By Michael Bittel
We live in the most beautiful area of the country right here in Warren, Washington, Saratoga and Essex Counties. From our Adirondack Mountains, to beautiful Lake George to the rolling farms of Washington County, we are blessed to live and work here. The passion of our community is second to none with robust companies, big and small, who are vested in our region.
I am always amazed at the amount of giving in both time and money that our business community offers to our greater community. So how do we keep that going and what does 2020 have to offer our business climate and in turn our community?
First and foremost, I am very bullish for 2020 on the continued success of our region’s business community. Small businesses continue to start up in our area at a record pace. Our larger employers continue to expand. Our health care, our education system, our cultural attractions and the beauty of our area all hit high grades by our neighbors.
Our region is dynamic in the scope of our businesses. Our robust manufacturing, financial business, farming and tourism sectors spawn so much more in the case of small businesses. Some 82 percent of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce membership have 20 employees or less. Big or small, these folks have so much in common, and the following drivers in 2020 will help us continue to thrive or will stunt an amazing growth pattern over the past several years.
What is going to “make or break” us in 2020?
We need workers. Our business community is willing to train folks with no experience, but we need workers to train. We need to reinforce with our school counselors, our parents and our young men and women that you can start a manufacturing job at 18 years old at $60,000 per year plus benefits.
The ARCC is working with our members, BOCES and SUNY Adirondack to provide training for these jobs. This past December, the ARCC Leadership Adirondack class raised over $26,000 for BOCES scholarships for adults who need a helping hand. We also need state and federal help on ensuring ease of needed foreign workers through H-1B, H2-A and J programs for manufacturing and tourism.
We need New York state to help focus on keeping people and jobs in New York, instead of focusing so much on bringing new jobs into New York. How do we keep people and companies here? We need immediate tax and regulatory relief, especially for small business.
We need the State to realize the financial toll that expanded paid family leave and expanded paid sick leave have on business. Any efforts of expanding prevailing wage will certainly drive costs up dramatically and drive business out of New York. Our area and business community need to have a 100 percent break of unfunded mandates from the state to the local levels.
A concentration on infrastructure will certainly pay off in the short and long term to boost our economy. Most of our sewer and water systems were built 100 years ago and for a smaller population. Broadband is needed throughout our region as more and more people work from home. What is potentially the largest factor for even greater economic expansion in our area? New York state needs to support expanded natural gas infrastructure and availability. We have lost jobs and some companies have not expanded due to the lack of available natural gas.
As businesses continue to strive to achieve efficiencies, we urge all levels of government to do the same through consolidation where appropriate. Sharing of snow equipment, moving, utilizing and sharing workers across municipalities are a few examples that can help in this endeavor to keep our taxes lower.
Despite the challenges, we always have a chance to turn challenges into opportunities that can make 2020 not only a success and help us thrive for years to come.v
By Michael Bittel