National rural-issues website The Daily Yonder ran an article yesterday exhorting rural businesses to form “clusters” if they want to thrive. The thrust of the story is counter-intuitive — the author, Stuart Rosenfeld, argues that rather than competing for customers, similar small businesses operating near each other seem to attract more business for all. He cites Vermont’s booming sustainable agriculture economy as an example:
Though the second smallest state in population, Vermont stands head and shoulders above every other state based on its per capita concentrations of local farms, CSAs (community supported agriculture), organic farms, and farmers markets. This is important because groups of related businesses — clusters — are now thought to be essential for economic growth. Businesses are more efficient when they are clustered. Workers generally earn more. Related business clusters can feed off each other.
The last section of the article has tips for how to build a cluster. Food for thought for the Catskills, perhaps?
Agriculture is no longer just crops and animals in Vermont. Except for the largest dairy farms, economic survival and growth depend on rural families finding ways to supplement their income from the food they produce though other innovative market opportunities. They may offer weekend farm stays, start catering services, process their own foods, direct sales to local markets, create artisan products and brands or produce renewable energy by selling biomass, wind power, or operating methane digesters.
A $200,000 state grant will enable Greene County to help small businesses. The grant from the New York State Office of Community Renewal will be funneled into the county’s Microenterprise Assistance Program, which provides grants to small businesses. The county will also offer training classes for small businesses. Start-up companies and existing businesses with five or fewer employees are eligible for grants of up to $25,000 to create jobs or expand their business. Applications can be submitted to the Greene County Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Planning. For more information, go to http://greenebusiness.com/economic-development/loans-incentives. Reservations are also being accepted for the Spring 2010 Microenterprise Assistance Program training class, a free, two-day intensive session that covers the basics of business planning, accounting and marketing. The class will be held June 18-19 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Greene County Emergency Operations and Training Center, One Volunteer Drive in Cairo. To reserve a seat, call the county at 518-719-3290. Reservations should be requested by June 14 at 4:30 p.m.
Chatham resident Judy Grunberg, owner of the Blue Plate restaurant and the founder of the PS/21 arts center, is among a group of investors close to finalizing a deal to buy Chatham’s Crandall Theater, The Columbia Paper, and other papers, report today after the “For Sale” sign came down Thursday. When owner Tony Quirino died in January, he had been working to sell the theater to the Chatham Film Club, though the Club now is among two bidding groups that apparently lost to the Grunberg group. The Grunberg group is reportedly talking with the film club about extending the theater’s previous collaborations.
WGXC’s Sam Sebren made it out to record the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation legislative hearing for renewal and modification of the existing Lafarge Title V Air Permit application last night at 6 p.m. at the Ravena-Coeymans Selkirk High School Auditorium.
Click here to listen to mp3 audio recording of the hearing, or paste the following url into your computer’s media player:
Review the complete LaFarge application documents at this link: http://www.dec.ny.gov/dardata/boss/afs/draft_atv_l.html. The DEC will be accepting written comments until May 21. Please mail or email your comments & include the application number so your comments aren’t lost.
Sarah H. Evans
NYSDEC Region 4 Headquarters
1130 North Westcott Rd.
Schenectady, NY 12306
Application ID# : 4-0124-00001/00112
Instead of completely closing down Main St., or putting stalls in parking spaces, the Village of Catskill will close one block of Main St. between Thompson Street and the entrance to the municipal parking lot at Willard Alley from 7:30 a.m. to at least 2 p.m., for the Catskill Regional Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market Saturdays from June 19 to Oct. 30, Susan Campriello in The Daily Mail reports. The farmer’s market had been held at Dutchmen’s Landing on the Hudson River, rather than downtown, and Village President Vince Seeley is also spearheading a similar move of the town’s July 4 fireworks, both in an effort to stimulate downtown business. WGXC Radio Council member Hudson Talbott is curating the non-farmer’s booths at the market.
Town, Wal-Mart settle dispute
—The Daily Mail, 05.05.10
Catskill is reducing the property tax assessment on the local Wal-Mart $1.67 million, reducing their total to $13.5 million, covering the years 2010 through 2012, effectively granting the giant corporation from Arkansas a large tax break. The Daily Mail first says Catskill is giving Wal-Mart the tax break, “avoiding a costly legal battle.” Then Supervisor Peter Markou reveals a bit more: “We’ve already spent $75,000 in assessment cases,” Markou told The Daily Mail, or said during the meeting. “That’s more than I’ve budgeted for.” Then Colin DeVries, The Daily Mail scribe writes, “The town’s 2010 budget included $40,000 for assessment litigation.” William J. Kemble in The Daily Freeman writes, “the reduction, approved at a Town Board meeting Tuesday, is a step toward settling a grievance by the retail giant. Officials said the settlement, which still requires a judge’s approval, was recommended to avoid further court expenses.” Then he quotes Markou — looks like he said it in the meeting — “This town has already spent $75,000 (since 2008) in assessment cases,” said town Supervisor Peter Markou. “That’s a lot of money. That’s way beyond the budgeted (amount) that I had in there.” Kemble’s story is a day late, but no dollars short. He spent the day following the money:
Town Assessor Nancy McCoy said Wednesday that Wal-Mart paid $530,00 in town, county and school taxes in 2009, and this year is expected to save about $62,000 with the reduced assessment. McCoy said the town has spent $10,100 since January to appraise and defend assessments against five major business. “It’s all ‘big boxes,’” Markou said. “They are all going to challenge their assessments. It’s a good year to do it. The economy is in the crapper.” Besides Wal-Mart, the following companies are also seeking assessment reductions:
• Holcim Cement Co., on U.S. Route 9W, from $10,135,700 to $1,650,00. The case was filed in 2008.
• Home Depot, on state Route 23B, from $8,995,100 to $4,060,000. The case was filed in 2009.
• Lowe’s, on state Route 23A, from $7,099,000 to $3,480,000. The case was filed in 2008.
• Rite Aid, on Route 23A, from $1.8 million to $500,000. The case was filed in 2009.
“You have to pick and choose your battles,” McCoy said. “You do the analysis to see if the assessment is supportable and then weigh the cost of supporting assessment versus the possibility of losing it; what it costs versus what you could save by not going to court and settling.”