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Highlights from the NYS 2022-2023 Executive Budget

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Earlier in April the New York State Legislature and Executive approved the 2022-2023 State Budget of $220 billion. The Executive Budget includes increased funding for the Department of State’s (DOS) programs that support community development such as the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, NY Forward, Brownfield Opportunity Area, Smart Growth Planning, the Environmental Protection Fund, and Local Waterfront Revitalization Initiative. 

Here are some highlights from the Economic Development Programs:

  • Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC) will continue to play a key role in regionally-driven strategies for economic growth.
  • The Budget includes core funding of $225 million in grants and tax credits to fund high value regional priority projects to be made available throughout the year.
  • A robust package of workforce development initiatives (up to $350 million) is also included.
  • Downtown and community revitalization initiatives (up to $450 million) will continue to be coordinated with REDC-driven economic development strategies where appropriate.
  • The Executive Budget provides $100 million for another round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
  • Additionally, to support a more equitable recovery across New York’s rural communities, the State will create and invest in the NY Forward program, designed to help smaller downtowns. The Executive Budget includes $100 million for the rural and smaller communities. Like the DRI program, NY Forward communities will be selected in partnership with the REDCs. The Department of State (DOS) will lead the community through an abbreviated planning process to develop a slate of readily implementable projects.
  • ConnectALL initiative will invest in digital infrastructure, catalyzing over $1 billion in new public and private investments.
  • The Executive Budget also includes $250 million for a revitalized Restore New York program to rehabilitate vacant, abandoned, condemned, or surplus properties.

To learn more, visit https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy23/ex/index.html

Main Street America and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance Share Ideas about the ARPA Fund Use

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Main Street America in partnership with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) hosted a webinar on February 10 titled “Small Business’s Big Moment” that highlighted ideas for communities on how to use the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for long-term economic development. Kennedy Smith from the ISLR and Kelly Humrichouser from Main Street America moderated the conversation, whose focus was on small business.

Some of the ideas presented include:

  • Strategic investments in small business training, coaching and finance, i.e. financial relief grants, loans, opening business incubators, and other resources;
  • Using the funds to develop and open full-service grocers;
  • Building a robust infrastructure to support small scale manufacturing;
  • Simplifying and streamlining the procurement process to make it easier for small businesses to bid;
  • Investing in “shop local” marketing campaigns;
  • Expanding broadband access;
  • Making improvements in commercial districts to enhance accessibility.

To read the full report, visit Small-Businesss-Big-Moment-Report.pdf.   

Destination Branding – What It Is and Why It Matters

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A new era for tourism is emerging as we plan for the post-pandemic world with an eye on sustainability. At the heart of destination branding is a well-told story about what makes a place unique, welcoming, and memorable. A good story articulates a place’s distinctive traits while at the same time builds affinity and excitement.

As The Place Brand Observer notes, destination branding is more than just economic development, and it encompasses in fact a range of metrics including the local community’s well-being, the livability of cities and towns, and the general feeling that the stakeholders share about how well these initiatives are actually performing.

To successfully position a destination, one must certainly emphasize local landmarks and iconic attractions, but at the same time think strategically about what visitors might remember a week, a month or a year later. Also, since tourist attractions don’t exist in a vacuum, equal emphasis should be placed on investing in local communities. As one tourism authority once put it, a happy place will attract happy people or people who want to be happy.    

Heritage destinations have always been popular. In addition, visitors are also looking for off-the-beaten path experiences, and occasionally insider tips to make the most of the experience. Content creators, mindful of these trends, will have to keep in mind that visitors are interested not only in memorable moments but also in how the experience itself will make them feel.

According to Destination Analysts, a tourism market research firm based in San Francisco, when planning a trip, people do prefer to consult with family and friends, but also review websites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, and travel business websites like hotels, attractions, and airlines.

GPT-3 WRITES POETRY

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In July 2020 the MIT Technology Review announced the development of a new language generator A.I. called GPT-3 and produced by OpenAI, a research lab founded by Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. Because of its vast neural network, GPT-3 performs much better than its predecessors being able to write short stories, songs, press releases, technical manuals, computer code, but also imitate established writers, and translate to and from a variety of languages. GPT-3 even wrote an informative article about itself that one would not be able to guess it wasn’t written by a human.

Here’s an example of GPT-3 creative writing: “When you can look into the mirror and see a poem looking back at you. When you can hear music in the play of silence. When you can create a writing that leaves people stunned. When you can laugh and weep as you think and breathe and bleed and eat and sleep. When you can dream with the quill in your fingers, then perhaps you will be a poet, a Poet, an Uber Poet.”

GPT-3 is good at synthesizing vast amounts of data and generating text on demand, but is also erroneous at times, and even racist and sexist. Having been trained on a dataset of half a trillion words, GPT-3 is able to identify an array of linguistic patterns but doesn’t understand what the words really mean and also lacks a general sense of purpose and meaning.

Given its versatility but also shortcomings, it remains to be seen how GPT-3 is going to be used by both academia and the business world to develop applications.  

How to Build a Small Town Sustainable Future

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Last December I attended a webinar with Main Street America where Lindsey Wallace spoke about her organization’s approach to community transformation based on four pillars:

1. Organization

2. Economic Vitality

3. Design

4. Promotion

As we juggle multiple crises from health care to economic prosperity, climate change, and inequality, I believe this is a model that can lead to a sustainable future for communities that can rally together behind some common purpose.

The first pillar Organization calls for strong leadership and broad community engagement to identify priorities and forge partnerships across sectors.

Economic Vitality invites a diverse economic base, and smart investments that contribute to a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Design plays a critical role in creating an inviting and inclusive atmosphere that incorporates historic preservation, energy efficiency, and accessibility.

And Promotion is all about marketing the community’s defining assets and unique attributes while supporting “buy local”.

Business trends that will continue to shape our communities are the expansion of broadband, remote work, e-commerce, and lifestyle changes that are here to stay like for instance slowing down, investing in self-care, and developing contingency plans.

Read more about trends here.

The Winners of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) Round Five Have Been Announced

Governor Hochul and Lieutenant Governor Benjamin have announced the winners of the fifth round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) in a series of events that were held last fall to highlight the significance of the DRI program in revitalizing communities across the State.

Launched in 2016, The Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) has been envisioned as “a comprehensive approach to boosting local economies by transforming communities into vibrant neighborhoods where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise a family.”

The 2021 winners are as follows:

  • New York City: Chinatown ($20 million)
  • Long Island: Amityville ($10 million) and Riverhead ($10 million)
  • Capital Region: Troy ($10 million) and Tannersville ($10 million)
  • Mid-Hudson: Haverstraw ($10 million) and Ossining ($10 million)
  • Mohawk Valley: Gloversville ($10 million) and Little Falls ($10 million)
  • Finger Lakes: Rochester ($10 million) and Newark ($10 million)
  • Central New York: Oneida ($10 million) and Syracuse ($10 million)
  • Western New York: Buffalo ($10 million) and North Tonawanda ($10 million)
  • Southern Tier: Endicott ($10 million) and Norwich ($10 million)
  • North Country: Tupper Lake ($10 million) and Massena ($10 million)

The village of Tannersville in Greene County (Capital Region) is the smallest municipality to have ever received a DRI award (population 858), and also the first one in the Catskills area. Projects to be considered for funding include housing developments, as more people are leaving the City and relocating Upstate, and tourist attractions such as music and arts venues, as well as a trolley that will take visitors to the Kaaterskill Falls, a major source of inspiration for the Hudson River School of Painting, the first authentic American art movement. Tannersville is only 4 miles away from Hunter Mountain Ski Resort, a worldwide destination. To learn more about the Tannersville’s DRI application, listen to the interview conducted by Brett Barry from Silver Hollow Audio with Sean Mahoney, Executive Director, and Amy Scheibe, Board Chair at the Hunter Foundation, the economic development partner for the Village of Tannersville, which spearheaded the DRI process: https://anchor.fm/kaatscast

The DRI winners are selected every year in a competitive review process based on eight criteria (in 2020 the program was put on hold due to the pandemic):

  1. The downtown should be compact, with well-defined boundaries;
  2. The downtown is able to capitalize on prior or catalyze future private and public investment in the neighborhood and its surrounding areas;
  3. There should be recent or impending job growth within, or in close proximity to the downtown that can attract workers to the downtown, support redevelopment and make growth sustainable;
  4. The downtown must be an attractive and livable community for diverse populations of every age, income, gender, identity, ability, mobility and cultural background;
  5. The municipality should already embrace or have the ability to create and implement policies that increase livability and quality of life, including the use of local land banks, modern zoning codes and parking standards, complete street plans, energy efficient projects, green jobs, and transit-oriented development;
  6. The municipality should have conducted an open and robust community engagement process resulting in a vision for downtown revitalization and a preliminary list of projects and initiatives that may be included in a DRI strategic investment plan;
  7. The municipality has the local capacity to manage the DRI process;
  8. The municipality has identified transformative projects that will be ready for near-term implementation with an infusion of DRI funds.

To learn more about the DRI process, visit https://simonadavid.com/2021/09/01/downtown-revitalization-initiative-dri-a-quick-overview/.

For more information, visit https://www.ny.gov/programs/downtown-revitalization-initiative

Why Trust Matters

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Trust is essential in ensuring a peaceful and prosperous society. The pandemic has broken the patterns of trust that we have grown accustomed to in order to make decisions. The Edelman Trust Institute has published a collection of essays addressing the multitude of challenges we currently face to balance health care, economic prosperity and personal freedoms as we strive to rebuild for a post-pandemic world.

Main take-aways:

  1. Have a clear mission and set of values
  2. What you say and what you do ought to be aligned
  3. Consistency matters
  4. Transparency matters
  5. Incompetence is a trust destroyer
  6. Be honest about your limitations
  7. Prioritize collaborations with others
  8. Good companies invest in good employees
  9. Emotional intelligence matters
  10. Inclusion matters
  11. Climate change pledges matter
  12. Fighting disinformation is more important than ever
  13. It takes time to build trust
  14. Trust is built when promises are kept
  15. Highlighting solutions not just problems makes for a better world

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, businesses are currently the most trusted institutions in our society. Laszlo Bock, the CEO of Humu, advises though that as employees return to office, employers ought to relax performance standards and allow the employees to re-set their roles in a welcoming environment to avoid burn-out and ensure long-term retention and satisfaction. Employees are looking for confident, competent, and compassionate leaders.

Regarding the crisis in governance, Juha Leppänen from Demos believes that “leadership in the 21st century is not about having all the right answers, but about continuously learning and collaborating rigorously in inventive new ways.” Leppänen believes that by embracing humility governments can cultivate stronger relationships with stakeholders and generate more trust. His advice is to incentivize collaboration and participation.  

Read the full report at edelman.com.

Beekman 1802 Acquired by Global Investment Group

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In December Albany Business Review reported that Beekman 1802, the beloved lifestyle company located on a historic farm in Sharon Springs, was acquired by Eurazeo, a French investment group, in a $92 million acquisition that will propel the brand into global growth.

Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, the stars of reality TV show The Fabulous Beekman Boys, co-founded Beekman 1802 in the aftermath of the 2008 Global Recession, when the duo left the City and purchased a goat farm upstate New York – Kilmer-Purcell documented the story in “The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir” published in 2011.

Once in the country, Kilmer-Purcell (a writer) and Ridge (a physician) came to the realization that they better make the farm profitable if they were to keep it. And soon their goat milk bar soap was to become a sensation among people interested in skincare products. By launching a fast-growing lifestyle brand, Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge energized and revitalized the entire town – their story has been featured on The Martha Stewart Show, and in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, and many other publications. The duo has also published several cookbooks including “The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook” (2013), “The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook” (2014), and “Beekman 1802: A Seat at the Table” (2017), all inspired by their Upstate New York farm lifestyle.

Reporting on the recent acquisition, Forbes remarks that Beekman’s “from-the-farm, friend-get-a-friend style of marketing is ready to reach across the globe.” 

We will be following their next chapter.

2022 Marketing Trends

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As 2021 comes to an end, marketers take stock and plan for 2022 in anticipation of higher marketing budgets.

HubSpot conducted a survey with over 1,000 global marketers and identified five main trends to watch in 2022:

  1. Short-form video
  2. Influencer marketing
  3. Audio content
  4. Social responsibility
  5. Inbound marketing

The pandemic has propelled short-form video at the forefront of digital marketing as a fun and convenient way to disseminate information. Short-form video will continue to rise in popularity in 2022.

As revealed by HubSpot, in 2021 influencer marketing has provided the highest return on investment (ROI) for marketers, and 2022 is shaping up to be an influencer marketing year as well. One trend we might notice is brands migrating towards micro-influencers as opposed to the most popular names because micro-influencers are likely to provide access to a smaller but more engaged audience.

Audio content is on the rise. Marketers have gotten comfortable with using podcasts and other forms of audio content to engage with their audiences on the go. One can listen to audio content while cooking, hiking, or engaging in other activities and avoid the screen fatigue that comes with video content consumption. 2022 will bring an even higher consumption of audio content.

To read the full report, visit https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/b2c-marketing-trends.

Collaborative Marketing Ideas

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Complementary brands with a similar audience or marketing goals often engage in collaborative marketing, in other words combining resources and efforts, to amplify outreach and boost sales. Benefits of collaborative marketing include reaching out to new audiences, cutting costs, combining expertise, and benefiting from brand association. Successful collaborations enhance customer experience and sometimes even offer products and services that are exclusive to the said collaboration.  

As the holidays approach, companies think creatively about marketing their products and services.

Collaboration with complementary brands may include:

  1. Pop-up stores
  2. Joint events
  3. Joint advertising
  4. Exclusive deals and discounts
  5. E-books
  6. Newsletters  
  7. Partnership emails
  8. Blog guest posting
  9. Social media shout-outs
  10. Instagram takeovers
  11. Podcasts
  12. Affiliate programs

Frequently bought together items on Amazon for instance may give small businesses some workable ideas.  

Here are some examples of collaborations that we love:

  • deals and discounts partnerships between hotels and ski resorts;
  • joint advertising between apparel and outdoor activities;
  • partnerships between gyms and personal trainers;
  • joint events between bookstores and coffee shops;
  • cooking classes hosted by farms and restaurants.

Finding the right partnership is key to a successful marketing campaign. Collaborative alliances ought to be designed as a win-win situation for both parties. The terms of participation must be clarified since the get-go. Often times these efforts lead to ongoing cooperation.