Public Service Commission Extends NY-Sun Program

Chris Baiamonte

In spite of the seemingly cataclysmic budget pressures New York State is under in light of additional expenses and crimped revenue related to the pandemic response, its long-term commitment to achieving its renewable energy goals, as articulated in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), shows few signs of wavering. On May 14, the Public Service Commission issued an order (Case No. 19-E-0735) granting the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) petitions seeking an additional $573 million to fund the New York-Sun (NY-Sun) solar energy program through the year 2025. 

    NYSERDA’s petition, filed last November, sought funding to extend the NY-Sun program for an additional two years. It had been scheduled to end in 2023. The NY-Sun program was created in 2014 by the governor in order to provide state subsidies to solar projects around the state, with the initial goal of adding 3,000 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity. It has thus far helped finance nearly 1,000 MW worth of solar energy generating capacity, with another 1,000 MW in the pipeline. The goal articulated by the CLCPA for distributed (typically, rooftop) solar energy capacity is 6,000 MW by 2025. Initial funding for the expansion will use untapped NYSERDA funds and additional funding potentially coming from the Clean Energy Fund. 

    About one fourth of the new funding will go towards Community Adder incentives for community solar projects located in the National Grid and New York State Electric and Gas Corporation utility territories (Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation soon to be added). The Community Adder is an incentive-based successor to the Community Credit component of the Value Distributed Energy Resource tariff. PSC also approved additional adders for projects involving storage, system resiliency, value to disadvantaged and affordable housing communities, and projects to be sited on brownfields, landfills, or parking lots. 

    PCS’s order granted the proposal contained within the petition to use at least a quarter of the newly allocated funds on programs focusing on benefitting customers with low- or moderate-income customers. NYSERDA dubs this new effort the Framework for Solar Energy Equity (FSEE). FSEE will attempt to, among other things, incent projects sited on affordable housing, certain homeowners who install rooftop solar panels, energy storage projects, and expand on NYSERDA’s existing Solar for All program, which offers discounts to low-income New Yorkers on their energy bills through participation in a community solar project. 

 Questions and Updates 

    Please do not hesitate to contact the Wladis Law Firm if you have any questions about the above information. We will do our best to provide you with updates and will be available to answer questions as circumstances change. 

Chris Baiamonte primarily focuses on civil litigation, counseling individual, corporate, and municipal clients on resolving disputes ranging from environmental liability to shareholders rights to creditor–debtor suits. He also works with clients to navigate various state and federal regulations relating to areas such as environmental protection, employment, and civil rights. Contact him at 315-445-1700.

Charity Begins at Home: Loving a Community Inside and Out

Malcolm Goodridge, left, great-grandson of George C. Boldt Sr., with the first recipients of the George C. Boldt Scholarship at Boldt Castle in 2019.

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Milk is Back!

Jay Matteson

For too many years, fewer and fewer Americans were drinking milk. There were many more choices for consumers to quench their thirst than ever before and honestly, the dairy industry had not done a good job of keeping up with marketing their product in a modern, exciting manner. The old white jug had lost its appeal. The previous administration in the White House changed the school lunch program removing whole and 2% milk options and forcing schools to offer only skim milk. This change reduced the desire by children to drink milk. 

    Then the Coronavirus disaster set in. Food service businesses closed their doors. According to an April 3, 2020 article written by P.J. Huffstutter on Reuters website, the closure of food service businesses – restaurants, schools, and fast food restaurants sent a shock wave through the dairy industry. Plants that manufacture dairy products used in food service are not easily converted to retail manufacturing. With the onset of Coronavirus shutdown of food service businesses, the outlook for dairy initially was very dark. American diets typically consisted of 35 – 40% food service purchases. Dairy products are extensively used by food service to add flavor and nutrition to many products. The Virus also disrupted distribution systems and plant workforce. Dairy cooperatives told their member farms to dump their milk because there became a tremendous glut of milk on the market. Dairy Farmers of America estimated at one point that 3.7 million gallons of milk a day was being dumped. 

    At the same time, people did not know what to expect when told to shelter at home. Store shelves emptied of food, paper products and milk! People were buying two gallons at a time and freezing it, just in case. It appears that consumers turned to what they knew was very healthy, satisfying and comforting, milk. According to an article published online on June 15, 2020 on the AgDaily website, from March 9 to March 22, 2020 fluid milk sales increased by 45,000,000 gallons compared to the same period in 2019. Plant based beverage sales in the same period increased by approximately 7.9 million gallons. This was huge news for American dairy farmers. 

    Those of us in the agricultural industry saw the initial demand for fluid milk and were hopeful, but worried that after the initial run on the grocery stores, consumers would return to old habits. Consumers, however, appear to want nutritious and tasty milk and dairy products back in their diets! Ag Daily reports that from March 23 to May 31, 2020 fluid milk consumption increased by nearly 60,000,000 gallons compared to the same period in 2019. Plant based beverages increased by just over 10,000,000 gallons. Also noticed was consumers were trending to whole and 2% milk. Many enjoy the taste and satisfaction of whole milk compared to skim milk. 

    It appears, when difficult times arose, the American consumer came back to a food product they knew was wholesome, nutritious, and tasty – milk. In Jefferson County, we saw two dairy farms begin bottling their own milk. Next Generation Milk from Grimshaw Farms and Old McDonald’s Farm Milk from North Harbor Dairy Farm were an instant hit. Both operations had difficulty keeping up with demand. When a very local option became available to consumers, they swung quickly to supporting local dairy as much as possible. I can personally testify that my 19-year-old son will travel out of his way to make sure we always have milk from both farms in our refrigerator. Most times, he pays for it! 

    The dairy industry will still have challenges with balancing supply and demand fluctuations. Our dairy farms are coming off five years of difficult prices for their product. But if the demand for dairy continues to grow as people realize what they have been missing, perhaps we will see a brighter future for our dairy farms and the American consumer. Thanks to consumers, we see a path out of this current quagmire we are in. We are looking out to 2025 and building a path forward. 

    Welcome home, America! 

Planning Ahead For Your Business

Jennifer McCluskey

I am proud of all the work that you and all of our North Country business owners have done to make it through this difficult time. We may have a long road ahead, but you have worked hard to get here and have held on through many challenges. One way to be stronger for the path ahead is to take a good hard look at how your business did during this crisis and find out if there are things that you could do better to prepare for the future. This is a great time to figure out a solid contingency plan for your business, since this disaster may have exposed areas in which your business is weaker. You have a chance now to learn and to figure out policies that will allow you to be better prepared in the future. 

    One big area where businesses struggle significantly is cash flow and being able to set aside a “cushion” of savings. Sometimes businesses expand too fast or buy that bright shiny piece of new equipment maybe before they were ready. This pandemic may have shown you that your cushion might have been too small to deal with a possible emergency. Have you ever played the board game Risk? In the game of Risk, if you expand too fast then on the next turn the other players will wipe out all your armies because you’ll be too weak to defend. You have to expand slowly from a solid base that can be maintained. It’s the same in business: you need to shore up your current business and have enough savings to support yourself before you start trying to expand. 

    I know this is hard for businesses that are constantly living on the edge of solvency. But maybe now is a good time to make a financial plan to figure out how you can get to the point where you do have enough of a cushion to get through a couple of months with little to no income. And if you don’t think it’s possible for your business to ever get to that point, maybe you need to make some radical changes, or possibly maybe it’s time to move on and try something new. Talk to your SBDC counselor. We can help you develop strategies, look through your budget and see where changes can be made, and provide support in whatever way you need. 

    Other areas you might want to consider looking at include:  

  • Develop work from home or contingency location plans. You may have found that having some of your employees work from home went OK for your business. If you likely now have the technology capabilities you need to implement this strategy again in the future if needed.  
  • Assess communication between you and your employees. Now that they are back in the office, find out if there could be ways that you all could communicate better in the future. What systems are you going to put in place so people can get access to critical information and can make critical decisions? Does everyone know his or her role in a crisis?
  • Put key business instructions in writing in an employee manual, or consider training employees to be able to do each other’s jobs. What if a key employee or owner gets sick? Would the business be able to function without that person? Are other people than the business owner authorized to speak to the bank, accountants, and attorneys if needed?

If you need assistance with your business during this difficult time, you can reach out to your local Small Business Development Center office. If we can’t meet with you in person, we can talk on the phone, teleconference, or email, whichever works for you. We are free, confidential, and always available to help. You can reach the SUNY Canton SBDC at (315) 386-7312, SUNY Canton SBDC at Clinton Community College at (518) 324-7232, or the Watertown SBDC at JCC (315) 782-9262. 

Defining Courage

Lt. Col. Jamie Cox

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines courage as the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.” Synonyms for courage include bravery, fearlessness, gallantry, guts, heart, heroism, intrepidity, valor and virtue.   

    In the first 54 years of my life, which was celebrated this past February, I had the opportunity to witness dozens of acts of raw, pure courage. The U.S. Marine aviator successfully landing a helicopter with an engine on fire and a cabin full of infantrymen on a ship at night. The female Navy corpsman who ran through machine gun and mortar fire to perform triage on me during the battle of Fallujah. Individuals of great integrity taking a stand in the face of overwhelming odds. The company CEO who prioritizes employees over profit.  

    In the 60 days since my birthday, I have witnessed more than a hundred acts of courage. Ordinary people in every community performing extraordinary acts that have changed the trajectory of Northern New York.  

    The stories that capture the headlines in the media beautifully articulate the heroism of our doctors, nurses, certified nursing assistants, police officers, fire fighters and emergency medical technicians. Their sacrifice and courage in the face of this pandemic has inspired a nation.  

    In March 1945, Admiral Chester Nimitz, reflected on the battle of Iwo Jima, which was fought between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Japanese army, by saying, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”  I believe that quote – referencing the men who fought a horrific, bloody battle – runs deep in our north country blood.  

    Consider these snapshots of simple valor in our community:   

  • The cashier at Price Chopper supermarket, who only makes minimum wage, running her check-out register without a protective mask as everyone panicked to purchase food and supplies in late March.  
  • The gas station employee, who does not receive benefits, working without protective equipment to ensure that we’re all able to purchase gas and other necessities.   
  • The school bus driver and teacher who ran endless routes to deliver food to children and families – jumping out of the bus at every home to drop off meals with a wave and a smile.  
  • The school district superintendent who didn’t bat an eye when asked for $10,000 to help the North Country Library System provide online educational tools for children and parents.   
  • The agricultural small business owner who delivers his high-end, organic produce to food pantries and schools throughout Northern New York for free, and is keeping his employees working and paid despite no revenue coming in the door. 
  • The nonprofit company executive director who slashed her own pay to keep more of her staff from getting furloughed. 
  • The general manager of a local television network outlet who has donated significant airtime to public service announcements and is hosting a benefit concert on his own dime. 
  • The nonprofit employee who has continued to risk his health by providing critical services and food to more and more families each day. 
  • The young reporters from our news station and newspaper who are in the field every day to find uplifting stories to keep our morale high. 
  • The volunteer drivers, who put their health at risk by transporting residents without vehicles or the ability to drive to grocery stores or medical appointments.  
  • The guy in front of me at the store yesterday who purchased groceries for the elderly lady in front of him, and then carried them to her car. 

    Away from Washington, D.C., and Albany, patriotism comes in every shape and form. Love for the north country resides in our hearts, regardless of race, religion, or creed. While our economy struggles and residents are suffering, we are witnessing some of the finest acts of kindness and courage.   

    I hope and pray for the end of the pandemic and a healthy economic recovery.  But I know that when we get to that point – sadly – partisan finger pointing will return to our discourse, drowning out the heroics we’re witnessing today. I hope you’ll join me in taking a moment to recognize the special heroes during this crisis. 

Trust In Your New York State Guide

Randy Young

If you are interested in fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, whitewater canoeing, rafting, or rock and ice climbing, but unfamiliar with how to get started, there is a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) licensed guide willing to make sure your experience is less stressful and more enjoyable. 

    Guides are helpful in ensuring safe travel, accomplishing the requirements to become an ADK 46er, navigating unfamiliar waters in a canoe, kayaking to set up a primitive campsite, and much more. 

    Craig L. Tryon, a New York state licensed guide, said, “Hiring a competent guide takes all the guesswork out of planning the trip. If you are a competent wilderness traveler, a guide can help you plan your trip into an area you are unfamiliar with. They can provide area tips and information that would take you weeks to get on your own. 

    In his 34 years of being a licensed guide, Craig knows that the better the experience visitors have, the more likely visitors will return for more outdoor adventures. With more than six million acres to explore in the Adirondacks, 2,000 miles of snowmobile trails, and 5,000 miles of public trails, there are plenty of activities that keep people coming to Northern New York. 

    Outdoor recreation contributes greatly to the local economy and fuels tourism — the state’s third largest industry. Tourism accounts for one in 10 jobs, $14 billion in wages and salaries, and $41.8 billion in consumer spending. 

    There are lots of choices when it comes to picking a tourism destination in New York state and DEC-licensed guides depend on helping customers navigate those choices. There are more than 2,000 licensed guides statewide, of which 209 are available for service in Region 6. 

    Most individuals engaging in the business of guiding on state lands and waters need a license issued by DEC. Environmental Program Specialist Colleen Kayser administers the state’s Licensed Guide Program as part her work in DEC’s Division of Forest Protection. “An exam is held at 10 DEC locations statewide, as well as at the New York State Outdoor Guide Association’s annual winter meeting,” said Kayser. “Once all the requirements are met, I update the applicant’s information and issue the license, which consists of a laminated license, a guides pin, and a certificate. Licenses expire every five years.” 

    Besides assisting the general public, licensed guides are often members of local search-and-rescue teams and partner with DEC to search for lost individuals. 

    Tryon said guiding has enjoyed a long and colorful history. Early surveyors and sportsmen used knowledge of local woodsmen in the area to find their way in New York’s vast uncharted wilderness. 

    Guiding became an important profession and part of the economy of Northern New York in the 1800s, due in part to the popularity of William H. H. Murray’s book “Adventures in the Wilderness, or Camp Life in the Adirondacks.” Murray made his guide, John Plumley, a central character of his adventure stories. 

    “In the 1970s, a renewed interest in environmental issues began to come to the forefront. Today licensed guides are more qualified and trained to provide an educational and enjoyable experience for travelers,” said Tryon. “There has never been a dull moment on any guide trip I have had the pleasure to lead. Clients that I have taken on trips include many typical people just looking for a getaway, police officers, a Secret Service officer, a U.S. Pentagon officer that was an imbedded reporter with troops in Iraq, doctors, an FBI agent, a U.S. Customs and Border patrol officer, a postmaster from Indiana, and even one of the actors on ‘The Young and the Restless.’ With the wide variety of clients and interests on trips, conversations around the nightly campfire are very interesting, to say the least.” 

    For more information on upcoming test dates to be a New York state licensed guide, go here: https://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/30969.html. For the latest updates on #DEC50 and DEC’s celebration of the agency’s 50th anniversary, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/about/9677.html. 

Business Is Bubbling: Aquatics store sells underwater wonder

SYDNEY SCHAEFER / NNY BUSINESS
Pam, left, and Mark Whiting, co-owners of Aqua Plus, pose for a portrait among fishtanks inside the store located on Coffeen Street in Watertown.

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Benefits of Owning Commercial Real Estate

Kiah Surgue

As a business owner, you should be aware of the many advantages to owning the commercial real estate where your business is located.  In order to pursue owning, you have to have a solid financial profile and a clear vision for growth.  Investors are more apt to lend to businesses with value and assets, combined with a low amount of debt compared to owner’s equity.  This is important to ownership and access to capital.  Ultimately this type of business investment can serve as a stable foundation for future commercial success. 

    The interest savings on purchasing versus leasing commercial real estate is huge.  When carrying a mortgage on the property, a portion of each monthly payment goes to principal and a portion goes to interest.  A business owner can use the interest portion as a tax deduction.  So, a property valued at $500,000 with 20 percent down, a 20-year term and an interest rate of 4.5 percent has total payments of $607,000 over the course of 20 years, of which $207,000 goes directly to interest.  Thus, a third of the total payments can be deducted over the term, a major tax bonus.

    Property tax write-offs are another advantage to owning commercial real estate.  When you own property, you are responsible for village, county and school taxes which are deductible expenses that can offset business income and business tax liability.  

    Additionally, depreciation on commercial real estate is a benefit come tax time.  All assets but the land will depreciate in value as soon as they are purchased, including the roof, siding, furnace, sinks, toilets, decking etc.  The IRS allows the depreciation of a residential rental unit over 27.5 years and a commercial building over 39 years.  For example, if you purchase a residential rental for $1 million, the annual depreciation that can be written off is about $36,000. 

    Many other tax deductions are available when owning a business.  Any maintenance or renovations done to the property are deductible, as well as purchases of equipment, furniture, fixtures, and inventory and working capital for common area maintenance charges, insurance, phone, electric, internet, office and supply expenses.

    Some investors purchase commercial real estate as a long term retirement investment to generate a valued asset, knowing that the capital gains tax rate on the sale of a building will generally be lower than the personal tax deduction associated with a traditional IRA.  This is another reason that owning commercial real estate can be favorable.

    Looking way ahead, if you plan to leave the property to a beneficiary such as a spouse, family member, partner etc. and they decide to sell the property, they will only pay taxes on the increased value from the time of the owner’s passing.  This is referred to as a post-sales tax savings and is another benefit to ownership. For example, a business owner purchases a commercial property for $1 million and it appreciates to $4 million over time.  Then the owner passes, the property goes to the beneficiary and the beneficiary sells the property for $5 million; the beneficiary only owes taxes on $1 million. What a tax savings!

    The benefits to owning your commercial property may outweigh leasing or renting a space.  If you have a business that is in a solid financial position, consult with your team of experts such as your business advisor, attorney, accountant and banker to see what your next move should be. 

                The New York State Small Business Development Center at JCC offers free, individual, confidential counseling to new or existing business owners in Jefferson and Lewis counties.  They also offer an entrepreneurial training course with presentations by area professionals in law, marketing, accounting, etc.  For more information, contact 315-782-9262, sbdc@sunyjefferson.edu. St. Lawrence County residents can contact their SBDC at SUNY Canton, 315-386-7312, sbdc@canton.edu. 

Grooming Good Business: Pet groomers thriving in NNY

SYDNEY SCHAEFER / NNY BUSINESS Wendy Warren, owner of Shaggy Dog Lodge & Day Spa in Watertown, recently began offering house calls in her mobile pet grooming van.

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In Pets We Invest: Household spending rises in NNY

Photo provided by SUNY CANTON

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