Buildings at the former Mercy Hospital complex will start coming down May 1, Steven F. Aiello, president of COR Development Co., said during a meeting with Times editors Wednesday. [Read more...]
Rising floodwaters across St. Lawrence County prompted county Legislature Chairman Jonathan S. Putney to declare a state of emergency Tuesday afternoon.
Several roads and bridges were closed because of flooding Tuesday in Winthrop, Brasher, Stockholm and Fine.
The towns of Brasher and Stockholm also have declared local states of emergency because of flooding along the St. Regis River.
Among the closures is a portion of County Route 53, just outside the hamlet of Brasher Falls. The area is frequently under water in the spring when the St. Regis River overflows its banks.
“There’s three feet of water or more over portions of the road,” county Deputy Fire Coordinator Frank W. Burns said. “I’ve never seen it that high there before. Luckily for us, the ice went out two days ago. You can plan all you want, but you can’t stop Mother Nature.”
Mr. Burns said he also was aware of reports of flooding on North Road and in the Hogansburg area. A portion of Barnage Road in the town of Lawrence and the Days Mills Bridge on County Route 49, Hopkinton, are closed. Route 11C in Brasher Falls was closed Tuesday evening. Flooding previously had closed portions of County Route 15 between Heuvelton and Rensselaer Falls, Route 58 near its intersection with Route 184 in Pope Mills and portions of County Route 3 in Rossie and County Route 7 in Macomb.
The Route 420 bridge south of Winthrop is closed as water is rising along the west branch of the St. Regis River, Michael J. LeCuyer, director of St. Lawrence County emergency services, said in a news release.
The South Edwards dam in Fine activated its emergency action plan, and Brookfield Renewable Energy has operators on site to monitor the dam.
The biggest concerns are the Oswegatchie and St. Regis rivers, but the Raquette and Grasse rivers could become greater concerns as 1 to 1.5 inches of rain was expected Tuesday, Mr. LeCuyer said. [Read more...]
It was business as usual Monday afternoon at Omniafiltra as U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, toured the industrial paper and fiber manufacturing facility.
So usual, in fact, that Mr. Owens got more than a walking tour.
“This is hands-on management … literally,” Mr. Owens said as he watched mill manager Scott C. Sauer operate one of the large machines.
When one employee was called away unexpectedly for a family matter, Mr. Sauer stepped into his role on the machine line, taking just a few minutes to meet with Mr. Owens before returning to the machines.
“It’s a real collaborative effort here,” Mr. Owens said. “It’s real. It’s impressive.”
He decided to visit the mill after learning employees had recently celebrated 10 years in business. In the struggling paper industry, startups and similar successes are almost unheard of.
“We’re just ending the best week we’ve ever had,” Mr. Sauer said, explaining that with today’s strength of 35 employees and the hope of adding six more, the business is a far cry from where it started 10 years ago.
“We had no power, no transformer,” he said. “We had one customer.”
Mr. Sauer attributes the success to the dedicated employees, hired after the mill was sold and stood empty for several years.
He discussed the challenges of operating the facility with few inexpensive options for shipping and receiving.
“It’s expensive and we’re far from the Thruway,” he said.
Mr. Owens asked about the possibility of the return of railroads to the county, and Lewis County Economic Development Director Eric J. Virkler said there are several other businesses that would be potential rail users.
“It might be worth taking a look into,” Mr. Owens said.
The leaders mentioned that rail-freight operator CSX Corp. is investing $100 million to improve rail lines between Montreal and Syracuse.
Mr. Sauer also explained how his crew’s flexibility has helped Omniafiltra continue to grow.
“Anything the big guys can’t or won’t do … that’s our niche,” he said.
Though offering specialty products many others do not, Mr. Sauer said, it still keeps prices low.
“Our prices are extremely competitive,” he said. “We’ve gotten good at our game.”
A family nurse practitioner, a few engineers, a financial controller, an environmentalist, an insurance agent, business advisors, small business owners, an educator, a grant writer, a real estate broker, a fitness instructor, a pair of nonprofit leaders, two Fort Drum professionals, and a physician. Our third annual 20 Under 40 class was the most competitive field yet, and these individuals represent a snapshot of Northern New York’s most accomplished, dedicated and involved young professionals, across a wide spectrum of industries, and across three counties. All of these young men and women are involved in some shape or form in their community, whether by serving on an organization’s board, coaching a Little League team, teaching Sunday School, or something as simple as helping to organize community 5K runs or making time to donate to food banks. All of these leaders, who are between the ages of 25 and 39, were chosen not only by the editors and staff of NNY Business magazine, but by virtue of glowing recommendations from their peers and employers. And not only do these emerging leaders, who embody the prized north country values of compassion, hard work and selflessness, make time in hectic schedules to volunteer in the community, they give their very best in challenging career fields each and day, all out of an effort to make the place they have chosen to stay in and call home the very best place it can be. NNY Business recognizes these 20 men and women along with their companies at a special luncheon at Watertown’s Hilton Garden Inn. The 2013 20 Under 40 class:
- Jeniffer D. Alberry — River Hospital
- Adam A. Carmon — Bay Brokerage
- Matthew J. Cervini — Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes
- Matthew J. Cooper — Bernier, Carr & Associates
- Mickey Dietrich — N.Y. State Tug Hill Commission
- Adam J. Fuller — Fuller Insurance Agency
- April Halladay — AmeriCU Credit Union
- William D. Hosmer — Hosmer’s Marina
- Wayne A. Latham Jr. — Latham Auto Sales & Service
- Jamie Lee — SUNY Attain Lab
- Diane H. Leonard — DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services
- Amanda J. Miller — Lake Ontario Realty
- Jessica L. Page — Page Fitness Athetic Club
- Victoria M. Peck — Children’s Home of Jefferson County
- Kristen M. Reed — Credo Community Center
- Michelle M. Roden — Fort Drum Family & MWR
- Brooke E. Rouse — SUNY Canton SBDC
- Edward C. Siebels — Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes
- Junior J. Stefanini — JKA Enterprises
- Dr. Jason F. White — Internal Medicine of NNY
On Cyber Monday morning, Massey’s Furniture Barn in Watertown received an unexpected phone call from a Fort Drum soldier serving overseas in Afghanistan.
The soldier was interested in an online special: the purchase of a five-piece furniture set would net her a free queen-sized Serta memory foam mattress, which was valued at $648. The promotional code on the website,
“CYBER13,” was given over the phone, making her eligible for the deal. (The soldier wasn’t identified.)
“We told her we could hold the furniture for her until she’s ready to pick it up,” said owner Shawn E. Massey, who launched the Cyber Monday sale Monday for the first time at his Arsenal Street store. Customers “can make the purchase on the website or over the phone, as long as they mention the code. I’m hoping to create some business on a needy day that I usually miss out on after Black Friday weekend.”
Although big-box retailers traditionally are associated with Cyber Monday, more small businesses are offering cyber specials. This year the National Retail Federation projected that 131 million people would shop online on Cyber Monday, an increase of about 2 percent from last year. Sales were expected to reach nearly $2 billion, up from $1.47 billion last year. About 81 percent of retailers planned to offer online specials.
Early results released at noon Monday showed online shopping was up 21.4 percent compared with the same time last year, according to IBM Benchmark, a marketing software program. Mobile traffic, which includes smartphones and tablets, accounted for 31 percent of all online traffic.
At Massey’s Furniture Barn on Monday morning, Mr. Massey said he was optimistic that a few customers would make online purchases to redeem the trendy 8-inch memory foam mattress. The deal was available to customers who bought a sofa-loveseat combination or a five-piece furniture set.
“We’re testing it out to see how we do,” he said, adding that the sale likely will be expanded next year. “If I can get one or two people to make purchases, then it’s worth it.”
By 6:30 p.m., the store confirmed it had one sale.
Another Watertown business that decided to offer Cyber Monday sales was the Spicy Wench, which sells pepper jellies, fruit jams and spices. By Monday afternoon, four customers had checked out the “buy one, get one half-off” sale available at www.thespicywench.com, according to Christine E. Hoffman, who started the business in 2011.
“I’ve had a few more sales today than I had over the weekend with the (Cyber Monday) sale going on,” Mrs. Hoffman said. “I think more small businesses that already sell things online are going to be drawn to Cyber Monday, because they know it’s a trend for consumer spending. It’s almost kind of an equalizer, because you can do the same thing as the big-box stores.”
The majority of the business’s sales are made at summer festivals, she said, while the website accounts for about 10 percent. But Mrs. Hoffman, who launched the website in the spring of 2012, said she believes online sales will grow as awareness builds among customers who live outside the region.
“The website is going to play a huge role, because I don’t have a physical storefront,” she said.
Customers across the country who stayed home to shop on Cyber Monday were able to capture online deals earlier than last year. Walmart began offering online-only deals Saturday, including $500 off a 55-inch LED TV bundle and free shipping on orders higher than $35.
Brandon Harris, 27, from Memphis, Tenn., started shopping at midnight Sunday and by Monday had spent about $300 and completed half of his Christmas shopping, including a Barbie doll for his niece and a TV for his mother.
“I haven’t shopped for a Christmas present in a store in three years,” said Harris, who made the purchases from his iPad. “It’s a lot more convenient to be at home and shop.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
As turkey dinners and family gatherings wrapped up on Thursday, shoppers took to their cars and drove into the cold Watertown night. There were deals to chase.
Big box retailers including Walmart, Target and Kohl’s as well as the major stores in the Salmon Run Mall kicked off their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving evening. Discounts led shoppers to pack the stores, and many people planned an all-night bargain-hunting blitz. At Best Buy in the mall, more than 100 stood in line during the final hour before the store opened at 6 p.m.
Javier Morales, of Fort Drum, said he was expecting a rush of people as he pursued a television and Playstation 4 with his friends Joshua A. Olson, Evans Mills, and Aaron Gutierrez, Fort Drum.
“I’ve been playing Madden,” he said, referring to the popular football video game. “A couple spins, jumps, no problem.”
Many of those shopping at Best Buy and other Watertown department stores Thursday night were Canadians who traveled south for lower prices.
William Hughes, who came from Kingston, Ontario, to shop for computer gear such as monitors, said he could save as much as 35 percent by making the trip to Watertown.
“We know what the prices are at home, and we know what the prices are down here,” he said.
Immediately behind him in line, Linda M. March interjected that she planned to go back to Ottawa with a car full of purchases.
“You’ve got to go somewhere to get a good deal,” she said.
As Best Buy opened, customers entered in staggered groups of 20.
Store general manager Dannielle M. Richardson said safety was key, as she directed customers toward televisions, computers and video games.
Stocking for the weekend was a process months in the making. Now that the big night was finally here, “it really is controlled chaos,” she said.
Among the bargain hunters were Narayan Poudyal and Sudeep Khadka, of Fort Drum. The pair said they saved about $500 in buying two computers and a television.
“We found the deal,” Mr. Poudyal said.
Many families could be seen shopping together.
Waiting in line before the 8 p.m. opening at Target, Theresa S. Thilges and her son Andrew, 14, both of Watertown, said they made their decision to shop over dinner.
“This is fun, too,” she said. “We can talk about the year we lost our toes.”
Over at Walmart, Kristy M. Perez of Watertown left the store with her mother, Carol A. Graveline, and daughter Hannah C., 13, with bags of items.
“I’ve got my family here,” she said. The three had a few more stores to hit before the end of the night, she said.
However, not every shopper was enthusiastic about the chilly wait.
Tammy Clark of Adams Center said she thought the timing was a little early, as she waited about two hours before the 8 p.m. opening of Target. She said she preferred the early Friday morning shopping, which affords time for a little sleep.
“I’m not excited about it, but I’m here,” she said. Ms. Clark and her daughter Amanda A. Pike said they were looking for a deal on a Keurig coffee maker and a Shark Mop steam cleaner, and by shopping Thursday they expected to save up to $150.
Was it worth the cold? “With the amount of money you save, yes,” Ms. Clark said.
The holiday all-night shopping was a family affair, with relatives spread throughout multiple stores, Ms. Clark said. Her other planned stops included Kohls, Sears, Bon-Ton and J.C. Penney, where she hoped to purchase a globe available only after 4 a.m.
Many stores are scheduled to remain open through late tonight.
The cost of preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year is slightly less than last year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual informal price survey of classic Thanksgiving meal items.
The cost for this year’s meal for 10 is $49.04, which represents a 44-cent price decrease from $49.48 in 2012, and the first time the cost has declined in three years.
Items on the survey list included turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray, pumpkin pie and beverages of coffee and milk. The most expensive item, and the one that showed the largest price decrease compared to last year, was a 16-pound turkey for $21.76, about 3 cents per pound cheaper than in 2012.
The AFB says that average cost of the dinner has hovered around $49 since 2011. It has conducted the survey since 1986.
North country beef farmers are preparing to do business with farms across the Midwest next fall by pooling their calves into a commingled herd.
Livestock educators from six counties across the region have offered training over the past three years with that goal in mind, encouraging farmers to adopt cattle similar calf management practices needed to establish the feeder pool, said Betsy F. Hodge, who leads Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Northern New York Regional Livestock Team. To establish a commingled herd marketed to buyers, she said, beef calves all would have to be similarly bred, weaned and vaccinated. They should be preferably crossbred, weigh in the range of 450 to 650 pounds and be bred with black hides.
Creating the feeder pool would enable buyers to purchase a large number of cattle with the same weight, color and health treatment. Those feeder cattle likely would be marketed and sold at the Canandaigua-based Finger Lakes Livestock Exchange, along with local cattle backgrounders and finishers who raise them to be slaughtered. The Finger Lakes sales barn, which hosts auctions twice monthly from September through December, sells calves to farmers who raise them for slaughter.
Beef cattle producers in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties already have considered joining the pool, Ms. Hodge said. Some 80 beef farmers own farmland in Jefferson and Lewis counties; there are about 80 beef farmers in St. Lawrence County alone. Some farmers have begun to raise their calves using practices recommended by educators, she said, who launched the feeder pool initiative in 2012.
“I think we’ve reached a point where they could get a group together, because we’ve worked on this a long time,” said Ms. Hodge, who recently applied for a $7,000 research grant to kick-start the initiative from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program. That funding will go toward research to determine what management practices farmers are using to raise calves.
“We want to get a handle on how farmers are marketing calves to sell now so that we know where to start,” said Ms. Hodge, a livestock educator at St. Lawrence County’s extension office. “Farmers who haven’t been to our meetings need to get on the same page.”
A few farmers in Jefferson and Lewis counties are interested in contributing cattle to the feeder pool, said Ronald A. Kuck, livestock educator for Jefferson County’s extension.
“We’re trying to recruit a group of like-minded beef farmers to do everything similar,” he said. “That’s going to attract a group of outside buyers that will be willing to make a trip to the north country. They’re willing to pay higher prices for cattle that have been vaccinated, castrated and weaned correctly.”
Those large groups of cattle could net up to 45 cents more per pound on the market than what they’ve garnered individually at auctions, Mr. Kuck said. That difference would equate to sales of about $270 more per head for 600-pound cattle.
The feeder pool initiative is expected to be launched on a small scale, Mr. Kuck said, then grow incrementally in successive years.
“If 10 guys contribute 10 calves, and five guys contribute 20, that would give us a pool of 200 to start out with,” he said.
The biggest buyers at the Canandaigua auction are seeking to buy large quantities of cattle, with 70 to 100 head that are transported in tractor trailers, said Michael J. Baker, beef cattle specialist at Cornell University, Ithaca. Dr. Baker, who helped launch the feeder pool program here, is hopeful enough beef farmers will participate to launch the program in the fall of 2014.
“Even if we don’t get the magic 70-head number to sell that trailer load next fall, we could get three or four farms to put together 50 or 60 calves,” Dr. Baker said. “We could either send them down together to the Finger Lakes sale barn, or we could leave them on the farms and have them described and presented at the sale; maybe even with a video, so that buyers can bid on them without being there at the barn.
“That would remove the stress of shipping them to the sale barn, and then to their ultimate destination. Those loads are going out of state to Kansas, Texas, Missouri and a variety of places, because we just don’t have a large feeding industry in New York.”
Out-of-state buyers are lured to the Canandaigua auction mainly because of the comparatively low prices for preconditioned feeder cattle, Dr. Baker said. Those calves now are sold at a relatively low price at the Finger Lakes Livestock Exchange, according to findings from a three-year study led by Cornell University. Data from the second year of the project, collected on nearly 10,000 cattle head and 3,900 lots, show they were sold at an average of $2.80 per hundredweight; that price is 29 cents per hundredweight less than the national average.
Adams beef farmer Donald H. Holman, who raises Angus cattle to be finished, said he might be interested in selling and buying calves in large numbers by participating in the feeder pool if it’s established. He now buys anywhere from 100 to 150 calves from about eight farmers who live within 50 miles of his farm. Once calves became full-sized adults with a weight of 1,200 to 1,500 pounds, he transports them to an auction barn in Paradise, Pa. He sells about 250 to 300 cattle a year.
If enough beef farmers join, “this pool could be phenomenal because you could go to one place, one time, and pick up 50, 100 or 200 head,” Mr. Holman said. “I now buy almost everything I need from private individuals, but if they join the pool then I’m going to still get those cattle, because I know them.”
The most lucrative market for cattle in the pool, however, likely will be among Midwest buyers, Mr. Holman said.
“The whole point of this pool is to get buyers from the Midwest to come up here because they can buy a potload of cattle,” he said. “They’ll keep coming here as long as they can take them in potloads of about 45,000 pounds.”
Even if it takes weathering “tornadoes” and staring down demons like the unrelenting Wicked Witch of the West, Mary R. Schechter encouraged women to realize that they have the courage to change their course to a more positive reality during the 10th annual Business of Women conference Wednesday.
“No matter the obstacle, you have one and only one obligation: to remember that you have the power to change it and that you have the power to make a different choice,” Ms. Schechter, who runs the Syracuse-based coaching and consulting company theintuitiveorganization, told the audience during her keynote address that relied on an occasionally humorous “Wizard of Oz” allegory.
As her business focuses on transforming organizations through the power of each individual’s story, she gave attendees an opportunity to share their own stories while detailing the travails of her first unhappy marriage, told under the guise of it being a friend’s story to show “ the commonality in people’s struggles.”
One of her revelatory moments came during a celebratory trip to Italy, when she became overwhelmed by the beauty of the art and architecture at St. Peter’s Basilica. Then a guide pointed out a single stone that in its simplicity was the complete opposite of the rest of the experience. The stone was the most important thing to see because it was the last stone put in place and therefore “architecturally perfect,” the guide said.
“It reminded me of the key ingredient to happiness,” Ms. Schechter said. “In the end, the only thing that really matters is what is infinitely unassuming, infinitely simple.”
She then divided the room in half and asked participants to silently choose a partner, then sit together for about 30 seconds without speaking and write the person a message on an index card.
Participants revealed their messages to each other after she wove her narrative, using the themes of confronting fear, finding confidence and questioning your goals that Dorothy learns in the “Wizard of Oz” and asking participants to share their tornado, or life obstacle, with their partner.
“Tornadoes are signs that things are not right,” she said. “That’s the universe’s way of saying that you’re not on track, to try something else.”
Ms. Schechter encouraged the audience to realize what is out of one’s control, face down personal demons and surrender, as Dorothy does.
“She certainly didn’t have all the answers, but she knew she had the ability to choose to live differently, like we all do,” Ms. Schechter said.
Even though it meant single motherhood, three jobs and asking for heating assistance, Ms. Schechter pulled herself out of the unhappy marriage; she told the audience that everyone has the ability to regain the parts of themselves that they may have lost — courage, compassion, forgiveness — and become the best version of themselves once again.
“It’s always best to start at the beginning, and that’s the Yellow Brick Road, that’s the journey of life,” she said.
After the participants revealed their messages, many commented on how meaningful it was to share a struggle and relate with a stranger.
“I think it helped both of us as we dealt with some current life dilemmas, and she helped guide the conversation,” said Dani F. Baker, co-owner of Cross Island Farms on Wellesley Island. “I think we both came up with a solution, or at least a beginning of a solution.”
About 70 women attended the conference at the Ramada Inn, which included sessions on blogging, a presentation on the Affordable Care Act, a presentation by Steele Law Firm on strategies for protecting a business and opportunities to network and purchase craft items and accessories from local small businesses.
“This year is definitely one of our best years,” said Sarah C. O’Connell, event organizer and business adviser for the Small Business Development Center at Jefferson Community College. “We have some regulars, but every year we get some new faces, too.”
“It helps women, and men, make connections and support each other,” whether those connections are professional or just a new friend, she said.
Cindy L. Pierce of Sew Happy Designs, who was selling her handmade wares at the conference’s expo, said she found the address insightful and enjoyed the opportunity to connect with someone new.
“Women have the most to balance in life. Women are the multitaskers,” she said. “Any time we can learn more about other women and their situation, it’s a benefit for all of us.”
Watertown International Airport has a new manager and a new flight.
Jefferson County Legislator Barry M. Ormsby introduced the newly hired manager, Grant W. Sussey, to the public at Tuesday’s meeting of the legislative Planning and Development Committee before announcing that the
American Airlines subsidiary serving the airport is adding a Sunday evening flight to its schedule.
The airline provides daily service at the airport under a federally subsidized program through American Eagle.
The additional flight was threatened briefly when the U.S. Department of Transportation in October turned down the airline’s request for an increase in funding.
However, “American saw enough merit on that flight to do it on their own dime,” said Mr. Ormsby, R-Belleville, who chairs the Planning and Development Committee.
The airline now will offer 13 flights a week: two per day on weekdays, one on Saturday mornings and two on Sundays.
The second Sunday flight will begin next Sunday, said County Highway Superintendent James L. Lawrence Jr., who has been the airport’s steward for the past seven years.
Transition was a major theme during the meeting as Mr. Ormsby recognized Mr. Lawrence for his years of service as provisional airport manager with a certificate of appreciation from the board.
Mr. Ormsby will step down this year after five terms on the Board of Legislators.
Mr. Sussey, formerly director of aviation at Orange County Airport, Montgomery, was confirmed as airport manager in October.
Jefferson County legislators created the Airport Department this year, citing a period of rapid growth at the facility, where passenger totals continue to rise.
The number of people flying into and out of the airport is on track to increase 18 percent this year compared with last year, according to figures provided by Mr. Ormsby, who also is chairman of the board’s airport ad hoc committee.
Jefferson County Agricultural Coordinator Jay M. Matteson and Legislators James A. Nabywaniec, R-Calcium, and Robert D. Ferris, R-Watertown, thanked Mr. Ormsby for his years of service on the board.
“Whether it be wind power, agriculture or the airport, you’ve provided great leadership and you will be sorely missed,” Mr. Nabywaniec said.
“Officially I want to say, ‘Don’t go, Barry,’” Mr. Ferris said.
Jefferson County Trails Coordinator Patrick M. Crast kicked off the meeting with a presentation about improvements to the county’s trail system, including a covered bridge Mr. Crast said was the only one in the entire Tug Hill snowmobile trail system.
The bridge was built with lumber harvested from the county forest, Mr. Crast said.