Saving a river: Plan 2014 seen as major win for St. Lawrence River dwellers

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY BUSINESS

A long-awaited and much-debated plan to regulate water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River was adopted by the U.S. and Canadian governments Dec. 8. Clayton’s Save the River was among the groups that pushed for nearly two decades for an updated regulation strategy. We sat down with the organization’s executive director, Lee Willbanks, to talk about the environmental and economic impacts of Plan 2014.

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Dry weather troublesome for local farms

The lack of rain is drying out north country corn crops, such as this one on North Community Drive in the town of Rutland. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

The lack of rain is drying out north country corn crops, such as this one on North Community Drive in the town of Rutland. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

Year to year, north country farmers expect hot spells and dry weather, but not enough that it would severely affect crops. [Read more…]

June 2016: Top Transactions

The following property sales were recorded in the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office in April:

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Caprara aims to open Henderson Harbor waterfront restaurant in May

The site plan for Harbor Waterside Bar Pub — a restaurant that William F. Caprara plans to open in mid-May — was approved Tuesday by the Henderson Town Planning Board. Exterior and interior renovations at the two-story building on County Route 123 have been completed, said Mr. Caprara, who is a co-owner of F.X. Caprara Auto Sales. The waterfront building formerly operated as the Harbor Inn. Photo by Stephen Swofford, Watertown Daily Times.

The site plan for Harbor Waterside Bar Pub — a restaurant that William F. Caprara plans to open in mid-May — was approved Tuesday by the Henderson Town Planning Board. Exterior and interior renovations at the two-story building on County Route 123 have been completed, said Mr. Caprara, who is a co-owner of F.X. Caprara Auto Sales. The waterfront building formerly operated as the Harbor Inn. Photo by Stephen Swofford, Watertown Daily Times.

The site plan for Harbor Waterside Bar Pub — a restaurant that William F. Caprara plans to open in mid-May — was approved Tuesday by the Henderson Town Planning Board. [Read more…]

January 2016 Cover Story: Economic Outlook

Slow and steady
growth wins the race

OUTLOOK 2016 / MILITARY: A soldier salutes during the presentation of the colors last year in an activation ceremony for the 10th Mountain Division Divarty. As the post avoided major cuts in 2015, Fort Drum officials remain positive that 2016 will be a healthy year for one of region’s top economic sectors. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

OUTLOOK 2016 / MILITARY: A soldier salutes during the presentation of the colors last year in an activation ceremony for the 10th Mountain Division Divarty. As the post avoided major cuts in 2015, Fort Drum officials remain positive that 2016 will be a healthy year for one of region’s top economic sectors. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

Despite a few challenges, experts say the region is on pace for a positive year in 2016. Six sectors of the north country’s economy are ripe with opportunities for growth.

By Karee Magee, NNY Business

A grim fate cast a pall over the north country in early 2015, as federal budget sequestration threatened to cut up to 16,000 personnel from Fort Drum in an effort by the army to trim its active duty force from 490,000 to 450,000 by fiscal year 2017. [Read more…]

November 2015: Business Briefcase

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Tax, business law firm opens Watertown office

Attorney and certified public accountant Joseph M. Callahan has opened a tax and business law firm in the former Agricultural Insurance Co. building, 215 Washington St.

The Watertown office, started in September, is the fourth location in upstate New York opened by Mackay, Caswell & Callahan P. C. The firm also has locations in Syracuse, Rochester and Utica. Mr. Callahan said he is the sole owner of the firm; the two former partners listed in the firm’s name have died.

Mr. Callahan, who has practiced law about 30 years, said he saw a need to open an office in Watertown to do business with clients face to face. The firm is staffed by two enrolled agents. “Clients want to deal with people face to face, and that’s why a brick-and-mortar location makes sense,” said the Syracuse native, who has had clients in the Watertown area about 15 years.

Mr. Callahan, who has practiced law in Syracuse since 1988, said he opened his Rochester office last year and the Utica location this summer. Among other things, he said, his firm specializes in helping clients resolve issues with disputed unpaid taxes.

“After the economic downturn in 2008, I started specializing more in tax work and helping people out with back taxes,” he said, adding his experience as an attorney and CPA enables him to handle a variety of complex legal issues. “I can take it from the investigative stage through the completion stage in court.”

Visit the firm’s website, https://mcc4tax.com.

MANUFACTURING

Air Brake still plans $3.6m Watertown expansion

Recent job cuts at New York Air Brake will not affect the company’s planned $3.6 million expansion that will house its engineering test lab, according to the company’s president.

Preliminary construction work began this fall on the expansion project at the Starbuck Avenue company, which calls for a 7,300-square-foot addition to the test lab, President Michael J. Hawthorne said Friday.

The foundation for the two-story addition has been completed, he said, and the project is expected to be done by the end of the year.

The project is expected to create 10 engineering jobs with an annual salary of $67,000. It remains underway after the company recently laid off 20 salaried workers and 15 hourly production workers. Fifteen more hourly workers are expected to lose their jobs by the end of the year.

Mr. Hawthorne said cuts were made due to an anticipated decline in demand over the next three years for the company’s brake systems, manufactured for railroad cars and locomotives.

Nevertheless, he said, the company hasn’t discarded its investment plans.

Cuts “were in response to a soft market, and we’re not changing our investment plans moving forward,” he said. “We’re still fully committed to the expansion.”

Air Brake plans to invest $2 million to build the addition, which will connect the 252,250-square-foot main plant with a cold-storage building. The remaining $1.6 million would go toward product testing equipment the company will use to simulate the conditions brake systems on freight trains undergo.

To help fund the project, the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency approved a 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement earlier this year that calls for a 50 percent tax abatement over the period, along with a sales-tax exemption on construction materials.

AGRICULTURE

State grants $1.5m to farms for water projects

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets awarded about $1.54 million in combined funding to soil and water conservation districts in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties to support water-quality projects at farms.

The funding was announced last month as part of $11.1 million to support 29 conservation projects across 116 farms statewide. Funds will aid farms with projects that prevent water pollution, reduce erosion and protect waterways from harmful sediments and nutrients.

The Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $1,057,925 for the implementation of cover crops to address water-quality concerns at six farms in the Sandy Creek and Stony Creek watersheds. Both watersheds drain into Lake Ontario and are documented as “impaired” on the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Priority Waterbody List.

Among other conservation practices, farms will develop riparian buffers on cropland to keep nutrients and other pollutants out of waterways, said Christine M. Watkins, executive director for the district. Buffers are permanent strips of vegetation, situated near waterways, that cannot be used for crops.

“Regulated farms already have a certain setback from waterways, but the installation of vegetative buffers gives us more protection,” she said Wednesday.

Mrs. Watkins, who declined to identify farms, said projects will likely begin in 2016.

The St. Lawrence County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $482,555 to help one undisclosed farm in the Raquette River watershed develop practices to address water-quality concerns in the village of Potsdam. The project calls for the construction of a waste storage structure to protect the river from pollutants.

June 2015: Guest Essay

Developing local tourism products

Guest writer Gary DeYoung

Guest writer Gary DeYoung

As a destination marketing organizations, the task Thousand Islands International Tourism Council is to market the region as a visitor destination. The postcard scenery of the Thousand Islands, its historic character, its rural charm, its recreational opportunities are all attributes have long been used to draw visitors who spend money. In the end, money is what tourism about. It is not about simply drawing visitors, it is about drawing the money they spend while visiting. How do you monetize the St. Lawrence River? How do you cash in on history? How does fishing on Lake Ontario translate into local jobs? [Read more…]

Air Force investigator says ‘perfect storm’ led to drone crash in Lake Ontario

An outline of the area of impact of an MQ-9 Reaper drone that crashed Nov. 12 after taking off from Fort Drum’s Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

An outline of the area of impact of an MQ-9 Reaper drone that crashed Nov. 12 after taking off from Fort Drum’s Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

A combination of bad navigational software and timing led to the November crash of the MQ-9 Reaper drone crash into Lake Ontario, the Air Force colonel who investigated the crash said.

“It was kind of a perfect storm that this thing happened,” said Col. Dana A. Hess­­­heimer, who oversaw an Air Force Accident Investigation Board whose 21-page report about the incident was released July 1.

Within two days of the Nov. 12 incident, he said, the Air Force issued a servicewide notice to remedy the unspecified software problem.

“They corrected that right away,” Col. Hessheimer said, later comparing the notice to the safety recalls of automaker General Motors. [Read more…]