BY PETE BARDUNIAS
Business in Saratoga County and beyond has faced unprecedented challenges and, fortunately, some opportunities in the past couple of years. The combination of the COVID-19 crisis, fluctuations in the economy, supply chain disruptions, soaring energy prices, capricious consumer demand, the outflux of state population versus a steady local one, workforce and education questions, agriculture needs, environmental concerns, and the desire to create a more inclusive community and culture have really impacted the way Saratoga County, and the Capital Region at large, does business.
At a recent meeting of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Business and Professional Association, nearly every business owner stated that their most pressing issue was the supply chain shortages, something we had heard much about in manufacturing but not at the local business level. From the car dealership lot to convenience store coffee cups, the disruptions were visible all over the country and our region was not immune.
They have been caused by numerous factors, from COVID quarantines, lack of workers to the backup of ships at coastal ports. While solutions to these issues may materialize slowly, it is vital that the business community recognize the magnitude of this problem and advocate for ways to address it.
One company that has been working to ease the supply chain shortage is GlobalFoundries. A partnership with Ford Motor Co. should produce much needed chips for automotive computers, and perhaps more importantly, an America-based supplier for improved, up to date systems in future cars. The auto industry has lagged behind others in development and utilization of cutting-edge technology, apparently a big reason for the recent shortages. It’s time for a systems upgrade, and Saratoga County industry is once again leading the way.
The Capital Region Chamber has found new and meaningful ways to support local businesses. The value of our regional approach with local affiliates in Albany, Schenectady and southern Saratoga counties was on display in 2021, and the biggest impact was a financial one.
The Capital Region Advancement Fund, administered by the Capital Region Chamber across six area counties, directly aided Saratoga County businesses to the tune of $1.575 million in low interest loans this past year. This Chamber also helped 47 organizations in Saratoga County access more than $1.25 in grants through Empire State Development’s Small Business Recovery Grant program.
The Chamber board recently approved a five-year strategic plan which commits to business leadership to position the region as the location of choice for people and private sector investment.
As our region prospers, we must ensure that all residents have access to opportunity. We will develop a robust and equitable talent/workforce ecosystem across all segments of the region’s labor pool, initiate increased collaboration between the business community with various learning institutions, and market the region to attract talent and support corporate workforce recruitment strategies.
Our economic development initiatives will help develop, grow, and attract businesses that invest in the region and create jobs; provide resources, technical assistance, and connections to advance entrepreneurship and drive the growth of existing businesses, and market the region to attract businesses with a focus on key industry clusters. Attention will be paid to businesses that have encountered barriers of inequities.
Finally, the plan commits to providing leadership and a united voice to assertively advocate for issues, policies and projects that support successful businesses, prosperous communities, and shared opportunities for all in our region. This approach will convene private, public, and nonprofit interests, when appropriate, to address key issues, despite any division due to political and social fragmentation. Localized issues will be recognized while championing regional approaches to enhance the economic vitality of Capital Region communities.
Our Chamber of Southern Saratoga County affiliate continues to spearhead the Saratoga County Community Development Program thanks to the generous support of the Board of Supervisors. As we close in on major historic anniversaries, concerns exist over the viability of family farms (some owners date back to Revolutionary War times), the canals/marine industry, taxation of property and business assets, and truck strikes on area bridges. These topics and more will be reviewed in 2022.
My responsibilities are growing too. I am now leading our membership team, as well as our community advancement work. It’s a big assignment for the organization, and really exciting since both roles involve close contact with our membership and the community at large. I’m looking forward to seeing many new business faces in our county and beyond in the coming year.