Schumer urges USDA to help Watertown company with permit

Courtney Schermerhorn, site manager for Midway International Logistics, gives the Times a tour of the facility Friday. Bureaucratic red tape has caused the company to lose a $1.75 million contract to import meat from Canada. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

Courtney Schermerhorn, site manager for Midway International Logistics, gives the Times a tour of the facility Friday. Bureaucratic red tape has caused the company to lose a $1.75 million contract to import meat from Canada. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer has stepped in to help a local company get through bureaucratic red tape to receive a federal permit to import meat from Canada. [Read more…]

Poultry company buys Renzi warehouse to create up to 30 jobs

WATERTOWN — In a move expected to create up to 30 full-time jobs within a year, a Canadian businessman has bought a Bradley Street warehouse building from Renzi Foodservice to expand his poultry inspection company there.

[Read more…]

Bird flu scrambles egg prices, affecting producers, restaurants and grocery stores

Nick Lehman and Marge Lyndaker, both of Croghan, buy eggs Thursday from Black River Valley Farms in Carthage, the largest egg supplier between Syracuse and Plattsburgh. Right, avian flu has been responsible for rising egg prices. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

Nick Lehman and Marge Lyndaker, both of Croghan, buy eggs Thursday from Black River Valley Farms in Carthage, the largest egg supplier between Syracuse and Plattsburgh. Right, avian flu has been responsible for rising egg prices. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

WEST CARTHAGE — Black River Valley Farms, the largest egg supplier between Syracuse and Plattsburgh, has heard lots of feedback in recent months from its customers about how rising egg prices have cut their profit margins. [Read more…]

Professionals enjoy business chat at networking expo in Watertown

It didn’t take long for Russell K. Berger to strike up a business conversation Wednesday during the Business Networking Expo at the Bruce M. Wright Memorial Conference Center.

Mr. Berger, who stood at a booth representing the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, was approached by a gentleman who asked about the possibility of starting a cake decorating class at the Charles H. Bohlen Technical Center in Watertown. Mr. Berger said he plans to explore the possibility of starting the class at the center. He called the conversation an example of the essence of networking.

“If we have enough students with a single interest and can get an instructor for a program, we would do it,” said Mr. Berger, principal of the center.

Mr. Berger was among 65 exhibitors at the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce annual expo, sponsored this year by Samaritan Medical Center and cosponsored by Renzi Foodservice.

Situated at his booth were pamphlets advertising night classes offered for working adults at the center — manufacturing technology, adult cosmetology and carpeting installation. The manufacturing course was started last year in response to demand for skilled workers at New York Air Brake in Watertown, he said. Some of the students who attended the course last year were production workers at Air Brake who wanted to advance their careers.

“Air Brake came to us and said they had a need for skilled machinists,” Mr. Berger said. “For us it’s all about networking. If you’re in the business of providing students with experience for the real world of work, you have to connect with people in the real world of work to find out what they need.”

Kristin J. Boule, director of marketing for Westelcom, said she meets existing clients and potential new ones at the expo. She has conversations with people, for example, about how the company can launch cloud-based telephone networks for businesses with advanced features. For instance, professionals can check their voicemail messages using a smartphone app by using a system that operates “on the cloud,” she said.

Mrs. Boule said the expo offers an ideal venue to have those conversations about products offered by Westelcom, which has locations in Watertown and Plattsburgh.

“There aren’t that many places that have a forum to do business-to-business networking,” she said.

Linda A. Morrison, a real estate broker for Exit More Real Estate of Watertown, did some recruiting at the expo. Mrs. Morrison said she was inspired to become a broker for Exit More after talking with agents from the firm two years ago at the networking expo. On Wednesday, she did some inspiring of her own.

“I used to be an office secretary, but after I attended the expo and talked with agents I decided to do this full-time,” she said. “You can do real estate part-time and still do your regular jobs. Some agents are nurses and teachers who do real estate on the side.”

Peter J. Whitmore, a franchisee of multiple Jreck Subs restaurants in the area, said he attended the expo to “get a pulse” on the hiring climate in the north country.

“I want to get a feel for the employment trend and gauge the business climate,” he said, adding that he’d probably talk to most of the exhibitors. “I’m asking people how potential cuts at Fort Drum could impact their hiring strategies and finding out when they’re hiring. Some of them are competing for people in my labor market” at Jreck Subs.

A first-year exhibitor at the expo was Bradley’s Trophy & Promotion shop of Evans Mills. Grant S. Palmer, a graphic design artist for the business, said he makes customized plaques for customers. At the booth were plaques designed for employee awards and gifts for executives, including a wine case with a company logo.

Along with serving businesses, the company often designs plaques for members of the military, Mr. Palmer said. The trophy shop is part of Bradley’s Military Surplus store.

“I recently made a plaque to mount a hatchet, and we’ve also done spent artillery shells and had the pieces mounted,” he said.


By Ted Booker, Times Staff Writer


Colorado developer plans $5.5m solar project in Philadelphia

A Colorado developer plans to build a $5.5 million solar project on Philadelphia farmland to sell power to Utica and Watertown companies, with New York Air Brake and Renzi Foodservice as potential clients.

The tentative project has been in the works since the early summer but came to light only last week, when grant funding was announced for the New York State Energy and Development Authority’s NY-Sun incentive program. Solar Power Financial of Boulder, Colo., was tentatively awarded funding to build a 4 megawatt solar array in the town of Philadelphia, where it has an option to lease 20 acres from a private landowner.

The proposal was among 10 such projects planned in central and northern New York by the developer, which could collectively be awarded $11 million; 20 percent of each project would be funded. To officially be awarded funding, the developer will have to finalize power purchasing agreements with companies by January.

Companies would be supplied power using “remote net metering,” in which electricity produced by the solar array would be fed into the grid. Customers would save 10 percent to 15 percent on electricity, according to Todd Stewart, a partner in Solar Power Financial.

Along with pursuing local manufacturers, the developer said Wednesday it has secured non-binding commitments from Conmed Corp., a Utica medical technology company, and St. Elizabeth Medical Center.


Board members of the Jefferson County Local Development Corp. weren’t previously made aware of the solar proposal, although agency CEO Donald C. Alexander knew about it. Mr. Alexander said the developer told him about the project this summer, but he chose not to tell the board because he considered the information too speculative. He said he provided the developer contact information for local companies, including New York Air Brake and Renzi Foodservice.

News about the solar project came as Rochester energy consultant Entecco LLC was preparing a $4 million NYSERDA grant application for a renewable energy project planned by the local development agency. The project would serve three manufacturers at the City Center Industrial Park: Current Applications, Roth Industries and Renzi Foodservice. A solar array is planned as a component of that project, which calls for a mix of renewable energy sources to be launched, such as biomass and geothermal.

“The application process for the grant was well underway by the time I heard about this other project, so timing had something to do with it,” Mr. Alexander said Wednesday about his decision to withhold information about the solar project. “It was very speculative when I first heard about it, and we had already embarked on” the project with Entecco, “and worked on it for several months.”

He continued, “There was certainly no intent to not disclose this information by any stretch,” he said, adding that speculative projects “have to be fleshed out before we take them to the board.”

After learning about the solar project from a reporter Wednesday, JCLDC board member Scott A. Gray said he was disturbed that Mr. Alexander kept it from the board because he deemed it speculative. Mr. Gray said Entecco’s proposal also could be considered “somewhat speculative.”

“A lot of what we delve into and discuss is speculative to a certain extent, so I don’t see that as a reason not to bring it to the board,” said Mr. Gray, who is also a Jefferson County legislator. “Number two, if there was state funding or grants involved, that would probably be another reason it should be brought to the board. If it’s getting the state’s attention, it’s certainly worthy of ours.”

Board member Donald L. DiMonda, by contrast, said he supported Mr. Alexander’s decision after learning about the circumstances. “I trust Don’s judgment to make us aware of things we are interested in in a timely fashion,” he said.

Mr. Alexander said he views the tentative solar project as a “companion piece” to the Entecco proposal that would give manufacturers another way to reduce energy costs. Renzi Foodservice, for example, might decide to participate in both initiatives, he said.

“Entecco is building a car, and (the other) group is supplying tires,” he said. “One of the mechanisms that we would be able to provide through Entecco’s efforts is remote net metering. They’re providing tires, which every car needs, but the car has other components.”

Entecco President John Bay declined to comment Wednesday about Solar Power Financial’s project.


Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced last week that the latest pool of $94 million awarded to solar developers is expected to increase the state’s solar capacity by more than 214 megawatts — a 68 percent increase from the end of 2013. Projects are planned at 142 sites statewide, leveraging private investment of more than $375 million.

New incentives for developers rolled out by the state attracted Solar Power Financial — along with several other out-of-state companies — to do business here by applying for grant funding, Mr. Stewart said Wednesday. Launched in 2008, the small Colorado firm has led projects in markets across the country and has an office in the Bronx, Mr. Stewart said. Like other solar developers, the firm partners with the some of the country’s largest renewable-energy investors.

For the latest round of projects proposed in New York, Mr. Stewart said, the firm will be backed financially by NextEra Energy Inc., a Florida clean-energy company with revenues of about $15 billion.

“We’re a small firm, but we partner with some of the largest companies for financing,” he said. “In this case, NextEra Energy will be the long-term owner of solar assets and hold onto them for 20 years. The company sells (solar) benefits to customers under power purchase agreements.”

Mr. Stewart said that his firm was attracted to farmland in the town of Philadelphia because it is situated inside a strategic area designated by National Grid where an incentive for solar projects is offered by NYSERDA. A total of 25 percent of project costs are reimbursed to developers leading projects in such strategic areas. In the Philadelphia project’s case, “it means about $300,000 in incentive money,” he said. He said it is not clear why National Grid identified Philadelphia as a strategic location.

Mr. Stewart said he is confident that projects planned by the developer will be awarded funding by NYSERDA. But that will depend on whether companies which have expressed interest in purchasing power follow through. NYSERDA won’t award funding unless the developer secures commitments from companies that total 20 megawatts, which would be spread across the 10 projects Solar Power Financial has planned.

“We have customers lined up for all of it,” he said. “There’s risk in it, but I definitely believe it’s going to be a reality.”

In Jefferson County, Mr. Stewart said he is confident that New York Air Brake and Renzi Foodservice will commit to the project. Their interest in the project could not be immediately confirmed Wednesday night.

“My preference as a developer would be to do this with someone locally, and New York Air Brake is a great company,” he said. “They haven’t signed a non-binding agreement, but they have a great advocate there that is interested in making that happen.”


By Ted Booker, Times Staff Writer

On the cutting edge of technology

Employees at Timeless Frames, Watertown, assemble frames behind an informational order screen. Investments in new technology have helped the business grow in recent years. Photo by Justin Sorensen.

Businesses sharpen competitive edge

As technology has evolved in the past decade, with smartphones becoming the preferred mobile device and laptop computers being tossed aside for sleeker tablets, so, too, has the business landscape advanced. To stay competitive, business owners have had to adapt to a changing technological environment. Gone are the days when merely having a unique product meant steady sales. Today, having products that are most visible to the consumer and having the ability to deliver that product to the customer faster — and with better customer service — than ever before can make or break a brand and, simply put, it just what makes good business sense.

[Read more…]

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