Your PTAC Counselor and Their Services

Amber Stevens

Before taking you on a journey through a typical day as a PTAC counselor, I’d like to preface this with a brief explanation of what “PTAC” stands for, and why, if you’re a business owner, you may want to consider giving your local PTAC office a call.  PTAC, the first of many acronyms you’ll find throughout this article, stands for Procurement Technical Assistance Center.  It is a designation given to over 3oo offices nationwide that provide cost-free assistance to U.S. businesses who participate, or have the potential to participate in the government marketplace.

    Something that is crucial to keep in mind here is that the government buys just about everything!  Are you a small business selling a product or service?  If so, chances are high that some form of government, whether on the federal, state or local level, could potentially have a need to buy what you’re selling some day. They just don’t know it yet.  According to USASpending.gov, a Department of Treasury website that tracks federal spending and contracts, more than $9 billion in federal contracts were awarded to New York state companies or organizations throughout fiscal year 2016 alone.  An additional $1.4 billion were awarded to subcontractors in the same year.  These are significant dollar figures representing a market that simply should not be ignored due to the perceived complexity of doing business with the government.

    With the continual expansion of Fort Drum’s infrastructure over nine years ago, came the apparent need for a regional PTAC in the north country, and with the help of organizations such as New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC) and Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization (FDRLO), a PTAC program was established at the Greater Watertown-North Country (GWNC) Chamber of Commerce in Watertown.  North Country PTAC is now one of eight regional centers located in the state, and assists close to 600 clients across 11 of the most northern counties in the state.  Federal funds awarded to firms located within this 11-county territory have reached just over $3 billion year-to-date in  fiscal year 2017 making up for just 3 percent of the $99 billion in federal funds awarded across New York state so far this year.

    All PTAC programs are unique in their own way and ours is no exception, as it is one of few in the country whose host organization is a Chamber of Commerce.  Not only is the GWNC Chamber the largest business association in the north country, but its close proximity to a military installation makes it an ideal host for the North Country PTAC program and a one-stop shop for all your business needs.  It Is important to note that although there are many benefits to becoming a member of your local Chamber of Commerce, there is no membership requirement to receive the free and confidential services provided by the North Country PTAC program.

    A PTAC counselor’s job is to act as a resource to businesses in pursuit of government contracts at federal, state and local government levels.  On any given day, this could mean conducting one-on-one counseling sessions where they are assisting clients with registrations and certifications, determining their company’s readiness to sell to the government, or advising businesses how to go about finding, pursuing and managing government contracts. Clients are also encouraged to sign up for the PTAC’s Bid-Match service, an electronic tool available to all businesses that will help them identify bid opportunities by sending email notifications when the client’s products and/or services match requests for proposals (RFP’s) posted on online bid board sites.

    In addition to one-on-one sessions, North Country PTAC coordinates and provides classes, training seminars and online webinars to provide the critical training and in-depth assistance our local businesses need to compete and succeed in defense and other government contracting.  Throughout 2016 the program sponsored 35 networking and educational events with a focus on a variety of contracting topics including, but not limited to Veteran Owned Business Certifications, MWBE Certifications, new acquisition procedures, specialized solicitations, federal contracting and many more.

    Although assistance is targeted toward small businesses, especially veteran-owned, and woman- and minority-owned enterprises, large businesses can benefit from PTAC services as well by participating in trainings, and with help identifying qualified subcontractors and suppliers.

    Your local PTAC Counselor is not only meeting new people and learning new things every day, but is required to be an expert on all things related to government procurement.  Although it is a challenging role that requires a solid understanding of stringent government standards and complex contract requirements, it’s fulfilling to know that the efforts put forth by the North Country PTAC program do, and will continue to, boost economic activity in the north country by helping local businesses navigate contracting processes.

    North Country PTAC helps create jobs and drive economic benefits in our community.  In 2016 alone, North Country PTAC increased its broad base of capable suppliers and enhanced competition by providing over 500 hours of counseling time, created or retained over 9,000 jobs, and added 92 new clients to its database.  The overall database stands at 591 active clients.

    If you own and operate an established business located in the north country, you are eligible to become a client of North Country PTAC.  To do this, you can go to www.northcountryptac.com, click PTAC SINGUP at the bottom of the page, then complete and submit the online application form. 

                Feel free stop by or call the PTAC office located within the GWNC Chamber of Commerce between 8a.m. and 4:30p.m. Monday through Friday at 1241 Coffeen St., Watertown, NY 13601 or 315-788-4400.

National Grid has Programs to Assist Agriculture

Jay Matteson

Farms and agribusinesses considering improving their energy efficiency or an expansion project should look closely at the program National Grid offers. They have been a good partner to many farms across Northern New York offering financial assistance for energy projects. As an example, National Grid assisted a 430-cow dairy just north of Albany in 2015. The farm wanted to improve their energy efficiency and increase their productivity.  National Grid was able to help the farm achieve both objectives through $18,000 in energy efficiency incentives and a $50,000 grant from National Grid’s Economic Development Agribusiness program.

    National Grid offers a variety of energy saving farm incentives. Improved lighting systems can increase milk production per cow and provide a better work environment for farm staff. National Grid provides significant incentives for converting old light systems to newer higher efficiency systems. There is a range of incentives offered depending upon the type of fixture.

    Fans can be a huge electricity demand during the warm summer months. Without fans, herd health and production can drop significantly. It is important to provide well-circulated air flow and cool temperature to keep your cows happy and minimize fly problems.  Through National Grid’s help, farms may be able to obtain more efficient fans that improve air quality and cooler temperatures.  In addition, variable frequency drives and controls can be put in place to allow fans to run only when needed adding additional savings onto a farm electricity bill.

    Assistance on upgrading milking equipment may also be possible from National Grid. Variable frequency driven vacuum pumps, air compressors, pumps, air dryers, milk precoolers, heat exchangers and chillers are eligible for National Grid incentive payments. Many farms have already taken advantage of incentives from National Grid to upgrade this equipment.

    Some of our farms located in the rural areas of Northern New York face limitations because of the power supply to the farm.  In order to upgrade or expand facilities, farms sometimes face needing a three-phase power supply to farm instead of single-phase. This can be a very expensive proposition as the farm will incur the costs of running three-phase power to the farm, if the supply is not present in front of the farm already. National Grid does have a grant program to decrease the cost of obtaining three-phase power. Potentially, depending upon the specific situation the farm faces, it may receive up to $200,000 for running three-phase power.

    The National Grid Agri-Business Productivity Program is available to assist dairy farms, commercial farms, food processing businesses and controlled environment agricultural facilities with energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy projects and delivery or productivity improvements. To be eligible a business or farm must receive electric or natural gas from National Grid and be undertaking an energy efficiency project through any public agency or utility program or be purchasing /installing equipment for a renewable energy project to service the facility. A project that is constructing or upgrading a new controlled environment agriculture facility may also be eligible.  Awards up to $50,000 are possible.

    Our office has a great working relationship with the Economic Development and Corporate Citizenship office of National Grid in Syracuse. Mr. Joe Russo is great to work with and has worked hard to help farms and agribusinesses with their projects.  If you are interested in learning more about these programs, please give our office, Jefferson County Economic Development, a call at 315-782-5865 or by email to coordinator@comefarmwithus.com or contact Mr. Russo directly at 315-428-6798.  You’ll find a good partner through National Grid with your energy efficiency or expansion projects.

Jay M. Matteson is agricultural coordinator for the Jefferson County Local Development Corp. Contact him at coordinator@comefarmwithus.com. His column appears monthly in NNY Business.

Greetings to the members of the Class of 2017!

Bob Gorman

Those of you who should have been in the Class of 2016 have already learned an important business lesson about this esteemed institution that honors you today: The journey is more important than the destination — as long as your check doesn’t bounce.

    And speaking of business, all of you will be looking for a job soon and there are a couple of things you ought to know. Your perception of the job market and what you think employers are looking for is likely very different from what the job market is and what employers are actually looking for.

    It’s like the difference between a recession and a depression. A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose YOUR job. The Rev. Jesse Jackson campaigned for president in the 1980s using this concept. Even though national unemployment was 5 percent at the time, he would tell listeners: “But if YOU are the one without a job, the unemployment rate is 100 percent.”

    Your perception of the job market is affected by the government, which relentlessly tinkers with the economy to create more jobs. Thus, you may be under the impression that everyone is doing his utmost to ensure that everyone has a job.

    And you would be wrong.

    Government says it wants full employment. But business and industry strive for minimum employment because minimum employment is the key to keeping down costs.

    Thus, as you look for a job you should know this: Nobody really wants to hire you.

    This is evidenced by the fact that in most cases, the job you will be applying for has been vacant for some time.

    Business and industry often allow jobs to go unfilled for a while to control expenses and to learn — or be reminded — of just how important the job is to the company. By the time you show up for the interview, the company has only recently — and reluctantly — decided that someone must be hired.

    There are some very sound business reasons for this reluctance.

    1) You are costly. Your salary is all that you see, but the company sees health benefits, insurance, Social Security and a variety of other costs. You think you’re getting paid $30,000, but to the company you are costing it $40,000 or more.

    2) You don’t know anything. You’ll even admit it in a job interview by saying such things as, “I’m a quick learner,” or “you’ll only have to tell me once.” To the company you are a person who won’t generate a return on its investment for at least a year.

    3) You have just spent four years in college being coddled in a manner the rest of the world can’t afford to replicate. There are a lot of chuckleheads who six months out of college quit their jobs and run home to mommy after being wounded by some minor inconvenience. Thus, you are considered a flight-risk hire.

    So if nobody wants you, how do you get a job? The first thing you must do is decide what you want to accomplish in your interview. That means you must learn what the company wants to accomplish.

    Of course, there are several things you shouldn’t do during a job interview. Never ask:

* When do I get a vacation?

* When do I get a raise?

* Will I have to work overtime?

    Never announce which sports teams you hate. Don’t say church is for idiots. If asked about hobbies, don’t meander into your sex life. And don’t get cute and ask what the company is doing to save the Brazilian rain forest, unless the company is actually trying to save rain forests.

    Obviously, what you say will be held against you. In a way, what you are trying to do is have a lively discussion without putting your foot in your mouth.

    Make a list of questions and store them mentally. Learn about the company’s history on its website. They do not have to be great questions, but they will show that you are actually interested in learning about the company. How long does training take place? How many employees are there? Does the company encourage people to be involved in community activities? After all, most businesses and industries want to be good corporate neighbors and want employees who are on the same wavelength.

    Basically, you have few advantages during the interview other than trying to control who is doing the talking.

    Will any of this work? There are no guarantees, of course. Nobody has a sure-fire method for getting a job. But I do know how you can at least be asked to come in for that crucial job interview.

    On your resume, write the following:

SHORT-TERM GOAL

    “To do my job so well that within a year after I’m hired my supervisor will receive a promotion and a pay raise.”

    I know this doesn’t jibe with your notion that the world is about you. But forget the jibe; you need a job. Trust me, this will work.

                Good luck on your future, especially to those of you who added a self-inflicted extra semester or two to your debt load.

Realtors Advocate For Property Owners and Buyers

Lance Evans

The month of May saw Realtors from our area join their counterparts across the state and nation to advocate for consumer friendly real estate issues and oppose measures that would hurt property owners and buyers.

    During the week of May 15 to May 20, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) held its annual Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C. Attended by approximately 8,500 attendees from across the country and around the world, the week included about 200 meetings and events that covered many real estate topics and allowed Realtors to take an active role in advancing the real estate industry, public policy, and the Association. 

    The tri-county area attendees included Jennifer Dindl (Humes Realty and Appraisal), Carolyn Gaebel (Bridgeview Real Estate and Gaebel Real Estate Services), Lisa L’Huillier (Hefferon Real Estate), Brittany Matott (County Seat Realty), Al Netto (Weichert Realtors, Thousand Islands Realty), and Jennifer Stevenson (Blue Heron Realty), along with myself. During the week there were NAR and Women’s Council of Realtors committee meetings, idea exchanges with other Realtors and staff, and information and updates that will assist all of us in better serving the area’s real estate consumers.

    On May 18, we met with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and joined colleagues from around the state while meeting with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Charles Schumer. We focused on three main issues.

    The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), of particular interest to our area, is slated to expire on September 30. Without reauthorization, NFIP cannot issue or renew policies in 22,000 communities where flood insurance is required for a mortgage. The NFIP was created to provide incentives for communities to rebuild to higher standards and steer development away from flood zones. In exchange, communities gain access to flood maps, mitigation assistance and subsidized insurance to prepay for future damage and recover more quickly from flooding. The NFIP was last up for reauthorization in 2008. There were 18 short-term extensions and a two-month shutdown before Congress reauthorized the program in 2012.

    We asked our representatives to pass the “Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act,” which passed the House unanimously last year, and to enable consumers to meet federal requirements with private plans that often offer better coverage at a lower cost than the NFIP.

    Tax reform was also on our list of issues. While no tax reform legislation had been introduced as of our meetings, there were several plans that had been discussed. Some of these would lower tax rates and raise the standard deduction, but would pay for these changes by scaling back existing real estate tax provisions. Proposals that limit itemized deductions, even if not directly changing rules applicable to mortgage interest, could have serious negative consequences for homeowners. 

    PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) analyzed a blueprint-like tax reform plan and noted that home-owning families with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would face average tax hikes of $815 in the first year after enactment, while non-homeowners in the same income range would see an average cut of $516. Currently, homeowners pay 83 percent of all federal income taxes, and this share would go even higher under similar reform proposals. Homeowners should not have to pay a higher share of taxes because of tax reform.

    Further, proposals limiting tax incentives for homeownership would cause home values everywhere to plunge. Estimates provided by PwC show that values could fall in the short run by more than 10 percent, with a larger drop in high-cost areas. It might take years for home values to rebound from such a significant decrease.

    The final issue we spoke about was protecting sustainable homeownership.   We asked our representatives to responsibly reform the secondary mortgage market. Failure to do so, while limiting costs imposed on homeowners, ensure proper loan disclosures, and fund necessary system upgrades for federal housing programs hurts the very fabric and underpinnings of our society.

    Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac act as a backstop for mortgages and help to safeguard 30-year, fixed rate mortgages ensuring families are not shut out of homeownership. We asked that these entities not be dismantled without identifying a viable replacement.

    The week was productive and informative. It is important that our representatives hear from Realtors advocating for property owners. The information we received at the meetings will assist us as we work for housing opportunities in the area.

LANCE M. EVANS is the executive officer of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors and the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors. Contact him at levans@nnymls.com. His column appears monthly in NNY Business.

Farmer’s Market Season is Upon Us!

Jay Matteson

By: Jay Matteson

A true sign that Northern New York has moved away from snow season is the beginning of farmer’s markets in May. Fresh, local produce, baked goods, potted flowers and local wine are among some of the things that visitors to a market will find.  Having a great conversation with a friend, getting a bite to eat from a food vendor and sometimes enjoying musical entertainment are extras that make our local open air markets something many look forward to.

    The first market of the year to open is the big Watertown Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays, beginning May 24, in front of the Dulles State Office Building on Washington Street in Watertown. This market features almost everything you want from an outdoor market.  Local produce, eggs, meats, wine, plants, baked products, fudge, candies, honey and many other farm products are available depending upon the time of the season.  You’ll also find arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry, informational booths and many food vendors.  They commonly have musicians providing live performances during the market.  This market begins at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. The market accepts FMNP, WIC and SNAP benefits.

    Three markets open on Friday May 26, 2017 and run on Fridays until their end date. The Carthage Farmer’s Market is held at the Farmer’s Market pavilion on Riverside Drive from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. This market accepts FMNP benefits.  The Alexandria Bay Farmer’s Market opens at 9 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. It is located in the Kinney’s Drugs parking lot. The Alexandria Bay Market does not accept any benefit programs. If you can’t make any of the daytime markets, you might want to visit the Jefferson Bulk Milk (Cheese Store) Farmer’s Market on Route 3 in Hounsfield as they start in mid-afternoon at 2:30 p.m. and end at 6 p.m. This market accepts FMNP,WIC, and SNAP benefits. Another market that runs on Fridays but doesn’t open until June 2 is the South Jeff Chamber of Commerce Farm and Artisan Market.  This is the first year for this market which will be held in the big pavilion behind the Adams Volunteer Fire Department.  The South Jeff market starts at 3 p.m. and ends at 7 p.m. allowing people to visit the market after working hours. They will not be accepting any benefit programs.

    On Thursday, June 1, the Clayton Farmer’s Market opens. Held in the Village Park, this market starts at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. They are not accepting any benefit programs. This beautiful location gives visitors a nice chance to walk around downtown Clayton and view the mighty St. Lawrence River.

    Saturdays are also a busy farmer’s market day. The earliest market opens at 9 a.m. in the pavilion at J.B. Wise Place behind Public Square in Watertown. The Saturday Farmer’s Market opens at 9 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m., beginning on June 3. This market accepts FMNP, WIC and SNAP benefits.  Starting June 17 on the Village Green in Cape Vincent, you will find the Cape Vincent Farmer’s Market. This market opens at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. They do not accept any benefit programs.

    A new farmer’s market in Jefferson County is at one of our newest farm wineries. The Busted Farmer’s Market is hosted at the Busted Grapes Winery at 19557 Ball Road, Black River. They are also the only market open on Sundays. Starting on June 18, they will open at 11 a.m. and end at 4 p.m.  They do not accept any benefit programs.  This could be a fun market to visit if you’re not doing anything on a Sunday, just don’t get busted!

    All of this information is available on the calendar of agricultural events found at www.jeffersoncountyagriculture.com. The list of markets is also available in the “Local Food Guide” published by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County. The local food guide will be available on their website, www.ccejefferson.org/local-foods as soon as it is published.

Youth Philanthropy Council Program Successful

Rande Richardson

By: Rande Richardson

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” –Aristotle

Now in its eighth year, the Northern New York Community Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Council program continues to thrive as more and more high school students learn about the north country’s nonprofit organizations and the way they impact the lives of us all. In addition to the way it helps engage the next generation within their communities, it also helps provide valuable insight into what way they want to make their mark and change the world. This is on top of the $20,000 in grants they will award this June.

    We also get a glimpse into the way they prioritize and make decisions. We see what resonates with them and what types of organizations they feel provide the most value, and those they don’t. Nonprofit organizations should take note as they will eventually need to effectively engage future generations to remain relevant and supported.  

    For some time, we have sought a way to begin engaging even younger students. As the end of the school year approaches, an initiative is being prepared to be launched when school resumes in September. Targeted at middle school students, this new giving challenge program will be a precursor to the current Youth Philanthropy Program and will help spark an increased awareness of, and interest in, the work of area organizations.

    The Community Foundation and Stage Notes Performance with a Purpose, who share similar objectives, will join forces for good, empowering area middle school students to identify the way they would like to see their communities enhanced. Stage Notes will dedicate $5,000 of their show proceeds this summer, combined with $5,000 from the Community Foundation. By the time we enter the season of gratitude and giving in November and December, a total of $10,000 will be awarded to area nonprofit organizations.

    Students will compete for multiple, various grant awards.  Although specific details will be forthcoming, the challenge will involve two major components. Seventh- and eighth-graders will be asked to write about what “community” means to them— their definition of community and what elements help make the place they live strong and vibrant. The students must then explain which nonprofit organizations they believe can best support their vision for their community in areas of both basic human needs and overall enhancement of quality of life. The winning students will visit the organizations, personally present their gifts and see with their own eyes how their sharing and caring makes a difference, recognizing that the generosity of others has made it possible.

    We hope this program encourages families to think about what others do to make the place they live better and the role they can play in encouraging it, today. As a society, we believe in the importance of educating the mind, and both the Community Foundation and Stage Notes want to continue to encourage fostering educating the heart.

    There is no better way to involve youth in making a difference than allowing them to be a part of the decision making process. We also reinforce that we are a community together and we need good citizens to perpetuate making that community the best it can be.

    Sure, the grants themselves will have a direct positive effect on nonprofit organizations and the work they do, but it is even more exciting to think about the long-term multiplier effect of encouraging this type of thought at a young age. We look forward to sharing the results with you.

    One way or another, our children’s vision for our community will become our vision for the community. These types of meaningful experiences will help provide inspiration throughout life and refine a more deliberate approach. We all have a responsibility to help ensure the community they inherit is one we all would wish for them so the phrase “good enough”  is never used for the place they spend their lives. We know summer vacation is just around the corner, but you can understand why we’re already excited to get back to school!

Chamber Gears up for 2017 Farmers Market

Kylie Peck

Mark your calendar on May 24 as the Greater Watertown Farm & Craft Market prepares for its 40th consecutive year. As we are busy securing vendors for this year’s market, it is important to recognize the history and benefits surrounding this annual event.

    Farmer’s markets have been a part of the national landscape since the mid-1700s and have since become woven into our culture, increasing in number and popularity. Year after year these markets continue to be a welcomed event, encouraging healthy shopping selections, social opportunities and increased business visibility.

    A farmer’s market acts as a source of fresh, nutritious foods from local producers. With farm- fresh options, the farmers are adept at providing an abundance of items at reasonable pricing to local consumers. Partnering with nutrition programs can increase the health and wellness of these area residents by offering the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, Farmers Market Wireless EBT Program and Nutrition Education, resulting in fresh options available to everyone.

    There is a growing trend among consumers to support local farmers and local economies. A farmer’s market is a perfect venue for this trend. Bringing these options to the center of our downtown creates a direct connection with the growers of the foods and creates the opportunity for consumers to ask questions, learn about how their food is produced and get to know the people who are providing the food they feed their families. This centers conversation on healthy cooking options and interest in fresh foods.

    Each week the Farm & Craft Market draws thousands of local shoppers and community members to downtown Watertown with a broad mix of diverse cultural backgrounds, a variety of ages and all levels of economic scale.  Throughout the season, local organizations use the market as a venue to educate the public about their mission, publicize their services and highlight opportunities to become involved.

    Hosting a farmers market also helps build the local economy. Not only does this provide an opportunity for farmers, crafters and food vendors to highlight their offerings and skills, it is also a benefit for local businesses. Customers spill into the surrounding area, bringing foot traffic and sales to downtown shops and eateries. Business owners are encouraged to create incentives to draw customers in to generate commerce in the local community.

    Creating an atmosphere with local entertainment, educational opportunities and local food and product sources transforms our downtown into a vibrant public space, which nurtures the sense of community among residents and visitors alike. Adding local shops to the mix creates the ideal opportunity for downtown visitors to make the most of their outing and truly get a sense of what the city of Watertown has to offer.

    With the opening of the market comes excitement and anticipation that summer is truly on its way and we are able to celebrate the offerings of our local farmers and crafters. Year after year we bring 50 to 60 local producers, crafters and food vendors to the community, creating a unique opportunity in Watertown that is met with much anticipation. If you are a farm or craft vendor, please contact our office to learn more about getting involved in our market. We encourage downtown business owners to get in contact with our team to learn more about getting the most out of our downtown market days.

    The Watertown Farm & Craft Market is held every Wednesday between May 24 and October 4 on Washington Street in downtown Watertown. For more information on the market or to learn about the GWNC Chamber of Commerce, please visit our website, watertownny.com or call us at (315) 788-4400.

Kylie peck is the president and CEO of the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce. She lives in Clayton with her husband and two young boys. Contact her at kpeck@watertownny.com or 315-788-4400.

5 Reasons Why No One is Visiting Your Website

Joleene Moody

You want more sales. More visitors to your website. You want people hungry for your product to eat right out of your hand. As you sleep, you imagine your email list growing and growing, with an email open rate larger than your biggest competitor. You have everything you need to achieve this: the website, the perfect opt-in, a high-demand product, everything.

    Or doooo you?

    If your traffic is nil and your numbers on Google Analytics are making you cry, you need to find out why, most ricky-tick. Based on past clients who have struggled with this very issue, we have compiled the top five reasons why no one is visiting your website, and what you can do to turn things around.

1) Your Branding is Lackluster

Branding is often misunderstood. Ask someone about their brand, and you might hear them talk about their logo. This is because the traditional definition of branding is based on the color, shape, size, and font used to create a logo.

    But my friends, branding is so much more.

    While the logo is certainly an element of your brand, it isn’t the end-all, be-all. Branding is how you are able to control the way people think and feel when they see your logo or hear your company’s name. That means when they visit your site, they need to be pulled in by your message and your mission. One should know within five seconds of landing on your home page what it is you do. If this isn’t happening, your branding may be out of sync. Maybe even non-existent.

    Clear, crisp branding also makes you stand out like an expert. If you were to visit a website that lacked character versus a website that pulled you in with plenty of character, which site would you peruse?

    Get clear on your branding and invest in the change. The sharper you look, the more traffic you’ll see.

2) You’re Not Blogging

I saw that eye roll. I see it quite often, actually. Business owners think blogging is for the birds. Some are under the misconception that blogging is a complete and total waste of time.

    But what if I told you that a single blog post could be your ticket to a sale?

    Blogging is a highly encouraged form of inbound marketing that uses targeted content. Targeted content is the kind of content internet users seek when they sit down with Google. For example, if someone Googles the term “need website visitors,” Google will send out a bunch of bots to find legitimate, purposeful content that matches that search.

    By writing blog posts with targeted content, you’re essentially opening the door to your website to invite people in. The more you blog, the more you become BFFs with Google.

3) Your Website is Clunky

Think about the way you navigate a website when you land on it. You see the home page first, look for the menu bar second and click on your desired location third. Sometimes you might see an image you want to click on, so you head over to it. Other times you might get distracted by an opt-in, so you sign up for the offer and move on.

    No matter where you go or what you might get distracted by, the website you land on should be navigable at all times from all angles. It should be easy to look at and easy to search.

    If your website is poorly designed, doesn’t load quickly, and gets people lost almost immediately, you’re compromising one of the most important pieces of your business.

    The truth is, you have approximately seven seconds to grab the attention of your visitor or they’re gone. They’ll zip back out into cyberspace to find a website that is user-friendly, easy to navigate, and doesn’t look like a fifth-grader built it.

    Your website is most often your first impression. If it’s clunky, your visitors will think the work you deliver is clunky, too.

4) You’re Not Sharing on Social Media

Social media can be a bear. With so many social channels to choose from, it can be overwhelming for some. As a result, we resist sharing and eventually give up because we think it does no good.

    I encourage you to not give up.

    Creating a presence on social media takes time. But even if you have a small following, sharing and engaging with others is the secret sauce to your success. Start by choosing three social channels that resonate with the work you do. Decide to put a few hours a week into posting your content. But coupled with this, decide to like, share and comment on others’ content.

    Make friends with others. Play nice. Build relationships. If you stick to this strategy, you’ll soon discover that many people out there are on your side and happy to share your content. Before you know it, your Google Analytics numbers will increase, and you’ll be a happy camper.

5) You’re Using the Wrong Keywords

Keywords are tricky. We get it. Over the past 10 years or so, the use of keywords in web content has changed. Site builders used to use a method now dubbed as keyword stuffing, where they would stuff the same word (or series of words) over and over again into as much content as possible all over the site.

    Google won’t let you pull this stunt anymore. That’s why using long-tail keywords to help narrow down a search is where it’s at. This is because these keywords are associated with more qualified traffic.

    For example, thousands of search options will pop up if you use the words “cake maker.” But if someone is searching for a cake maker in Virginia, using keywords in blog posts like “cake maker in Virginia” will knock other prospects out of the way and shoot you to the top of a Google search.

    Using keyword research tools is helpful, too. Don’t go it alone.

Agriculture Gearing Up for the Event Season

 

Jay Matteson

   Warm weather is on the way! At least by July the snow will be gone and it’ll be time to get outside. If you visit www.jeffersoncountyagriculture.com and click on the calendar tab at the top, you’ll be taken to our calendar of agriculture for Jefferson County and Northern New York. Here are a few of the many events, found on the website, which you can look forward to in 2017.
     On April 21, the annual Jefferson County Agricultural Development Conference will take place at the Hilton Garden Inn in Watertown. From 9 to 10:45 a.m., Chris Lorence from Christopher A. Lorence PR & Marketing Services will provide a workshop on advanced use of social media for marketing and advertising in agriculture. Mr. Lawrence will take course participants on a journey exploring how to use social media for advanced advertising of products and services offered by farms and agribusinesses. The workshop is free, but participants must register in advance due to limited seating capacity.
     Following Mr. Lorence at 11a.m., Christine Watkins, executive director of Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation, will provide a presentation on the environmental stewardship efforts of our agricultural industry, highlighting the tremendous work and expense our farms put forward to maintain and improve the quality of the environment in which we live. Mrs. Watkins presentation will be geared both for the public and farm community. Following Mrs. Watkins there will be a light lunch for conference participants. During lunch, I will present my annual overview of our agricultural industry report, discussing the challenges and highlights from 2016 and looking forward into 2018.
     Our keynote presentation at the Agricultural Development Conference will feature a panel presentation from Nichole Hirt and William Stowell. Mrs. Hirt is the agricultural program teacher from Indian River High School and Indian River FFA advisor. Mr. Stowell is the South Jefferson High School agricultural teacher and FFA advisor. Together Mr. Stowell and Mrs. Hirt will look at agricultural education in our local area and across New York State and share with our audience their thoughts on how agricultural education in our classrooms relates to workforce development in the agricultural industry and the challenges and opportunities we face.
     While the Agricultural Development Conference is free, advanced registration is required by April 14. Those interested may register by calling 315-782-5865 or emailing coordinator@comefarmwithus.com.
     On Saturday, May 6, Old McDonald’s Farm Agricultural Education Center near Sackets Harbor will open its doors for the season, weather permitting. If you have not visited Old McDonald’s Farm, it is a real treat. As one of the largest agricultural education centers in New York state, it is a fantastic place to take your children to have fun and learn about agriculture. Visit their website at www.oldmcdonaldhasafarm.com.
     Planning has started for the Jefferson County Dairyland Festival and Parade on Friday, June 2. The festival kicks off at 9 a.m. at the Dulles State Office Building on Washington Street in Watertown. The festival is geared for children ages pre-school through sixth grade. The festival includes interactive exhibits, displays and demonstrations related to our dairy industry and agriculture. Schools may register their classes by visiting www.jeffersoncountyagriculture.com and clicking on the festival link on the right hand side of the home page. Classes must register to attend before May 5. The second part of the exciting celebration is the Dairy Parade which kicks off at 7 p.m. The parade lines up at Watertown High School and proceeds down Washington Street, ending at the State Office Building. The judging stand is directly in front of the State Office Building, where our Master of Ceremonies provides live narration of the entire parade. The parade is full of exciting and fun entries, including marching bands, HUGE farm equipment, fire trucks, live animals, floats, youth groups and businesses. Anyone wishing to enter the parade may also visit www.jeffersoncountyagriculture.com and follow the directions on the festival page. Entry forms must be submitted by May 22. The parade is a “points parade” for local fire departments. At 8 p.m., the Jefferson County Dairy Princess and her court will dish out free ice cream sundaes in the Dulles State Office Building for everyone as long as supplies last.
     There are many more events, activities, workshops and meetings that may be of interest to you. Check the calendar on our website to keep track of what is happening that you might be interested in. There is a lot to do in our great agricultural community!

Jay M. Matteson is agricultural coordinator for the Jefferson County Local Development Corp. Contact him at coordinator@comefarmwithus.com. His column appears monthly in NNY Business.

New Business Advisor Advances Online Marketing Strategies

Jennifer McCluskey

Brick-and-mortar stores looking to revitalize our downtowns sometimes overlook the power of the internet in bringing in new customers. I have seen several stores in the north country that don’t have a solid website or engaging social media. If this is the case for your shop or business, it might be time to think about improving your online presence. Think about this: If a tourist drives by, will your pizza place pop up on their smartphone when they are looking for lunch? If not, your local Small Business Development Centers can help you bring in more tourists and more locals, too, by assisting you with your online marketing strategy.
     At the SUNY Canton SBDC, we have a new business advisor who is doing just that. Her name is Renee Goodnow and she is working with small businesses in St. Lawrence County to help them improve their online and social media presence. The position was funded through a grant from the Alcoa Foundation, which is looking to help small businesses in the region expand their services beyond brick-and-mortar stores into e-commerce, where they can reach a significantly larger customer base.
     Renee has a background in industrial design and has also helped run a local small business, so she comes to the SBDC with a wide range of skills that she will use to assist business owners in meeting their internet marketing goals. Renee can assist with website design, the revamping of an old website for a more modern look, and also help you learn how to market the site to reach more customers. For those of you who would like a website or a stronger social media presence, but don’t have the time to do it yourself, Renee can help you get connected with a local web developer who can be a long-term resource for your business.
     Renee can also connect your business with local resources in the community, such as photographers and videographers, who can improve the way your business communicates visually with the world. She can help you craft your message and your brand by helping you communicate what is unique about your business. She can also help with logo design, or hook your business up with a local company for logo and other branding designs. Just as with the rest of the services the Small Business Development Center provides, there is no charge for this assistance.
     Renee can meet with you one-on-one and can assess your needs. Some of the ways she is helping clients already include:

• Working with several business owners to help them develop their first websites.
• Talking with business owners about setting up and marketing their business Facebook pages.
• Helping business owners decide which social media outlets are right for them and how to maximize their presence on each.
• Logo development.
• Assistance with creating compelling photographs and videos for marketing.
• Teaching business owners how to rank higher on search engines through search engine optimization (SEO) techniques.

     Renee also will be setting up free training at different locations around the county to help business owners learn how to better market themselves online. The first training in January about social media marketing, presented by Molly Williams from Railroad Productions, was a great success drawing over 30 business owners who learned how to use Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets to better share their voice and their brand with customers. The second training in March, with co-presenters Nate Lashomb from the Massena Chamber of Commerce and Jason Hendricks from H3 Designs, also drew a wide variety of business customers and covered a lot of information about web design and search engine optimization.
     If you are interested in developing your social media presence, brand, or would like to have Renee assist your business in improving your online presence, you can contact her at the Small Business Development Center at SUNY Canton at (315) 386-7312 or via email goodnowr@canton.edu. Keep an eye on the SBDC’s Facebook page to find out about more upcoming trainings. The Watertown SBDC at Jefferson Community College also has many resources available to assist your business with your online presence, and can be reached at 315-782-9262.

 Jennifer mccluskey is a certified business advisor with the New York State Small Business Development Center at SUNY Canton. Contact her at McCluskeyj@canton.edu.