moves system are held up pending the funding that should be part of the federal long-term goal of enhancing mass transportation. September will bring some interesting news from Washington for sure!

Also, minimum wage increases in the fast food industry may ultimately result in fewer jobs in that sector. Some such businesses are using automated kiosks (which can be voice activated) for ordering, and may automate the delivery of orders to customers. Businesses large and small are looking for “work ready” employees, and offer “entry level” employment to train and test the new worker in so-called “soft skills” – punctuality, common courtesy, patience with customers and fellow employees, following orders. Lower wage jobs often allow flexibility for scheduling other activities such as the pursuit of more education and/or preparation and gaining experience for other occupations. Ultimately, entry level jobs should be considered a stepping stone to greater opportunities, training the work force to meet the needs of the 21st century.

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