Shopping Small At The Holidays

For Small Business Saturday, Putnam County Executive Maryellen Odell and I did some shopping as we usually do, visiting small businesses throughout the area and enjoying the experience of supporting our neighborhood shops which mean so much to the local economy. Spending time in the businesses gave us an opportunity to see how things were going on this important shopping day, but also to demonstrate that your countywide Chamber of Commerce is working closely with officials to ensure healthy, steady growth and opportunity for businesspeople as well as current and future employees.

“It was a real super way to kick off the holiday season by checking on all our “small shops ” and to wish them all a very healthy and prosperous Christmas and Hanukah,” said County Executive Odell, “and get a good deal of my holiday list checked off!” I felt the same. There are quality shops with great products, some of them locally made, to fill out your holiday list. We visited the following stores: Kismet in Cold Spring, which specializes in “gifts for her”, then the General Store in Cold Spring which has a variety of gifts for adults. Next we stopped at Swing in Cold Spring, which serves both children and women. Carmel Flower Shop has gifts for all, as does Verizon Wireless Zone in Brewster. Then we drove through Patterson to the Patterson Greenhouse, offering gifts for the “green thumbs” in our lives, and finished up at Lynn’s Card Smart in Mahopac which has a variety of holiday cards and gifts.

This was just a sampling of the many possibilities to shop locally. You can buy everything from cards and small gifts to cars and boats, without crossing out of our county’s borders. There truly are many reasons to “Shop Putnam”, and our County Executive and I were proud to help lead the way for area shoppers.

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


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 it’s Saturday, November 28) 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 businesses 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 business leaders from throughout the County (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 businesses.

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 the time 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


Industry Cluster Effort Paying Off For Hudson Valley

A few short years ago the concept of Industry Clusters in and around our area was a very foreign one, indeed. We simply didn’t recognize the impact that attracting groups of similar businesses might have on Putnam County’s economic future. More recently, however, the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp lead by Larry Gottlieb and the work done by the Regional Economic Development Council has greatly advanced this concept to the point where several key groups are taking root on the other ( western) side of the River, fueling optimism that this can be done here as well.

I recently had the chance to listen to Larry Gottlieb speak at the November meeting of the New York State Commercial Association of Realtors. His passion and vision for the region and all the counties he covers is evident in his speech and actions. He filled us in on the areas where economic development efforts seem to be paying off , such as food and beverage, 3D printing, and Meds and Eds (hospitals and universities). SUNY New Paltz’s ground breaking 3D printing initiative garnered over $12 million in state and private funding and this spells real opportunity for Orange and Ulster Counties to capitalize on a major investment. The 3D initiative also promoted collaboration among students, faculty and regional businesses.

One advantage the communities benefiting from these newly formed and successful industry clusters get to take advantage of, except of course Putnam County, is a local college. We still lack a post-secondary education resource of any kind within our borders, and this means all the major grant money being awarded all across the State of New York for expanding learning initiatives and research is ending up elsewhere. We need to find a way to get such a school here, opening the door to both public and private investment dollars, which would in turn boost our efforts to create an R&D center and build those long-sought industry clusters.

Real economic success in attracting industries to the Hudson Valley is happening tantalizingly close to our borders. The challenge is to make some of it possible right here in Putnam County. I am confident we can achieve this if we keep pursuing these objectives.

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


Remember Our Veterans…. And Hire Them

As told by the Putnam County Veterans’ Services Agency, “on the morning of November 11, 1918, after four years of war,   Allied and German powers met in Rethondes, France, to sign an armistice that halted the hostilities of World War I. The agreement was signed shortly after 5:00 a.m. and went into effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, finally bringing to an end the carnage of the Great War—the war thought by many to be the war that would end all wars. This date was designated as Armistice Day to honor the Veterans of that war…”

Sadly, it wasn’t the end but rather the beginning of a very violent period of nearly 100 years. Veterans of all ages have returned from overseas conflicts to a barren job market, and as we remember our veterans on Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11th, please consider hiring a vet or supporting their efforts to start a new business.

Veterans deserve our thanks for serving to defend our freedom and our way of life, and are ready for our workplace, demonstrating maturity and an understanding of teamwork often lacking in other young citizens.  They volunteered for service with a good basic education and then were well trained in a variety of skills – not just to point and fire a rifle.  Today’s battlefield is a place of high-tech communications, logistics, mechanics, medicine and more.

Some vets struggle with the transition into civilian life, and our concern and support is needed.  However, most are more than ready to take their place in our general society with a little assistance. The Putnam County Chambers of Commerce works with our local Veterans’ Services Agency to promote awareness and assist in their transition to civilian life.  For information contact Karl Rohde, Director, Putnam County Veterans’ Services Agency at (845) 808-1620, email

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


Please Be Informed…. And Vote…. On November 3

The 2015 elections are coming up next Tuesday, essentially “hiring” our Elected Officials to make important decisions on our taxes and the other policies.  Yet only 11% of the eligible voters turned out for the Primary Elections back in September.  Low turnouts mean the votes of a very few can determine the outcome that affects everyone.

Why is this election significant?  The positions of Town Supervisor and some of the Town Council are being decided in each of our 6 towns; as well as the Mayor and some Trustees in the Village of Brewster.  The District Attorney race and 3 of our County Legislators – representing parts of 5 towns (Scuccimarra/Osborne: Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley; Nacerino: Patterson; Castellano/Riley: part of Southeast and Carmel).  Town Clerks, Town Justices, Highway Superintendents are also on the ballots, as is a choice for Judge in the NYS Supreme Court-9th Judicial District.

People in many different countries in just the last few years celebrated when they had their first chance to vote in free elections – remember the purple thumbs?  Yet Americans know so many people who don’t bother to vote, saying, “My vote doesn’t count.”  Really?  In 2013 an upstate election for Town Supervisor was decided by one vote, after two disputed votes for the opponent were thrown out in court.  Perhaps there were a few people in that community kicking themselves the day after for not showing up at the polls!

Even a vote for an unopposed candidate is a vote of confidence and thanks for their service.  If you submit a ballot but did not vote for an unopposed candidate, that fact will show up as a poor response from the total number of voters.  That sends a message too.

Every voter’s ballot counts.  Please exercise your right and the privilege of casting a vote on Tuesday, November 3rd.

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


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

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


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


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


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


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