NNY Q&A: Boots Brewing

Co-founder of Boots Brewing Co., Daniel Daugherty at his business in downtown Watertown. Kara Dry/NNY Business

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Making Every Day Matter: Hospice of Jefferson County keeps patient, family needs at heart while serving the community

Hospice patient, Roland “Rollie” J. Donato, and his wife Brenda M. Donato stand for a portrait in the front room of their home in Watertown. Mr. Donato’s hospital bed sits against the wall while Mrs. Donato sleeps on the couch every night so she can be with her husband at all times. Kara Dry/NNY Business

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A Next-Generation Entrepreneur: Puccia family legacy lives on

Owner of Sand Flats Produce Company, Vincent G. Puccia stands for a portrait in front of his delivery truck in Watertown. Kara Dry/NNY Business

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Selecting an Environmental Lawyer

Kevin Murphy

Environmental law matters frequently involve an overlap and interplay between legal, scientific, and business concerns. Translating science into policy and policy into law and the resulting enforcement or interpretation of the law by government agencies and the courts can leave people and businesses frustrated, confused and confounded by the law and its regulators. Adding to that frustration is both the complexity and harshness of the law and often, the absence of simple, quick, and easy solutions to environmental legal problems. 

    There is much an environmental lawyer can do to benefit the client’s interests. Counsel is best sought, of course, prior to any actual conflict arising. Environmental counsel can minimize potential client liability through compliance counseling, assistance with permitting, site and process auditing, the performance of pre-acquisition due diligence, and the presentation of public comments or testimony prior to the enactment or promulgation of statutes or regulations that may impact the client. Should issues of non-compliance or liability arise, counsel familiar with the specifics and peculiarities of environmental matters will likely be the best advocate for a client confronted with environmental concerns. 

    First and foremost, an environmental lawyer must be a good lawyer. Ask your friends, business associates and trade organizations, state or local bar and business groups, and your engineer, technical consultant or non-environmental lawyer for one or more recommendations of a lawyer or a law firm that practices environmental law. 

    Interview any lawyer that you might consider hiring. Determine their qualifications and experience. Consider first the candidate’s general qualifications, including years of experience; years of environmental law experience; their professional development through organizations, attendance at seminars, written articles, or teaching; and prior experience, including past governmental positions. Next, consider the candidate’s experience as it relates to your legal concerns. Among the many types of environmental matters which might require the assistance of environmental counsel are the sale or purchase of real property, securing a government permit, notice of a government enforcement action, a neighbor who alleges that you are polluting his property or your concerns that a neighbor has polluted your property. Determine if your candidate’s experience includes matters similar to yours. If they have never assisted a client secure a permit or has never defended a government enforcement action, he or she might not be the best-qualified environmental lawyer to resolve your legal matters. Determine if the lawyer has practiced before the government agency with which you have a conflict. While not mandatory or essential, familiarity with the specific regulator and its procedures and practices may also be helpful. 

    Ask the candidate to explain how the law works in your particular area and what type of solutions might be available. Remember, because environmental law involves the confluence of law, science and business, you should select a lawyer who not only understands the complex issues you are confronted with but who can communicate the issues and possible solutions in a clear, precise and understandable manner. If you cannot understand your lawyer, you will be frustrated and the other side, whoever it may be, is also likely to be frustrated. 

    Inquire as to what other professionals may be needed. Not only environmental engineers and consultants, but other legal professionals. Often times environmental issues arise in the context of other legal conflicts such as potential foreclosures, bankruptcy or trust and estate matters. Determine if your candidate has access to the necessary qualified professionals or if the candidate can successfully work with your existing counsel and experts. 

    Before engaging the services of an environmental lawyer, or any lawyer, discuss fees. Be aware, however, that lower hourly rates do not necessarily translate into lower total costs. Determine how your matter might be staffed, who will do the work and the likely or potential complications, which will add to the costs of a solution. Speaking to more than one candidate is the best way to determine a realistic picture of the potential range of costs and time involved and the options and approaches to solving your problem. 

    In making your final choice, do not disregard your instinct – select the lawyer you are most comfortable with and the lawyer you trust. Be wary of promises that are easy to make but difficult to keep. Make sure your lawyer listens and understands your goals and objectives but, at the same time, listen to what your lawyer says they can and cannot do for you. 

The Value of a North Country Education

Rande Richardson

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist. It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” — John Steinbeck 

As I grow older and raise my two children, I become increasingly aware of the gratitude I feel for having experienced a north country education. My 13 years as a student in the Watertown City School District were a great gift. While I did not fully realize it at the time, nearly every aspect of my K-12 experience helped set me on a path that would position me to take the next steps toward a fulfilling life and career. 

    We know that investing in students is something that has great potential to pay dividends not only for the adult they will eventually become, but for our community and the world they will inherit. This occurs best in a learning environment where students feel valued and supported and where a sense of belonging is instilled. There are many responsible for making our schools work. Administrators, teachers, coaches and staff contribute to shape the hearts, minds and lives of our children. While none of us remembers every lesson taught, we recall educators who imparted their wisdom with intention, care and joy. We know how those special teachers made us feel, how they listened, how they supported us to find the best version of ourselves and our role in society. 

    Educators have a responsibility like few others. Their profession is one from which all other professions stem. As time passes, our communities are diminished with the loss of those who provided decades of educational leadership and wisdom. This summer, we lost someone who embodied all the qualities of a transformative educator. For Barbara Hanrahan-White, her purpose was always greater than the delivery of instruction. In so many ways, she was representative of my best educational influences. She loved what she did and that made her presence even more powerful. 

    I reflect upon a woman who not only moved countless local students forward, but with kindness, love and dedication, created a never-ending wave of positivity. I am humbled that her legacy will have a permanent home here, and that through a memorial fund created in her name, that story can be told to those who may not have known her. Those whose lives were impacted by her, will always be part of the fund’s work. Since its inception in 1929, the Northern New York Community Foundation has held as a core belief the understanding of, and tireless advocacy for, an educated community. It is an organization Mrs. Hanrahan-White helped passionately guide for more than a decade. 

Barbara Hanrahan-White was an educator and administrator in the Watertown City School District from 1956 to 1987. She passed away in August at the age of 92.

    This year, more than 600 students from Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties received support from scholarship funds established at the Community Foundation. Several commemorate the lives and careers of educators who continue to make a meaningful difference in the lives of students as they embark on varied educational journeys. The tools that come from a solid education help prepare students to face the obstacles that inevitably come their way. They provide a solid foundation for citizenship, sharing commonality while embracing uniqueness and individuality. They supply us with compassionate leaders for our region’s organizations and institutions. 

    In remembering Barbara Hanrahan-White, I recall all the positive educational influences I was blessed to have. While, with her loss, I am reminded of the relative shortness of life, I am even more aware that the difference made during a lifetime can be nearly infinite. She knew the power she held in her hands. She knew the responsibility that came with that privilege. For her, it was never simply a job. She understood that it was more important to be a facilitator of learning than an authority figure. Because of her and so many like her, countless students were provided one of the greatest and most enduring gifts and the ability and desire to share it with others. 

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.