How To Dominate Social Media

Joleene Moody

If your business isn’t showing up loud and proud on social media, you could be compromising your bottom line. You want to dominate the social airwaves and bring new clients and fresh opportunity with it. Your social success hinges on where you post and how much effort you put into it. Consider these options when posting on social media platforms that meet the likes of your business.

1) Schedule Your Posts

     Some businesses don’t consider this an option as they circulate the cyber airwaves. But continuous posting can pull more followers your way, especially on a platform like Twitter. Use apps like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to schedule hourly tweets. Include posts that inform, engage, and promote sharing. Your followers choose to trail you because of what you do or what you’ve posted in the past. Make them happy and share their posts as well. The more followers you have, the more you open the space to be recognized as the expert in your field. If you seek more sales and a powerhouse reputation, share great content and post regularly.

2) Use Video to Share Content

     When Twitter released Periscope, the response was both immediate and overwhelming. Within a few short months, small business owners and entrepreneurs across the globe were Livestreaming tips, stories, and useful information to followers. With a chat that allows comments and hearts for likes, Periscope is ideal for the business owner that wants to stay focused and instruct. Many followers convert to fans and clients for those that regularly use the app.

     If Periscope doesn’t thrill you, consider Blab, a social video platform still in its Beta stages. With four video seats and a chat section that allows hundreds of attendees to engage, Blab is shaping up to be the new wave of Podcasting. If the host allows, a single attendee can briefly take one of the video window seats and be heard. Blab chats can go on for hours. Some Blab users actually schedule 24-and-48 hour marathons. While this isn’t necessary, a short 30-minute show can prove invaluable for business owners that want to share content and elicit trust.

3) Use Platforms that Match Your Business

     You don’t have to exist on every social media platform to dominate in social media. For some businesses, determining which platform works best is a challenge. But it doesn’t have to be. Spending time on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Pinterest can answer that question for you. If you are a coach or consultant, Facebook and Facebook Ads are where your tribe exists. If you are a social media or content marketer, Twitter may be where it’s at. And if you own a design or bakery business, Pinterest is the ideal platform for you. Overwhelming yourself with too many platforms can actually work against you. Choose two or three that fit your business well and shoot for the moon.

     Regular posting and highly valuable content will give you the exposure and leverage you need on social media. Offering information that is actionable is also key, as it leads followers to your website and other social platforms. Show up with integrity and your business will shine above all others.

JOLEENE MOODY is a freelance writer, blogger, and speaker who lives in Oswego County with her husband and daughter. Learn more at: www.takeyourvoiceback.com

The Key to Downtown Revitalization?

Brooke Rouse

A vibrant downtown is on the top of nearly every community’s wish list; how to get there is the question. Livability is a word used in planning that refers to the aspects of a community that improve quality of life. If livability is high, people will want to live, work and play in the community and are invested and committed to its future. Factors include both built and natural elements, “economic prosperity, social stability and equality, educational opportunity and cultural, entertainment and recreation possibilities” as defined by the Partners for Livable Communities.

     A review of several “top rated downtowns” reveal some common threads, often referencing locations that have experienced the common theme of peripheral development draining downtowns, and a new surge of interest in bringing people and business back to the historic commercial centers. Of greatest importance is that a community has a vision statement. Ideally the vision statement is then translated into a comprehensive plan that includes action items and key stakeholders and partners. That vision will direct the priority, investment and character of some of the other elements noted here as “keys to livability.”

     Land Use and Zoning: Communities are diligently reviewing their zoning and land use laws to ensure they are updated and in line with the current vision for the community. Often the comprehensive plan may identify what the “downtown” is, which may be a certain area or street other than the Main Street. Many municipalities are operating off of old and sometimes irrelevant or counterproductive laws.

     Pedestrian Friendly: Access and safety for cyclists and walkers is a top priority in increasing downtown vitality. Widening streets, widening and connecting sidewalks and paths, installation and strategic placement of light posts and bike racks, along with beautification features such as landscaping and public art all entice more people, and families, to come and spend time in the downtown. Reduced noise and pollution, combined with increased public spaces for outdoor dining and music are defining “hip” downtowns.

     Private – Public Partnerships: Successful communities have mechanisms in place for residents to contribute financially to the success of the community, whether it is for a civic or commercial project. These financial “holdings” may be in the form of a crowd sourcing campaign, partnership with a bank or foundation, or as a part of the municipal government. Public funds are necessary (or encouraged) to leverage almost any grant opportunity through state and private foundations and are critical to move projects forward.

     Arts, Entertainment and the Creative Class: Top downtowns always include a number of things to entertain people…a key to quality of life. Identifying, supporting and leveraging art and culture; museums, venues, and events will ensure residents and visitors are enjoying their community. Additionally, what has been referred to as the creative class (by Livability.com and others) includes engaging and finding a meaningful place for artists, innovators, researchers and technology experts to work and share their work.

     These are some of the key Livability Factors. What do you see in your community? What are you missing? Why do live there and why do you consider leaving? These are all good questions for conversation in your community. In 2017, get engaged, join a committee, run for public office, start a private enterprise! Communities will thrive when populations are steady (growing), healthy and happy!

BROOKE ROUSE is president and CEO of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. Contact her at brooke@slcchamber.org.

Housing Then and Now: Trends in buying and selling across 35 years

Lance Evans

In December, I gave you some of the highlights of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 35th Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. When NAR released its first profile in 1981, mortgage rates were over four times higher than they are today, and first-time buyers made up a much larger share of overall sales.  While many home buyer and seller behaviors and preferences have changed, some have remained constant over the last 35 years.

                “When the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers made its debut in 1981, consumers and Realtors navigated a much different real estate landscape. The internet hadn’t been invented and the average monthly mortgage rate was 15.12 percent,” said Debbie Gilson, president of the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors. “One important constant during this time has been the Realtor’s role as the leading advocate for homeownership and a trusted expert in helping buyers and sellers close the deal.”

                With the recent release of the 2016 survey, it’s a great time to look at some of the data and trends in this year’s edition and how they stack up to the last three-and-a-half decades.

                The quickening pace of home sales over the past year included a small rebound from two key segments of buyers who have been missing in action in recent years: first-time buyers and single women.

                After slipping for three straight years, the share of sales to first-time home buyers in the 2016 survey ticked up to 35 percent, which is the highest since 2013 – when it was 38 percent – and a revival from the near 30-year low of 32 percent in 2015. In the 35-year history of NAR’s survey, the long-term average of first-time buyer transactions is 40 percent. 

                Married couples once again made up the largest share of buyers (at 66 percent) and had the highest income of $99,200. However, the survey revealed that single women made up more of the buyer share than in recent years, based on household composition. “After falling to 15 percent of buyers a year ago, which tied the lowest share since 2002, single females represented 17 percent of total purchases, the highest since 2011 at 18 percent,” noted Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors President Vickie Staie. “Thirty-five years ago, single females represented 11 percent of purchases.”

                Despite the internet’s growing popularity over the past 20 years, buyers and sellers continue to seek a real estate agent to buy or sell a home. “In NAR’s 2016 survey, nearly 90 percent of respondents worked with a real estate agent to buy or sell a home. This has brought for-sale-by-owner transactions down to 8 percent, their lowest share ever for the second year in a row,” said Ms. Staie.

                Since NAR’s inaugural survey, consumer preferences have evolved and housing costs have gotten more expensive. In 1981, the typical buyer purchased a 1,700-square-foot home costing $70,000 ($201,376 in inflation-adjusted dollars). In the 2016 survey, purchased homes were typically 1,650 square feet and cost $182,500.

                In 1989, when NAR started collecting buyer data on down payments, first-time homebuyers financed their purchase with a 10 percent down payment and repeat buyers financed a loan with a 23 percent down payment. As low-down-payment mortgage programs entered the marketplace and credit standards eased, the typical amount of money put down fell to as low as 2 percent for first-time buyers both in 2005 and 2006. “For repeat buyers, the smallest median down payment was 13 percent both in 2012 and 2014, which is likely due to reduced equity in the home that was sold,” observed Ms. Gilson.

                In recent years, down payment amounts have remained mostly unchanged, coming in at 6 percent for first-time buyers the last two surveys and either 13 percent or 14 percent for repeat buyers in the past four surveys. 

                Contact a member of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors (jlbor.com) or the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors (slcmls.com) to connect with a Realtor to learn more about buying or selling a property.

 

Organic Milk Production in Jefferson Co. and NYS

Agri-business column by Jay Matteson

Northern New York is one of the leading dairy-producing regions in New York State and the nation. Dairy farms in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties combined produced approximately 1.8 billion pounds of milk in 2010.  That is a lot of milk!  All three counties rank in the top 10 of dairy-producing counties in the state and top 50 counties in the United States.

                We are also seeing continued growth in organic milk production in our region. According to Sharad Mathur, chief operating officer with Dairy Marketing Services, it is estimated that Northern New York has over 100 dairy farms producing about 5 million pounds of pure organic milk every day. Nearly one-third of the organic dairy farms in the state are located in Jefferson and St Lawrence counties. There are conventional dairy farms interested in converting to organic dairy production, but are looking for good markets for organic milk.

                Organic milk is different than conventional milk in that certified organic dairy farms are required to follow strict guidelines that govern use of pesticides, herbicides and type of fertilizer applied to farms, the type of feed that can be used to feed cows and the management practices a farm may use to keep cows healthy. The price organic dairy farms receive for every one hundred pounds of milk they ship is generally higher than what conventional farms receive for their milk, but the cost of producing one hundred pounds of organic is generally higher than producing one hundred of conventional milk.

                We are now seeing a limited number of farms further differentiating their production method by going to certified grass-based milk production.  This certification required the farms to follow a different set of regulations regarding the use of grass in feeding cows on the farm. Certified grass-based farms receive an even higher premium than organic farms.

                In our efforts to attract new agribusiness into Northern New York from Europe, this diversity in our milk production is important.  Our office is currently talking with two dairy manufacturing companies that are interested in organic milk.  The fact that Northern New York produces pure, high-quality milk, and especially is a leader in organic milk production, is critical to our efforts. Our area has potential to grow our dairy production, especially organic milk production, and that is what these two companies are looking at.

                For the consumer, we are very fortunate to live in an area where you have choices between pure and nutritious choices in dairy products.  Our farmers are fortunate that our soils, temperatures and terrain provide opportunities for diverse production methods that suit the management styles of the farm owners. Whatever your preference is for great tasting dairy products, Northern New York provides some of the purest milk available.

 

Take Action Everyday

Joleene Moody

“Your life will never improve unless you start making daily improvements.” – Lewis Howes

I’m a quote geek. I always have been. When I feel like the world is crashing down around me, I look for a quote that seems to fit exactly what I need to know in that very moment. Sometimes that quote shows itself to me.

     My hope is that Lewis Howes’ quote just did that for you.

     There are so many of us that have wants and desires but let those wants and desires sit on a shelf collecting dust because we don’t know what to do with them. We don’t know how to get to them. We may think they’re impossible to achieve or too hard to begin.

     And you’re right.  It may hard to begin. Which leads me to quote number two: “If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.” – Lemony Snicket

     Very few people that start on the path to success know what they’re doing. It’s true. But it doesn’t matter to them because they know the answers will be revealed to them along the way. They understand that taking action every day is the only way to live life. It’s the only way to learn. There is no physical manual or blueprint that tells you exactly what you need to do to get started. But there is a soulful blueprint. And it lies within you.

     You know what you want. So take a tiny step toward it today. No matter what it is that you want to chase, there are a plethora of things you can do to start manifesting it right now.

Here is a list of things you can do to get started, no matter what it is you’re after:

  •  Read a book.
  • Ask someone what book you should read if you don’t know.
  • Ask a question.
  • Ask a question of someone who is doing what you want to do.
  • Watch movies.
  • Read some more.
  • Take a workshop.
  • Ask more questions.
  • Read more books.
  • BE CURIOUS.

     When I wanted to be a public speaker, I took the time to ask a speaker that was visiting a local school what she did to get started. She told me to buy a book on her website and begin there. She also invited me out to lunch and gave me an hour of her time to tell me more.

     Those nuggets of information were pure gold. They got me started and took me to the next level. Once I reached that second level, I asked more questions of more people. Up and up I went.

     So ask questions. Read books. And don’t rush the process. But do begin now, before your dream gets so covered in dust, you won’t be able to find it.  Which leads me to one final quote for you:

“Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers

     Better stand up and take action. Your dream is waiting for you.

Economics and agriculture in the future

Jay Matteson

I couldn’t find a fortune teller with a crystal ball so I called two people who have a good grasp on what expectations are in the dairy industry for the coming year. They are members of the informal cadre of people I turn to for guidance on what is happening in agriculture. Ron Robbins is an owner of North Harbor Dairy Farm near Sackets Harbor, a 1,000-cow dairy operation. Ron’s family owns Old McDonald’s Farm, an agricultural educational and entertainment destination.  Ron has served on a variety of state, regional and national organizations and was the state executive director of USDA Farm Service Agency for New York for a number of years.

                Bruce Krupke is the executive vice president of Northeast Dairy Foods Association based in Syracuse, serving dairy processors across eight states in the northeastern United States. Bruce also serves on many state regional and national committees. Both Bruce and Ron do a good job of keeping their finger on the pulse of the dairy industry.

                Dairy farmers have been suffering through very difficult times for the past two years.  The price they are paid for their milk, measured in units of one hundred pounds of milk shipped, or hundredweights (cwt), has been well below the cost of production.  The average cost of production in Northern New York tends to run at $18 per hundredweight or one hundred pounds of milk shipped. Prices have dipped as low as $14 per hundredweight over the last two years.  At $14, if the price stayed that low the entire year, a 500-cow dairy with each cow producing an average of 90 pounds of milk per day per cow would lose approximately $657,000 for the year. That is a significant loss.

                Mr. Robbins indicates that it is looking like prices will remain below cost of production until halfway through 2017.  Why? According to Ron there is a tremendous supply of milk and milk products on the market.  Even though demand is strong for dairy products, the low milk prices over the last two years allowed manufacturers to build a tremendous inventory of products that now has to work its way out of the system. Ron indicates that even though U.S. production continues to be “on a tear” with cow numbers increasing and production per cow moving higher, world production is coming down.  That could be very beneficial to U.S. dairy prices paid to the farmer.  Mr. Robbins believes the last six months of 2017 will hopefully see farm gate prices finally cross the profitable threshold.  Unfortunately, it will take many months for farms to recoup the losses they’ve incurred through this low price cycle.

                Bruce Krupke indicates a similar trend, anticipating prices to gradually rise into 2017.  Mr. Krupke heavily emphasized the importance of the world market for U.S. products. “This is where our future lies” Mr. Krupke said.  World dairy prices are rising enough to bring parity with U.S. dairy prices allowing our industry to become competitive. Bruce indicated that we would benefit most if we could achieve a good dairy trade situation with our neighbor to our north. Canada is putting heavy tariffs on ultra-filtered milk products that are hurting two dairy plants in New York, one in Batavia and one in Cayuga County. Bruce indicates concern that the situation will “back up” milk supply in the state.

                I also asked both gentlemen about expectations for the impacts of the Trump administration on agriculture.  Mr. Robbins said right now there is mixed expectations about President Trump.  President Trump’s pro-business tendencies are welcomed in agriculture. The last several years of intense regulatory burden, rapidly increasing cost of business due to federal policies and heavily increasing tax burdens are expected to ease and that will be very welcome. Ron said there is a nervous anticipation within the industry at the same time.  Agriculture, including the dairy industry, is heavily impacted by foreign trade.  There is concern about the unknowns of the new president’s trade policies.  Much work is being done behind the scenes to help the administration better appreciate the importance of trade to agriculture and our farms.

                Bruce Krupke shared a very positive outlook for the business policies of President Trump.  Mr. Krupke indicated he believes that the administration will be very business friendly and that should generate a positive outlook for dairy manufacturers. Bruce hopes that the president will improve our dairy trade opportunities with Canada which will especially benefit New York’s dairy industry.

                Let’s hope that the expectations of both men are correct. Our dairy farmers need a light at the end of the tunnel.  Prices have been too low for too long.   If we can improve the business climate for our farms and manufacturers, the dairy industry can thrive.  Should our business climate improve, perhaps more dairy or food manufacturing opportunities will come along.

Nurturing and encouraging a community

Rande Richardson

Over the last several years, the Northern New York Community Foundation has continually looked for ways to extend its reach and scope to fulfill the true spirit and mission by which it was established in 1929. Moving beyond being a transactional grantmaker is a path we believe we should pursue, as making investments through grants and scholarships is really only part of the story. Those efforts have been well received, as the diversity and number of charitable funds and legacies administered on behalf of individuals, families, organizations and businesses has grown significantly. Also during this time, our service area extended to include St. Lawrence County, whose residents have responded positively, with many establishing permanent funds and others supporting the Foundation’s overall efforts to enhance the region’s quality of life. The experience of philanthropy should not belong to any one group or demographic and the options for expressing it should be as diverse as the community itself.

   The Foundation, through the support of its donors, past and present, has been able to implement new programs which encourage and nurture community awareness, leadership and instill the interest and desire to give back across generations. This is most evident in our Youth Philanthropy and Next Generation LEAD Councils. We have also have been steadfast in our belief that one of the most important responsibilities we have is to be a resource to nonprofit organizations that provide both basic services and quality of life enhancements by offering additional tools to ensure their ability to fulfill their mission for the long term. This has included helping build partnership endowments that serve to both diversify revenue streams in good times and bad and also provide donors with a heightened level of structure and long-term stewardship when they choose to support the charitable interests they are most passionate about. This is powerful!

   Because of these things, the Community Foundation reached a crossroads. Over a year ago, thoughtful discussion began regarding how to accommodate the increased reach and scope and ensure that we were properly positioned to continue to diversify the way we serve our community, the donors who support it and the organizations we are able to invest in. Moving simply to provide more office space was not reason nor visionary enough.

   We continually ask organizations we serve to find ways to minimize duplication, find efficiencies of scale, and look for opportunities to share and collaborate when it makes sense. We needed to do the same. We looked inward and asked: “is this an opportunity for us to do better, in a more collaborative way, doing more, for our community, its organizations, donors and all those we strive to serve?”

   The alignment of stars and months of due diligence provided even greater clarity on how to best enter the next chapter.

Following the lead of other community foundations across the state and country, we embraced the philanthropy center concept as a way to:

  • Create a sustainable model that will enable sharing and consolidation of resources (space, services, staff, ideas, technology) with other nonprofits in a synergistic setting while reducing operational costs for up to seven charitable organizations under one roof, including our own.
  • Provide convening and collaboration space for nonprofit organizations and community groups.
  • Provide additional space to expand and grow Youth Philanthropy, Next Generation LEAD and educational internship programs.
  • Offer additional ways to tangibly celebrate, recognize and honor north country philanthropy, and those who have made, and are making, it possible, with the hope that others will be moved and inspired to perpetuate it.

   The new space that we will share with others must be for and about our community. It will open the door to convenings and leadership opportunities and serve as a catalyst for specific and broad philanthropic activities.  

   The third floor will provide organizations the ability to develop a shared services model. All will benefit from the synergy of being united in a facility that promotes new thinking in regards to all ways that allow more charitable resources to go further. The Center itself will be both efficient and sustainable, as up to seven organizations (including the Community Foundation) share one home.

   With the help of Purcell Construction, an historically significant building was preserved, restored and returned to community use, enhancing the other investments being made in the Downtown area. With over $2 million raised, the community expressed its will to make it happen, sharing the vision for the space and its potential to broadly support all charitable organizations with contributions of various sizes.

In the end, the Philanthropy Center is a tool and will only be as valuable as the way it is used. We take this responsibility seriously. We hope you share with us in celebrating this next chapter in community philanthropy that this collaborative venture represents, while honoring the past, celebrating the present and preparing for the future. It is the natural next step in realizing and building upon the same bold vision and mission that the founders of your community foundation had 88 years ago that you continue to embrace, and that enhances the quality of life for us, and those who will come after us.

 

Don’t forget Facebook in media mix

Jennifer McCluskey

Jennifer McCluskey

As you are planning out your business’s advertising budget for next year, you may want to consider adding targeted Facebook ads if you have not done so already.

Being able to be very specific in defining a target audience is one of the reasons many businesses are turning to Facebook for advertising in addition to their more traditional advertising methods. For example, you can set up an audience of men ages 18 to 22 who like snowmobiling and live within either a 10 mile radius of Gouverneur or a 20-mile radius of Watertown. You can be as specific or as broad as you like, depending on the certain type of customer you are trying to reach.

If you’ve never set up a targeted audience for your Facebook ads before, here’s how you do it. At the lower-left corner of your Facebook page, there should be a blue button that says “Promote.” Facebook likes to move stuff around regularly, so if it’s not there, it will be somewhere on the page. Click it, click “see all promotions,” go to the bottom of the screen and click “Go to Ads Manager.” The dropdown menu in the upper left hand corner of your Ads Manager should give you a link to set up an audience. If it does not, click “Create Ad,” and choose an objective to be able to see the audience creator.

There are several ways to develop an audience. One way is to upload information about customers, and Facebook will match that to other people who share the same demographics and interest. Alternatively, you can create an audience of people who have interacted with your Facebook page, mobile app, or visited your website. Beyond those criteria, you can target customers based on their age, gender, and location. You can also use the detailed targeting search bar to find people that match certain interests. This is where the fun part begins. Start typing a phrase and see what comes up. Some examples are parents of teenagers age 13 to 18, people who are interested in magnum ice cream, people who are interested in handmade jewelry, people whose home value is more than $200,000, and people who are credit card “high spenders.” Yes, it is pretty scary how much information Facebook has about us. The list goes on and on, so you can craft an audience that is detailed as much as you want.

You can also choose to include or exclude people who like your page, or send the ad to friends of people who like your page. You can choose to have your ad or boosted post come up within your audience’s newsfeed (it will say “sponsored” above the ad) or in the sidebar. Ads in the newsfeed are a little more subtle, but it might be worth trying both to see which is most effective. You can also choose to have your ads show up on Instagram as well.

Once you have created an audience you can save it for future use. It can be useful to test several different audiences to see which works best to meet your goal. Continue to add audiences for variety, so you won’t be showing the ad to the same people every time.

Finally, and most importantly, you want to make sure you have a measurable goal to know if your marketing is effective. Your goal may be to get more clicks through to your website, to get more emails or calls from customers, and of course to make more sales. You will want to track the results from your ad campaign. Facebook has some insights in the ads manager, but you can also use website analyzers like Google Analytics to track clicks to your website from Facebook. You can also include a coupon code with your ad so that you will know how many actual customers come in because of it. It is also good to test two different ads, audiences, etc. to find out what works the best to bring in more customers.

Feel free to get in touch with us at the SBDC if you want help designing your Facebook ads or if you want any other assistance for your business. We are always here to help. The Small Business Development Center has offices at SUNY Canton (315) 386-7312 and at JCC in Watertown (315) 782-9262.

Working to change the culture of care

Bob Gorman

Bob Gorman

Fort Drum is full of acronyms, but the two most recent acronyms to come to the north country are courtesy of civilians: DSRIP and ALICE.

The state’s Delivery System Reform Initiative Payment (DSRIP) program is a short but tongue-twisting way of saying that too much money is being spent on people after they are sick and not enough is being spent on keeping people from getting sick.

ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, which is another tongue-twisting way of referring to the working poor.

The DSRIP punchline is this: The region wants to reduce hospital use by 25 percent within five years

The ALICE punchline is this: The state is getting dangerously close to having 50 percent of its households unable to generate enough income to cover the basic costs of living, let alone save for the future.

But first, DSRIP. Changing the culture of treatment to a culture of prevention is going to be difficult, especially when too many of us overdose on opiates, alcohol, tobacco, sugar, etc. Too many of us also suffer from mental, emotional and behavioral health issues. The easy thing to do is put off addressing a health issue in hopes it will go away. If we are wrong, well, there is an emergency room nearby.

Everyone in health care agrees with the direction, although hospitals are quietly trying to figure out how to eventually retool their budgets, staffs, etc., if one quarter of their patient load no longer shows up.

Leading that conversation is the North Country Initiative, which is operated out of the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization. The Initiative has already secured $3 million to help the region’s hospitals with this transition, while identifying key targets such as suicide prevention, smoking cessation and diabetes reduction.

Also facing the change in direction is our nonprofit community, which is now expected to become part of a health care provider system. That sounds nice on paper, but it is requiring a complete turning of the ship for agencies that have historically operated as individual organizations.

“(DSRIP) is extremely relevant and is actually what I spend most of my days, and sleepless nights, working on,” said Korin Scheible, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Jefferson County.

“DSRIP is the main reason for our name change” from the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council of Jefferson County to Pivot, said Executive Director William Bowman. That’s because Pivot is looking at the entire health care of an individual, not simply guiding people away from addictions.

“Currently the impact to our agency is mainly administrative, but there will be some programmatic aspects that will become part of our services as time goes on,” said Bowman. “We are looking at how our services impact the DSRIP goals of reducing unnecessary hospital admissions by 25 percent, and aligning our outcome measures to help determine that.”

Access Care and Resources for Health recently hired a staff person specifically to guide its agency through DSRIP. But it wasn’t easy. In a press release the agency noted: “ACR Health recognized the magnitude of DSRIP and made the difficult decision to take on a full-time DSRIP Coordinator, Poonam Patel. The lack of supporting funds to manage infrastructure and hire staff poses challenges as individuals in their full-time roles take on newly incorporated DSRIP responsibilities.”

Yet, all nonprofits that provides any health care services — such as behavioral health and opioid addiction — understand that treating an individual individually by each agency and health center or hospital is not always in the best interest of the person.

“We are trying to help treat the overall health — mind, body and spirit,” said Jim Scordo, executive director of Credo, which several years added a mental health clinic to its role in helping people end their drug addictions.

To better understand how DISRIP will affect the north country, please see this 20-minute tutorial at: https://vimeo.com/160913448

As for ALICE, a statewide United Way report released in November shows that 44 percent of the state’s households are generating incomes below the threshold needed to provide rent, food, medical care, educational opportunities for children and saving for the future.

In Watertown, the percentage is 57 percent. That number is in part the reason the state this year awarded a $1 million anti-poverty grant to the city, which has asked the United Way of NNY to administer. We have asked former Watertown Y executive director Peter Schmitt to lead this effort to help us better understand how we can help people receive services more promptly, and fund programs that help more citizens become self-sufficient.

DSRIP and ALICE alone won’t solve all the issues facing our community. But they are good starts and will be acronyms worth knowing about in the years to come.

Ag a major driver for regional tourism

 

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

The Thousand Islands International Tourism Council recently hosted a bi-national tourism summit at the Clayton Harbor Hotel. With more than 100 people attending from both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border, and great discussions generated from the day’s presentations, the summit was very successful. I was excited when Gary DeYoung, director of tourism for the Thousand Islands International Tourism Council, asked me to present about the role that agriculture plays in tourism and some of the changes we’ve seen. Over the past few decades, agriculture has emerged as a major driver in tourism in the Thousand Islands region.
Since 1986, we have benefited from the creation of “destinations” based on farming. The “Mother of Ag Tourism in Jefferson County,” Nancy Robbins, started Old McDonald’s Farm near Sackets Harbor. Old McDonald’s farm, according to Nancy, started because she found that friends wanted to bring their children to see farm animals and learn about farming. Nancy capitalized on that interest and built one of the foremost agricultural destinations in New York, this year educating nearly 40,000 about farming.
Another development that spiked our region’s tourism opportunities is the development of a farm based craft beverage industry. In the early 2000’s a Fort Drum officer was retiring from the Army and fell in love with the St. Lawrence River and how it reminded him of German river valleys he saw while traveling in Europe. Steve Conaway found cold hardy species of grapes that could grow in our frigid climate and began making wine in a garage on a farm he purchased. This was the beginning of Thousand Islands Winery, the largest farm winery in Northern New York. Steve was quickly joined by fellow visionaries Phil Randazzo, Nick Surdo, and Kyle and Rick Hafemann who recognized the potential for a northern wine industry based in the Thousand Islands. Their wineries, Coyote Moon Vineyards, Yellow Barn Winery and Otter Creek Winery quickly inspired others. Today we have 16 farm-based wineries, distilleries, and breweries drawing people to our shores, year-round.
Unfortunately the industry is growing faster than we are attracting people from outside our area. During the summit I described our tourist base as a pie. Right now we are in a transition time where we haven’t reached a critical mass of destinations to become a huge draw similar to the Finger Lakes. Every new farm-based craft beverage facility divides the “pie” of customers into thinner slices. This is not a suggestion that entrepreneurs shouldn’t go into the craft beverage industry. But, everyone should realize the challenge we face of trying to expand our customer base.
One barrier that hurts the Thousand Islands region is the “tariff wall” placed by Canada on their citizens that severely limits Canadians from purchasing our alcohol based craft beverages. With major metropolitan areas within a few hours’ drive to our area from Canada, we could increase our customer base for our craft beverage industry. It is very expensive for Canadians to cross the border to visit our craft beverage facilities, purchase our products and bring them back into Canada.
The Tariff Wall is far more severe than any placed on U.S. citizens visiting Canada. Phil Randazzo, owner of Coyote Moon Vineyard, has suggested previously, and I reiterated during my presentation at the Tourism Summit, that possibly we should consider working with our friends across the River to create an International Farm Beverage trail that accomplishes two key things. The first is two create a unique device to market our international region to attract an increasing number of visitors. Second, as I proposed during my presentation, create a tariff-free zone starting at a westerly line from Kingston, Ont., to Sackets Harbor and proceeding east to the Ogdensburg International Bridge. The tariff free zone would extend 25 miles inland from those points and the St. Lawrence River. Any farm based beverage produced within that region could receive a special label that exempts the product from being charged with tariffs when transported across the border. Obviously there are many details that would need to be worked out, but it is worth considering.
It is exciting to witness the growth of an industry from its infancy that serves both agriculture and tourism. Our work should be to do everything we can to attract more people to our area and remove barriers that inhibit our growth.

Jay M. Matteson is agricultural coordinator for the Jefferson County Local Development Corp. He is a lifelong Northern New York resident who lives in Lorraine. Contact him at coordinator@comefarmwithus.com. His column appears monthly in NNY Business.