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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

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Kent Plans Business Investment Exemption To Enhance Commercial Opportunities

Economic challenges in the past decade have forced communities to adopt innovative measures to help businesses remain competitive or even survive. As we slowly recover from the fiscal doldrums, municipalities may wish to revisit these programs to ensure maximum cost-effectiveness, ample job creation in our commercial districts, and strengthening of the overall tax base.

One such community, the Town of Kent, has amended its “Business Investment Exemption” in a significant move to entice new business construction and existing business alterations and improvements. Real property “for the purpose of commercial, business or industrial activity” will now be exempt “of 50% of the increase in assessed value thereof attributable to such construction, alteration, installation or improvement” in the first year and then extending for 9 (increased from 4) additional years on a declining scale of 5 % each year. This extends a meaningful welcome to new and existing businesses while adding to the town’s economic vitality with approved growth and local employment opportunities. Henry Boyd, President of the Carmel-Kent Chamber of Commerce, stated in a letter of support that “this kind of forward-thinking approach to motivate businesses and attract investors is truly welcome”.

The Putnam EDC and IDA are working to attract new businesses into our County and the IDA can also offer state authorized incentives to new and expanding businesses. Additionally, Putnam County with its towns and villages is organizing an over-all feasibility study that will guide effective planning for the projects necessary to develop and enhance tourism, arts and recreation efforts that have been recognized as our County’s great assets. If done in a coordinated manner, these measures should provide the resources necessary to drive business forward and build a stronger economy for all. The Putnam County Chambers of Commerce is working with its local participating organizations to evaluate these ideas and formulate plans with elected officials.

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

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Putnam’s Businesses, Nonprofits and Tourism Interests Rely On Each Other

Our County’s economy is essentially a symbiotic relationship between area businesses, nonprofits and the tourism industry, and business development strategies would do well to understand this interaction.

Perhaps more than any other nearby county, Putnam relies on large nonprofit employers to provide jobs and fuel our economy. A review of the Putnam County Economic Development Corporation website (www.putnamedc.org) shows that the top 4 employers in the county are nonprofits totaling 2182 employees (by contrast the top 4 for-profit employers total 882). Putnam Hospital Center, our largest private employer, accounts for 1041 on its own. This is an important consideration, because nonprofits rely on the contributions of donors to meet their budgets and fund operations, and pay their employees.   The sheer size of Putnam’s nonprofit community seems to indicate a considerable amount of pressure on the rest of our businesses to support them. Where does the money come from? Studies have indicated in the past that “Shop Putnam” works pretty well, so people tend to keep their money local where possible. For our economy to grow, an influx of dollars from outside sources is vital.   The good news is, we are within an hour of one of the largest population sources on the planet. This presents opportunity, and also helps us understand how attracting tourists to Putnam will support not only our nonprofit organizations, but our for-profit ones too.

Every time a customer makes a purchase at Niese’s Maple Farm in Putnam Valley or attends a concert at Boscobel in Cold Spring, for example, those dollars enter our County’s economy, supporting these tourism businesses and those they interact with, and eventually the area nonprofits which receive donations and/or perform services for employees of these firms. It’s a special, mutually supportive relationship, emphasizing the need to support all facets of our economy – businesses (including tourist businesses) and nonprofits.

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

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Explore “Your” Putnam County This Summer

As Putnam residents and business owners, we love our county, and so it’s natural we want to share its considerable virtues with anyone who will listen. And at the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce, we strive to get the word out about all the opportunities to visit interesting sites and patronize local, family owned businesses throughout our county.

This is “your” Putnam County. So many of us drive directly from one activity to another and don’t take time to see the beauty and history that is all around us.  Perhaps it’s time to slow down and enjoy the neighborhood a bit more. Park and walk through the hamlets and villages and see the variety of shops and businesses – some have been here for generations.  Take a look at all the historical markers that we drive by every day – ever wonder what they say? Perhaps now’s the time to stop (safely) somewhere and go take a look.   Perhaps take a ride on one of our new-look buses (it’s only a couple of bucks) and look out the windows as you cruise along.

Have you ever thought of yourself as a “tour guide” for Putnam?   You can be. Visit the places you would take your out-of-town friends to see so that you’ll know how to describe the interesting things about them.  Stop at a local café or restaurant for lunch or dinner or just a snack, because there is some mighty fine dining in Putnam at every hour of the day, and in every community.

Putnam County is in many ways the best kept secret in the Lower Hudson Valley. With tourism being one of our best potential economic stimuli, what better way to make it work than to have all of our residents become knowledgeable about the area while enjoying a summer of exploration? Then, please share that knowledge with friends!

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

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Putnam CFA Meeting Begins 2015 Funding Process

On Monday, June 8, over 30 people representing Putnam’s towns and villages along with county legislators and planners attended a discussion led by Professor John Nolon of Pace University’s Land Use Law Center to prepare Putnam for the next round of Consolidated Funding Applications (CFA). The introduction by Deputy County Executive Bruce Walker, the County’s representative on the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council, laid out a two phase program for using this year’s CFA process for our best advantage.

Firstly, each of the municipalities would name and prioritize projects that are important for them – for example a multi-use community center, parking and/or streetscape enhancements.  They could also include private projects that would combine well with municipal infrastructure improvements, the usual basis for CFA proposals. For this round, the County would combine the proposals from the towns and villages into an application for funding a comprehensive study that would emphasize tourism and improving the hamlets and commercial districts (a look into urbanization) which are specifically targeted aspects in this year’s competition. A joint application by the several municipalities would garner extra consideration in the selection process.

The second phase would be an application for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative which will provide significant funding over a five year period to facilitate implementation of the proposed projects. The reception of this two pronged “plan of attack” was well received by the group in attendance on Monday night.  Quick follow-up by each of the municipalities to submit their “wish lists”, along with their show of support, is needed to pull the planned applications together in the short timespan allotted.

If assurances can be made that the entire county will be planning together for a better base from which to grow our economy, then the business community should be supportive of this initiative. This is a strategic approach to make the best use of the available funding processes. And the collaborative effort is a great demonstration for Putnam’s future.

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

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Businesses Help Fund Higher Education Through Voluntary Scholarships

High School graduation is upon us, and area chambers of commerce are presenting some valuable scholarships to distinguished local students. For example, the Brewster, Cold Spring and Patterson chambers have various scholarships, the Carmel-Kent Chamber is giving three $1000 awards, and the Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber has awarded a total of $16,000 funded by the direct contributions of member businesses. The selection criteria for such scholarships varies, and is determined by committees who review the various candidates.

Some consideration these days is being given to young adults who have chosen community college or a trade as opposed to a four-year school. Not everyone is destined to get an MBA and become a major corporation executive.  Someone needs to learn the hands-on, practical skills to build homes, cars, devices, and work in the trades or in a factory.   Also, entrepreneurs and small businesses are the backbone of our economy; and those folks come from an eclectic background of early experiences.

It makes sense that we as business people should encourage interest in the trades, for small business and industry.   Trades are looking for motivated employees who are not “institutional education” inclined, but in today’s real world additional technical training and basic business practices are necessary for success. Chambers of commerce everywhere are searching for appropriate apprenticeship programs in cooperation with unions and trades groups.

A thought about the Minimum Wage: while it may be advisable to consider a higher standard for entry level employees, we must consider the impact of a minimum wage increase on small businesses, especially smaller manufacturing companies which struggle to compete globally, and seasonal businesses. Incorrect application of the minimum wage standard may make it impossible for some businesses to compete with entry level jobs which require less rigorous training and commitment on the part of workers, leading to less available jobs in the long run.

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

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The Business Community’s Unsung Heroes – Making A Difference Every Day

The role of the local small business community in building our economy is well documented, but its only one part of the story.   Oftentimes, the generosity, volunteerism and community involvement of our business owners and their employees goes completely unnoticed, and the reward is simply the knowledge that someone was helped or our hometowns were made just a little bit better for all.

As an example of the quiet, unsung good works of our business community members, consider Kenny Hogan of Kenny’s Carpet One in Carmel.   Kenny donates flooring for houses for seriously wounded veterans and was just awarded a plaque with a piece of the Twin Towers as a token of thanks from the organization that builds the houses. This is especially poignant given the recent Memorial Day holiday. Other Carmel business owners such as Henry Boyd of Boyd Artesian Well Co. and George Hartshorn, Jr. of Hartshorn Paving gave their time and equipment, in addition to monetary donations, to help build the Imagination Station for area youth.   Nearby in Mahopac, The DeCola family of Xpress Printing on Route 6 is well known for its generosity in supporting school teams and clubs, area nonprofits, and the local chamber of commerce.

Not inclined to “toot their own horn”, these businesspeople do it for the sake of the community. They realize that every one of us is an integral part of not only our local economy but the very fabric of our society.   Businesses generate the revenue necessary to support not only the owners and their employees but the many charitable causes they hold dear. Americans have a unique propensity for the principle of “voluntary association”, which brings people together for a common cause and purpose.   We are blessed to have businesspeople who assemble not just for selfish reasons, but to make our world a better place.

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

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Consolidated Funding Workshop Returns to Putnam County on May 27

The 2015 CFA program will be announced at the Putnam County Training Operations Building at the Donald B. Smith Campus, 112 Old Route 6, Carmel, on May 27 from 3-6PM, in a collaborative session hosted by the Putnam County Economic Development Corporation, the Putnam County Planning, Development and Public Transportation Department in conjunction with Pace University Land Use Law Center and supported by the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce. Former Putnam EDC President Meghan Taylor will present the information about the current CFA, followed by a question and answer session. Immediately following, the Land Use Law Center will facilitate a dialogue over funding priorities and grant opportunity collaborations for 2015 Consolidated Funding., based on ideas discussed in workshops held during March.

According to a letter signed jointly by Deputy County Executive Bruce Walker, Putnam Chambers President Bill Nulk, and Putnam EDC Chair Jeff Kellogg, it is also hoped that the event “will open a dialog amongst local communities to discuss ways to develop joint applications in support of some of the priority projects that span more than one municipality and include opportunities for public-private partnerships.” This is a great idea because in order to be successful we need our community leaders and elected officials to not only come to the meeting but formulate plans and ask for the money needed to facilitate Putnam County’s economic growth agenda in the years ahead.

As County Executive Maryellen Odell says, “You have to be in it to win it, but even more so, you have to be in it smart.” By working together and coupling businesses and municipalities, we likely will get a better share of a larger pie when the next round of awards are announced. We at the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce urge area officials to actively participate in this process and help this effort succeed.

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