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.
Marist College’s Bureau of Economic Research just released an “Economic Report of the Hudson Valley.” Some interesting facts: “During the two-year period ending in 2008, total migration into and out of Columbia County resulted in a net loss of 31 households and a $27.12 million increase in adjusted gross income (AGI)” and during that same time, “total migration into and out of Greene County resulted in a net gain of 247 households and $15.50 million in adjusted gross income (AGI).” Ulster and Sullivan were the only other Mid-Hudson counties with population gains from 2006-2008. H/T The Daily Freeman.
Sam Pratt‘s blog reprints a press release from Tivoli resident Ardith Truhan (a co-founder of the local community group Taghkanic Neighbors), and, as Pratt points out, it is a story so far unreported. An excerpt of the press release follows, take it for what it is worth:
A former Taghkanic resident has charged the town with arbitrarily and selectively penalizing her and her husband as a result of poor record keeping by the town’s previous building inspector and a politically motivated vendetta in connection with their outspoken opposition to the illegal motorcycle racetrack another resident has attempted to build in the town. Ardith Truhan read a letter at the town’s monthly board meeting Monday night accusing town officials of selectively enforcing a little-used building ordinance that requires all residents to have certificates of occupancy (C of Os) for residential buildings constructed on their property. She added that the town board was “fully apprised of all these events from the start,” and that it met in an improper and illegal executive session last fall—some 13 years after they completed construction on three buildings at their County Rte. 11 property—to determine what she and her husband John Markus owed the town, in “what amounts to an arbitrary $3,500.” Truhan said the board’s “complicity” in the attempt to penalize her and Markus “is quite evident.” At the core of the complaint against them, according to Truhan, was an investigation begun by unsuccessful 2009 town council candidate Erik Tyree, who is an employee of controversial racetrack builder Alan Wilzig. Truhan and Markus have been vocal opponents of Wilzig’s racetrack plan. Tyree, according to Truhan, investigated the paperwork associated with construction of their home, studio and garage apartment, and discovered that former building inspector Ed Waldron had not issued C of Os when the projects were completed in 1996. Tyree then set the town’s current building inspector and code enforcement officer Dennis Callahan on the trail with a formal letter of complaint in 2007, suggesting that Markus and Truhan owed the town $800,000 in fines because of the absence of the C of Os on the buildings. Acting on Tyree’s complaint, Callahan sent Truhan and Markus notices of violation. After consulting with Town Attorney Rob Fitzsimmons, however, Callahan then advised the couple that they could pay “fees” adding up to $10,800 to retroactively renew their building permits for each of the intervening years since construction was completed in order to qualify for the suddenly necessary C of Os. The couple challenged that ruling, and ultimately paid the town a settlement of $3,500 to resolve the matter. Read the entire press release and story at Sam Pratt.
As he stated he would at the April 5 town board meeting, Lebanon Valley Speedway owner Howard Commander has filed suit against town officials, seeking a state Supreme Court determination as to whether the campers parked on his property trigger state requirements for a campground. The effect of the lawsuit, according to town Zoning Enforcement Officer Stan Koloski, is to stay the town’s efforts to enforce zoning restrictions that the Zoning Board of Appeals believes apply to camping at the racetrack. Read the entire story in The Columbia Paper.
Cairo voters today approved a bond to finance a new library for the town, 53 to 47 percent. Totals: 283 yes, 248 no, 531 total voting. The vote at Resurrection Lutheran Church today determined Cairo will build a new library. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has offered the town a $3.07 million low-interest loan (4.25 percent) and a $200,000 grant with a local share match of about $100,000. The vote is for a bond for the loan. Cairo Library Executive Director Debra Kamecke is on the WGXC Radio Council.
This is 211 Union Street, the birthplace of Hudson’s most illustrious native son: General William Jenkins Worth. (How many people have three cities, a lake, a village, and a county named after them?) It’s surprising that such a significant Hudson landmark is in private hands, but it is. It’s owned by the Galvan Group–named for Eric Galloway and his partner, Henry van Ameringen. William Jenkins Worth was born in this house on March 1, 1794–just a decade after Hudson was founded. His father was Thomas Worth, one of the original Proprietors, and his mother was Abigail Jenkins. Read the entire article in The Gossips of Rivertown.