A real solution to our workforce housing challenge
By Todd Shimkus, President of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce
Over the last decade, rising housing prices and rents have made it increasingly difficult for some residents and workers to afford to live in Saratoga Springs.
It is also the case that some businesses are finding it more difficult to attract and retain employees, especially entry-level and lower wage workers that often live outside of the City in more affordable areas.
So how can our thriving City create workforce housing options to meet these two needs?
Our idea is simple.
We should immediately and collectively identify specific properties in the City that are appropriate for workforce housing. Let’s figure out what it will take to entice developers to be able to build workforce housing at these specific locations and make that happen.
Every property is different and every neighborhood’s uniqueness must be respected.
Each property will pose different challenges.
This site specific approach to build workforce housing allows our City to be flexible and that is important.
This site specific approach will allow neighbors to be involved. This process creates a pro-active way to help everyone avoid the not-in-my-backyard issues that have often stopped projects in the City from being approved. Neighbors should and will be involved from the start.
With a site specific approach, we can do our best to can ensure that the properties we select are on bus routes.
We know from talking with area nonprofits that improving transportation linkages between the places people live and local centers of employment has been a challenge. We can fix that this time with a site specific approach.
Let’s begin this site specific approach with the property on West Avenue that is now already under consideration for up to 160 units of workforce housing.
This property clearly has a developer that is interested in building this type of housing at this location. This site is on the bus route, near the high school, the hospital and shopping. It would appear to be ideal but let’s not jump to conclusions either.
Let’s work with this developer to learn what it will take to make a project like this happen at this very location. So then even if this developer doesn’t proceed, we will have created an opportunity for others to come forward in the future. And if there are reasons why this specific property won’t work, we’ll know that too.
We believe the Saratoga Diner site on South Broadway deserves consideration for a type of mixed use development that can incorporate workforce housing.
It would be a win-win for the City if a developer could be enticed to build a mixed use project at this specific site. The City wins with the removal of the blighted diner and the beautification of this important gateway into Saratoga Springs. Simultaneously, local workers win with the new housing options that would be allowed on this property which are also on a bus route, near schools and shopping.
Everyone would like to see workforce housing built in the City. We know some of our members are already building this type of housing in communities around the City.
To do so in the City, like in these other Towns, the City has to actually achieve cost neutrality for developers. That can be a challenge with the high land costs we have in the City. In some cases, the City may need to consider reducing development fees or expediting the approval process. We may also find that federal and state affordable housing tax credits are required for specific parcels.
The City has significant plans to create new trails. It should therefore target properties for workforce housing that would be adjacent to these trail systems. By doing so, it could help provide walking and biking links for the people that would live there to jobs, schools, and shopping areas.
Like everything else, the solution lies in having a conversation, doing research, listening to one another and working together.
Working collaboratively, we believe we can find other suitable sites for such projects defining what exactly is required to build the housing everyone agrees we need at those specific locations.
We are confident that this path will actually lead to the construction of new workforce housing. It’s a common sense approach that we hope the City and the region will embrace.
Our Top 10 List of Accomplishments and Stories from 2016
#10 - Opening Doors and Closing Deals - Our 12 talented SCORE volunteers again provided dozens of entrepreneurs with one-on-one confidential counseling during 2016. With office hours in Malta and in Saratoga Springs, these volunteers helped existing business owners going through transitions as well as startups in need of some advice and those seeking financing to grow their operations. This year, our local SCORE Chapter was honored with a Platinum Leadership Award to recognize the fact that they are in the top ten percent of the more than 300 SCORE Chapters across the nation in terms of businesses started and jobs created through their voluntary efforts. We will recognize these volunteers and this award winning performance at our 2017 Annual Dinner, on Thursday, January 26th.
#9 - Connecting Communities - 2016 Chair of the Board, Matt Jones, of The Jones Firm, took the Chamber's Board meetings on the road across Saratoga County in 2016. We had a quorum of our 27 member Board at all ten meetings demonstrating a genuine interest in our Board to get out and tour our county. At each meeting, the local Town Supervisor was invited to join us and to offer a brief welcome and update on his or her efforts to grow the local economy. These Board meetings took place at the City Center, in Saratoga Springs; at GLOBALFOUNDRIES, in Malta; Schmaltz Brewery, in Clifton Park; the Brookside Museum, in Ballston Spa; SUNY Adirondack, in Wilton; and the Town Hall, in Schuylerville. While in Schuylerville, the Board went over the Hudson River to learn more about the Dredging project and plans to evaluate the floodplains with the discussion led by Peter Goutos, who is the Board's representative on the EPA's Community Advisory Group (CAG).
#8 - Pull People Together - On Thursday, October 6th, 2016, the Chamber again hosted the region’s largest B2B networking event of the year - - the October Business Expo at the City Center. This event was expanded in 2016 to include exhibitor booths in the main expo room as well as the expanded break-out room on the first floor. Upstairs after the Expo, the Chamber hosted its second annual Startup Saratoga event with more than 300 attendees too.
#7 - Investment in the Future - A delegation of local leaders traveled with the Chamber to Cuba in the spring. This was one of the first Chamber trips to Cuba in New York State. The trip enabled the delegation to gain a better understand of Cuba’s history and culture as well as to understand how far its economy has to go to be modernized. The best photo from the trip was taken of the group in front of The Hotel Saratoga, in Havana.
#6 - Make Noise to Get things done - The Chamber played a lead role this year participating in two community forums designed to establish a plan to fight aggressive panhandling in Saratoga Springs and to help our City’s homeless population. The Chamber was the primary author of a Six Point Plan coming out of these forums that has since served as a road map for this effort. The City’s police department established a consistent community policing program downtown. With the Chamber serving as an advisor to its special task force, Shelters of Saratoga has identified a new temporary location for the City’s Code Blue Shelter and they continue to work on finding a suitable location for a more permanent location for this and a drop-in center to reduce homelessness. The Saratoga Springs SAD led the effort to create and install drop boxes downtown to encourage people to give money to the agencies that help the homeless instead of panhandlers. In twelve weeks, the Chamber collected and distributed $2,300 from these drop boxes to Shelters of Saratoga. The Chamber and DBA co-hosted a forum to start the process of forming a new downtown Neighborhood Watch. Everyone agrees that aggressive panhandling has been reduced this year and the level of cooperation between the public and private sectors has been improved and focused on this effort.
#5 - Support and Respect - The Chamber’s Veterans Business Council helped launch a new EMT Training Program for area veterans thanks to the leadership provided by the Clifton Park – Halfmoon EMS. The VBC organized its first-ever “formation” run where VBC members ran in formation for the entire Firecracker 4 route, on July 4th, in Saratoga Springs. This effort received extensive media attention for the VBC and its mission. The VBC hand-delivered resumes of Veterans to local companies in an effort to help them obtain jobs. The VBC hosted job fairs, an entrepreneurial training program, and helped organize the Revolutionary Run for Veterans, in Schuylerville.
#4 - Advocacy Advances Opportunity - Chaired by Maureen Lewi, the Chamber's Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing, was a visible and vocal advocate for efforts to reprivatize NYRA as a not for profit organization after four years of state government control. The highlight of this effort was the passage of bipartisan legislation by the New York State Assembly and New York State Senate written and sponsored by Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner and Senator Kathy Marchione, in June, before the end of the session. By taking this action, the legislation thankfully rejected the Governor's efforts to extend his control over a new Board of Directors and to alter a 25-year "Franchise Agreement" New York State approved years ago to share a specific percentage of revenue from a VLT at Aqueduct with New York State's Thoroughbred Racing industry. This summer, the group launched a #WhoaCuomo campaign to broaden the understanding of why the legislature's bipartisan approved bill is a better solution to ending government control than the Governor's proposal during the Saratoga Race Meeting which attracted over 1 million paid attendees.
#3 - Positive Partnerships - In June, a delegation of local leaders traveled to Burlington, Vermont, as we launched a new City Share initiative with the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, in Burlington. Our friends from Burlington visited Saratoga, in August, to continue this sharing of opportunities and challenges facing our two vibrant regions. Our delegation included county and local elected officials as well as business leaders. The range of issues we discussed with our peers in Burlington went from waterfront development, to homelessness, to Chamber operations, tourism funding, and more. The City Share program has helped bring our two communities together in an unprecedented fashion with hopes for continued discussions around common issues in the future.
#2 - Two Feet in the Race - In March, we learned that Saratoga County had been rated as the #1 healthiest county in all of New York State. When the Chamber first launched its #HealthySaratoga movement three years ago when Saratoga County was rated #5. This year’s #HealthySaratoga effort included the Second Annual Health and Wellness Week with several “sold out” events. 33 companies participated in the Second Annual Healthy Saratoga HORSE Basketball Tournament which again attracted a nice crowd. In June, the Third Annual Wellness Mixer at the Saratoga Spa State Park featured more than 30 exhibitors and hundreds of attendees. In the fall, the Council created two task forces - - one which is working to create a new Healthy Parks program and the second which is developing a Health and Wellness Toolkit that will be shared with employers and employees starting in January 2017.
#1 - Implement Inspiration - Launched at the Chamber’s Annual Dinner, in January, the Chamber organized the world’s first-ever #LeapOfKindnessDay inviting people to do something kind for someone else on Leap Day, February 29, 2016. This creative use of Leap Day inspired dozens of local organizations and hundreds of people across Saratoga County to do something nice for thousands of people from police officers, to first responders, nursing home residents, health care workers, teachers, nonprofit organizations, coworkers, family members, nonprofit organizations, US Navy Sailors, Veterans, and many others. The Chamber shared the logo, hashtag and list of suggested acts of kindness with chambers in more than 30 states and saw posts on February 29th from across the world. Leap of Kindness Day received the Chamber of Innovation Award this summer at our national conference.
Here's a few other highlights...
- The Chamber played a key role organizing the first-ever Saratoga Giant PumpkinFest which had more than 5,000 attendees, at the Sunnyside Gardens, on Saturday, 24th.
- Leadership Saratoga saw its 29th class graduate, this past May, and the 30th class is now in the early stages of their training program.
- The Chamber continued to serve as the County’s Tourism Promotion Agency (TPA) expanding its nearly $500,000 cooperative digital marketing effort with new contesting, new ads, new social media tactics, and more to encourage leisure travelers to visit Saratoga County year-round. In particular, the Chamber had significantly more success this year in securing visitor emails via a new contesting strategy and a first-ever social media partnership with Mannix Marketing.
- The Chamber formed a Bylaws Task Force that has modernized and cleaned up the Chamber’s bylaws with significant changes approved by the Board, in November. Nearly 300 members returned ballots to formally approve these changes which take effect January 1, 2017.
- Hard to believe in this digital age, but we again distributed all of our Saratoga County Tourist Maps through area hotels and destinations as well as visitors centers in key target markets. A total of 40,000 were printed thanks go dozens of advertisers and they are all gone. We also printed and distributed 25,000 dining guides featuring more than 150 area restaurants. Sponsored by Saratoga Water, it is free for our restaurant members to be included in this popular brochure. Want to buy an ad in the 2017 Saratoga County Map? Contact Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org
- We again hosted dozens of ribbon cuttings to celebrate the opening of new business across Saratoga County. Ribbon cuttings were also held for firms expanding or renovating their operations to honor them for their latest local investments. We also held ribbon cuttings to celebrate significant milestones in the history of a number of local independently owned businesses.
- The Chamber supported the efforts of the City Center Authority which successfully secured a 3-2 vote of the City Council allowing the Authority to build a new parking structure to help them compete for more conventions, meetings and events.
Presentation reports on the federal tax proposals currently offered by our US Presidential Candidates
Special thanks to Kevin Hedley, of Hedley & Company, PLLC, who was kind enough to share with the Chamber a copy of a presentation he made at an event hosted by his firm on January 27, 2016. This presentation included a compilation of current federal tax policies along with a range of proposals to change these policies by some of the Presidential candidates based on a review of their websites as of this date. The inclusion or exclusion of any political candidate from this presentation does not reflect any commentary or endorsement of any political party or candidate by the firm or by the Chamber. We are sharing this information solely because we think the information is interesting and timely.
Click here to review this special presentation.
SARATOGA COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ELECTS NEW VOLUNTEER LEADERSHIP FOR 2016
Saratoga Springs, NY – Matt Jones, of The Jones Firm, has been elected the 2016 Chair of the Board of Directors of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and will assume this new volunteer leadership position starting January 1, 2016. Valeri Muratori, the Executive Director of Saratoga Bridges, served as the Chair of the Chamber’s Board in 2015 and will continue to serve on the Executive Board as the Immediate Past Chair.
The Chair Elect for 2016 will be David Collins, of D.A. Collins & Companies, who will become Chair of the Board in 2017. The Vice Chairs of the Chamber’s Board of Directors will be Brian Straughter, of the Turf Hotels and the Hampton Inn Saratoga, and Theresa Agresta, of Allegory Studios. The Chamber’s Treasurer for 2016 will be Kevin Hedley, of Hedley & Company, and the Secretary will be Nafeesa Koslik, of the Hampton Inn Clifton Park.
The members elected by the Board of Directors to serve a three year term on the Board starting January 1, 2016, and running until December 31, 2018, are: Theresa Agresta, of Allegory Studios; Shelly Amato, of the Wesley Community; Raj Ghoshal, of Polyset; Daryl Glass, of Target Distribution; Nafeesa Koslik, of the Hampton Inn – Clifton Park; Jessica Petraccione, of First National Bank of Scotia; Christianne Smith, of DesignSmith Studios.
Three members were appointed to serve a one-year term on the Chamber’s Board of Directors starting January 1, 2016, including: Chad Beatty, Saratoga Today; John Bove, Bove Fuels; and Skip Carlson, Saratoga Casino. Cliff Van Wagner, of The Wesley Company, was selected to serve on the Board for one year as a Past Chair of the Board.
The other members of the Chamber’s Board of Directors are: Kevin Soukup, of GLOBALFOUNDRIES; Steve Springer, of Atlantic-British; Cassie Fox, of N. Fox Jewelers; Peter Goutos, of CA Smith; David DeMarco, of Saratoga National Bank and Trust; Marianne Barker, of Impressions of Saratoga; David Cummings, of the Run at Saratoga; Dr. Adam Favro, of Turning Point Chiropractic; Art Johnson, of the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership and the Town of Wilton; Beth Alexander, of Hattie’s Restaurant; Dan Wagner, of State Farm Insurance; and Charlie Wait, of The Adirondack Trust Company.
The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce has 2400 members and is a visible and vocal promoter and advocate for its members and all of the communities in Saratoga County. The Chamber’s Board of Directors includes 28 members all of whom are employed by firms with operations in Saratoga County from Clifton Park to Halfmoon and Mechanicville; to Malta, Saratoga, Wilton, and Stillwater; as well as Ballston Spa and the City of Saratoga Springs. These volunteers represent small and large operations in the retail, manufacturing, finance, hospitality, nonprofit, banking, accounting, distribution, health care, marketing, legal, insurance, agricultural, government, restaurant, media and construction sectors.
Pictured below from left to right: 2016 Vice Chair Brian Straughter, Turf Hotels; 2016 Treasurer Kevin Hedley, Hedley & Company; 2015 Treasurer and 2016 Vice Chair Theresa Agresta, Allegory Studios; 2016 Chair Elect David Collins, DA Collins; 2015 Chair of the Board Valeri Muratori, Saratoga Bridges; 2016 Chair of the Board Matt Jones, the Jones Firm; 2016 Secretary of the Board Nafeesa Koslik; and 2014 Chair of the Board and the 2015 Immediate Past-Chair Steve von Schenk, The Adirondack Trust Company.
News you can use!
The Fast Food Wage Hike—What Is It, Who Is Affected, and Can Anything Be Done About It?
By Michael Billok, Member Labor & Employment, Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC
So it’s happened, and quickly: on May 6, Governor Cuomo announced that he was going to empanel a Wage Board to raise the minimum wage in the fast-food industry, and given the “fight for $15” movement to raise the fast-food minimum wage to $15 per hour, nobody doubted the Wage Board would reach the desired result. Thus, when the Board’s recommendations were announced just over two months later on July 22, the ultimate goal to raise the wage to $15 per hour was not a surprise, but there are other details of which area employers should be aware.
Who does this apply to? This increase applies to any “fast food employee” in a “chain fast food establishment.” The definitions of each of those terms are included below, but to cut through the legalese, it generally applies to any food or drink establishment where patrons pay before eating that is part of a chain of 30 or more. The Board released a list of fast food chains that will be subject to the wage hike, being careful to make clear that it may add more businesses to the list. According to the list, at least the following business in Saratoga County would be affected (and again, this list is not exhaustive): Ben & Jerry’s, Boston Market, Brueggers, Burger King, Chipotle, Chuck E. Cheese, Cold Stone Creamery, Domino’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, KFC, McDonald’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Panera Bread, Pizza Hut, Shake Shack, Smashburger, Starbucks, Subway, Taco Bell, Uno Chicago Grill, and Wendy’s. In addition, Syracuse.com reported that according to a State Department of Labor spokesman, “a business owner with just one chain restaurant would have to pay the new wage.” Finally, while the definition of “Fast Food Establishment” is quite broad and could itself be interpreted as including convenience stores that serve sandwiches, drinks, ice cream, etc., the lack of convenience stores on the Wage Board’s list suggests at least for now that they will not be included in the wage hike. The list as published by the Wage Board can be found in the Appendix, available here: http://labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/laborstandards/pdfs/Fast-Food-Wage-Board-Report.pdf
What wages are required? While the wage increases rise more sharply in New York City, the increases in New York State also rise quickly:
Here is the proposed schedule for wage increases in New York State:
December 31, 2015: $9.75/hour
December 31, 2016: $10.75/hour
December 31, 2017: $11.75/hour
December 31, 2018: $12.75/hour
December 31, 2019: $13.75/hour
December 31, 2020: $14.50/hour
July 1, 2021: $15.00/hour
What can be done about it? First, anyone may submit objections to the report by either e-mailing them to email@example.com or mailing them to NYS Dept. of Labor Wage Board Objections, Building 12 Room 586, State Office Campus, Albany, NY 12240. All objections must be received by August 15. While this comment period is widely seen to be a formality, and that the Commissioner of Labor will approve the recommendations of the Wage Board, any interested business owner still should use this available avenue. Second, a legal challenge is possible; various news outlets have reported that some franchise owners are considering legal claims to challenge the increase as arbitrarily applied to the fast-food industry, and that some have already engaged attorney and former deputy New York City mayor Randy Mastro to that end.
So what happens next? As stated above, the state Labor Commissioner will act on the recommendations shortly after the comments period closes. Fast-food and drink establishments that are part of larger chains may want to consider mounting or joining a legal challenge to the increase—but short of that, they should prepare for the impending increases.
The information contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for professional counseling or advice. Mike represents employers in a variety of labor and employment related contexts from Bond, Schoeneck & King’s Albany office. Mike lives in Saratoga Springs, serves on the board of the Saratoga Adult & Senior Center, and is a 2014 graduate of the Leadership Saratoga program.
“Fast Food Employee” shall mean any person employed or permitted to work at or for a Fast Food Establishment by any employer where such person’s job duties include at least one of the following: customer service, cooking, food or drink preparation, delivery, security, stocking supplies or equipment, cleaning, or routine maintenance.
“Fast Food Establishment” shall mean any establishment in the state of New York serving food or drink items: (a) where patrons order or select items and pay before eating and such items may be consumed on the premises, taken out, or delivered to the customer’s location; (b) which offers limited service; (c) which is part of a chain; and (d) which is one of thirty (30) or more establishments nationally, including: (i) an integrated enterprise which owns or operates thirty (30) or more such establishments in the aggregate nationally; or (ii) an establishment operated pursuant to a Franchise where the Franchisor and the Franchisee(s) of such Franchisor owns or operate thirty (30) or more such establishments in the aggregate nationally.
The video above was filmed to show viewers the three specific sites we believe should be considered for workforce housing in the City of Saratoga Springs.