PUTNAM POSTING: It’s Time for Less Talk, More Action on Business Concerns

Jennifer Maher | March 15, 2016

Jennifer-Maher_squarePrior to the recent Trailblazer Alumni Networking party on Feb. 25, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and I were collaborating on new business strategies while she was teeing up her State of the County speech, which was scheduled on March 10th at the Putnam County Golf Course. She plans to announce that this year’s focus will be on business development and allocating resources properly to foster the best possible environment for economic growth throughout Putnam County. Implementation of her vision will involve collaborative effort on the part of various agencies and organizations.

“It’s time to put all the stakeholders to the challenge of making sure that infrastructure projects become a priority for our towns and villages,” says Odell. “It also means creating stronger relationships with the East of Hudson Corporation, who has identified where projects that fall under the Clean Water guidelines, and who can help facilitate and help fund some of our sewer and water projects that are critical for economic growth that are safe for the environment.”

The county executive clearly feels that getting everyone together will stop the finger-pointing and potential isolation that often plagues efforts such as this, where built-in bureaucracy preserves the status quo at the expense of getting anything done in terms of actual progress.

Odell was unable to make the Trailblazer event due to travel delays, but sent the above message to be shared with attendees. It was the perfect forum, since the honorees for the evening included the business leaders who have been recognized during the Chambers’ six-year existence. There were more than 130 people in attendance who all share the same vision for Putnam County’s business climate.

At the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, we strongly feel that our mission this year is to partner with the county to gather the EDC, IDA, Tourism and all other economic development partners together to develop an immediate, actionable plan to attract businesses that support existing commerce and our Main Street communities. Essentially, that means no more economic development in “low gear” – it’s time to upshift!

Standing Up For New York’s Small Business

New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a recent report summing up the contributions of small business to the New York State economy, and the numbers are incredible: “451,000 entrepreneurs covering a vast spectrum from neighborhood coffee shops to specialized tech firms. These businesses generate more than $950 billion in annual revenue and 3.9 million jobs, or just over half of all private sector employment in the state.” He also touted the $150 billion in payroll supported by the small businesses of our state.

The Comptroller went on to say that “state government has a responsibility to help small businesses prosper and create jobs.” This is a very commendable assertion; however recent events have called into question the state’s commitment to this very premise. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already imposed sweeping health care mandates, is pushing to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour and institute paid family leave, all of which are having a deep impact on the viability of small business in New York State. Under the proposed requirements, many of the jobs that the Comptroller touts in his report would be lost, younger and less skilled workers would struggle to find a pathway to the training they need to succeed, and the quality of life for all in our state would be adversely affected.

Recently, a consortium of more than 50 business groups, chambers of commerce and economic development agencies have developed a campaign called the “Minimum Wage Reality Check” (www.minimumwagerealitycheck.com), which is sharing real world examples of businesses and organizations that are fearful of the negative impact of the minimum wage legislation. Surely our leaders have good intentions in attempting to make these changes, but the practical reality of adding massive new government regulation and expense on small businesses will be very detrimental to our economic future.

Jennifer Maher served as the 2015 vice president of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors and currently serves as the 2016 vice president of the Hudson Valley Chapter New York State Commercial Association of Realtors and chairwoman of the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce.

Jennifer Maher
Jennifer Maher is COO of J. Philip Real Estate and Founding Chairwoman Putnam County Business Council.