PUTNAM POSTING: Putnam County Business Council Panel Shares Economic Growth Ideas

Jennifer Maher | August 2019

On July 30, more than 60 business leaders and owners gathered at the Putnam County Golf Course for the 2nd annual Putnam County Business Council “Leadership Breakfast” series. The meeting began with a remembrance of the Honorable Jimmy Reitz and the start of a scholarship fund.

Tompkins Mahopac Bank provided the initial spark with a $1,000 donation, and others followed suit, such as Insite Engineering, Villa Barone, Community Cares and J. Philip Real Estate which pledged $500, plus a personal donation from Ann Ellsworth of the Women’s Resource Center. Nearly $3,000 has already been raised to support this very worthy cause.

We are just in the beginning stages of forming the scholarship fund and look forward to carrying on Jimmy’s legacy! Jim’s wife, Barbara Reitz, will be assisting in creating criteria following in Jimmy’s beliefs and vision of today’s youth. Thank you to all that have contributed so far to the scholarship fund.

An excellent panel of speakers was featured at the meeting. Dr. Marsha Gordon, president and CEO of the Business Council of Westchester, Michael Kaplowitz, chairman of the Westchester Economic Development Committee, Kathleen Abels, newly-appointed president of the Putnam County Economic Development Corporation, Amy Sayegh, chairwoman of the Putnam County Economic Development Legislative Committee and last but not least, Mike Oates, president & CEO of the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. gave some wonderful insight into the regional economic development climate.

Oates gave a briefing on what’s happening in the Hudson Valley in economic development. A roundtable conversation then followed, with panelists commenting on such topics as: “What are some effective strategies to attract employers/industry to our community?” and “How can the business community help stimulate economic development?” The discussion was great and some ideas resulted that should come to fruition in the near future. Stay tuned!

Please contact us at info@pcbusinesscouncil.org to get information on the Jimmy Reitz Scholarship fund.

What Just Happened with Tourism?

Just a few short weeks after my column expressed optimism over the future of the Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, the bureau has disappeared. I find it ironic that this week we hosted an event exploring the topic of government working with business just days after the Tourism board folded up shop overnight.

Like many such operations, tourism in our county was run like a private public entity that also received funding from the state. The county claims that tourism refused to be transparent and report to the legislature. The Tourism Bureau claims to have been blindsided when they saw an ad for a tourism director in the local paper.

Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, we the business owners and taxpayers are left hanging in the wind. We live in a beautiful county chock full of year -round outdoor recreation as well as shopping (yes shopping!) at local boutiques, fine dining, museums and attractions. How difficult can it be to get the word out? Do the people of Dobbs Ferry or Riverdale, New Rochelle or Danbury know they can come to Putnam and spend a day and have a magical time?

What, exactly, will this new arrangement of the county running tourism look like? Can we get the towns involved? Since the county controls the sales taxes for each town perhaps there will be a tourism budget for each town? Maybe if each town board was responsible for marketing ideas and strategies for its tourist attractions and potentials no one would get left behind. I know that many felt underrepresented in the past tourism campaigns.

For each campaign we should be tying in the business community, providing businesses and services that complement the attractions being marketed. Perhaps we can revisit Kiosks on the Bike Path, making mention of attractions and businesses along the route. Tourism may be handled by the county from here on in, but the Putnam County Business Council will be watching, guiding and helping along the way.

Jennifer Maher
Jennifer Maher is chairwoman of the Putnam County Business Council and currently serves as the vice president of the Hudson Valley Chapter of the New York State Commercial Association of Realtors.