BY PETE BARDUNIAS
The recent ups and downs of the stock market and the national political discourse are, in my opinion, a symbol of the battle for our communal soul going on at every level of our society, and our economy. For example, is the “think local” or “shop local” mantra a real thing in today’s world, or is it simply a feel good mirage in the era of huge online retailers and others, such as Amazon, Etsy and eBay?
Is our society a community of neighbors, or simply a collection of disparate groups and interests all going about their business, each with a different set of needs, wants and mutually incompatible agendas?
Finally, what should our business community look like. Is the Capital Region monolithic, where a “one size fits all” approach would most efficiently serve the needs of our regional economy? Or are we still a collection of relatively small, independent neighborhoods with diverse personalities, cultures, and interests requiring a customized array of localized services and individual attention in order to reach their full potential?
Count me squarely in the latter camp. My entire career in business has focused on the way individual communities operate, and one cannot find more diversity or splendid uniqueness than in comparing places like Clifton Park, Halfmoon, Mechanicville, Charlton, Ballston, Malta, Stillwater, Schuylerville, Waterford, and Saratoga, just to name a few.
Since coming to the CSSC in 2011, one of the best things I’ve learned is how even big businesses such as GE, GlobalFoundries and Momentive can be very, very local, an attribute which runs against the conventional wisdom in dealing with such corporations. It’s refreshing to realize that we are all in this together, including companies with a century and a quarter of tradition, or who provide the brains of millions of modern communication devices, or who stock the shelves of retailers all across America with one of the most basic of maintenance products.
This focus on integration and alignment of businesses large and small, community organizations, elected officials and even economic development efforts is a task which has been bantered about for a long time here in the Capital Region, and much effort has been put into how best to approach it. It seems that the single most under appreciated asset in this region is the independence and uniqueness of our local communities. We always talk about how “siloed” the region is, as though that is automatically to our detriment. It certainly can be, however there are some positives as well, since communities fiercely protect their individual qualities and preserve some of our historic and marketable brands. Schuylerville, for example, can boast of its Dutch heritage, its Revolutionary history, but also the growing group of shopkeepers, restaurants and artisans who are building their dreams along its main thoroughfare.
Waterford, just 25 miles south, boasts of its maritime history and its role as the crossroads not only of our amazing canal system but also of industry and transportation in general for two centuries. Clifton Park has brought a unique brand to the concept of a suburb-turned-downtown, where even Christmas shoppers can always find a parking space; yet, thanks to new design concepts being implemented, people can live right among the shops, hotels and restaurants in the Town center, and sleep comfortably a mere 10 minutes away from tranquil open spaces, farms, trails, kayaking and general stores.
Ballston, Halfmoon and Malta are each enjoying growth, bringing in new ideas and fresh concepts to make their economic futures bright, indeed.
Organizations which claim to support local businesses must operate in a manner which provides for swift response to individualized needs and concerns. It is something we at the CSSC have always been conscious of, and we have historically prided ourselves in our ability to bring a substantial amount of resources to bear on seemingly small, local initiatives that had far greater impact than would be evident at first glance.
Examples of this would be our efforts at Historic Lock 19, the Mechanicville XO Tower/Gazebo/Bulletin board, the Waterford Canal Festival (plus other waterfront events), and the Saratoga County Fair. Local means just that—local.
Organizations which successfully support our business communities in 2019 will be the ones which can effectively and tangibly integrate with and positively impact the individualized needs of community businesses both large and small. As an example of a localized initiative, the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County will be conducting a “my12065” Community Business Meeting at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library on Wednesday, Jan. 30, to gather input from local businesses and interested citizens about the state of the Clifton Park/Halfmoon business community.
There will be morning, afternoon and evening sessions. Please visit our events calendar at www.southernsaratoga.org for more information, call us at (518) 371-7748 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .