By Annette Batson
The future looks bright for women owned businesses -- and those with a tourism connection -- in the Adirondacks.
That’s the message State senator Betty Little and Jim Murphy, the Adirondack Economic Development Committee's Executive Director, recently delivered to a group of more than 50 area business owners at meeting earlier his month.
The event -- held at Sticks and Stones Restaurant -- was organized by Schroon Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Patrick Siler.
The Good News: there is plenty of help available for the asking, as well as grant monies to those businesses that qualify. But the Senator says there’s not enough local women owned businesses to taking advantage of what’s out there.
Senator Little started the conversation about the challenges of developing a tourism economy in the Adirondacks. Some of it sounded very familiar - like the long standing opposition to certain development from the Adirondack Park Authority, bureaucratic resistance to rebuilding the Schroon Lake rest stop and erecting tourism signage on the Northway to get folks to towns like Schroon.
Little said there are many ways to attract new residents and business to the Adirondacks -- having accessible broadband and more complete cell phone coverage in the park is a goal that could attract residents who would be able to telecommute or work out of their homes.
Little said there was a lot of enthusiasm for promoting tourism in the park from Albany, with a governor who really loves the Adirondacks. There was, however, a palpable shock wave which ran through the crowd when Little mentioned "Adirondack Day" an event in May at the state capital.
None of the business owners from Schroon knew about the wildly successful promotion, and several expressed a common sentiment: "We would have liked to be there and represent Schroon Lake." Next year, there will be representation from Schroon, Patrick Siler assured the chamber members.
Little said she and her staff would help businesses navigate the red tape to apply for grant money that’s available for both women-owned businesses and tourism based businesses.
The Senator offered to write letters of support and recommendations for grant applicants for her constituents.
Little also urged business owners to take advantage of the services of the NY State Small Business Development Center in Plattsburgh.
“You can discuss tax incentives and meet to talk about your business plan,” The Senator said.
Little acknowledged that the certification process for women owned businesses -- essential to opening the door to potential grant money -- “is cumbersome, but really, really important.”
"It’s a flawed system, originally conceived for city-based businesses" which needs to become more ADK-friendly. For it to really work, she is trying to add a North Country perspective and obtain waivers or modifications for some of the regulations which simply don't work or are impractical in the regional economy.
Jim Murphy, the Adirondack Economic Development Committee's Executive Director, talked about opportunities and also gave his perspective on why businesses in the North Country have a tough time making it.
“I know why businesses fail. My goal is not to let any available money leave this region. Call my office and we'll help you fast-track your application for certification,” said Murphy, a financial advisor and business consultant who has spent decades analyzing companies of various sizes for the purpose of improving profitability, success and sustainability.
The meeting ended with a brief Q&A, during which time Jim Orlando, owner of Schroon Lake Campground, enthusiastically endorsed Senator Little and Murphy for the help they both provided 14 years ago when he started his business. "Betty and Jim are dedicated people," Orlando said.
Schroon Lake Association President Mark Granger took the opportunity to reinforce the idea that without a government backed effort to keep invasive species out area lakes – which is a huge tourism driver – there will be no tourism in the future.
Granger urged Senator Little to pass legislation addressing critical invasive plant issues, which left unchecked, could sabotage any development initiatives.
There was a parting word of advice: list your business on the Adirondack App! We actually found two. Who knew?