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Opportunity Knocks: Time for the “Disrupters?”

January 29, 2011 - Ernest Hohmeyer
When you are in a small business, you often spend too much of your day pulling your hair out serving as captain of the “enterprise” as well as chief bottle washer, accountant, customer service rep and marketer. You spend so much time on the maintenance of your business you just want to yell out “Captain I’m giving ya all I got and anymore and she’ll blow!” Somehow you can relate to the excruciating scenes of pain on Scottie’s face trying to coax more out of those Star Trek Enterprise engines.

I was thinking about how frustration builds up and eventually boils over. Business for many is okay but nothing to write to your mother about and then little things get to you, like the increases in your January tax bills, rising utility costs and dealing with the January blues, a cold reminder we operate in a seasonal economy. You drive by the nearly vacant Airport Business Park, deal with cumbersome parking downtown and then you read Entrepreneur magazine’s Trends 2011, and you realize we have so much potential – and it frustrates you as we don’t seem to do much about it.

Entrepreneur’s 2011 top 10 picks for business opportunities reads like they were talking about the Adirondacks:

- Baby Boomers “76 million-strong” are “providing a slew of market opportunities” and that “62 percent…expect to stay in the labor market for at least nine more years…” The article goes on to point out that by 2020 80% of our workforce will be over 50 and “what this means is that the boomers will have a lot of power…” This is a good signal for our ability to attract older populations.

- “Travel and Tourism Take-off” is defined as another entrepreneurial opportunity with revenue expected to top nearly $1.4 trillion making this industry the “biggest it’s ever been.” This is encouraging news for our tourism dependent region.

- “Social Shopping” talks about how “nearly half of all Americans are now members of at least one social network and spending…double from just two years ago.” Marketing has gone social where for example “heavy Facebook users spent an average of $67 million online” and that was for only for 3 months! This represents a tremendous opportunity for our small businesses and our community to reach markets like they never have been able to before – and relatively inexpensively.

Other entrepreneurial opportunities cited included:

- The construction industry in terms of “green homes”

- As our population ages, the U.S. Department of Labor cites the health care industry as “10 of the 20 fastest growing occupations.”

- “Micro-Green” talks about opportunities for smaller businesses as sustainable technologies are making it possible to provide products on a small scale basis.

As I was looking at my tax bill, I was wondering with growing anxiety why we were not doing more as a community, as a region and a Park, to take advantage of these new opportunities. Our municipalities will be only able to save so much, we need growth and one that is not dependent on tourism and provides alternative employment opportunities.

It was interesting to read Entrepreneur Magazine’s same frustration suggesting that according to the National Bureau of Economic Research “the economy has been in recovery since June 2009” and that part of the problem according to a survey cited by Small Business Watch is “70 percent…are waiting for indicators to rise before they’re willing to hire and spend.” To do nothing is not a recommended course of action.

There have been recent efforts to think about the economy by the chambers in Franklin County, various efforts by our local government related to Trudeau Institute, the ARISE effort in Tupper Lake and even I am part of a group, Marketing Your Community for Jobs. These grass roots efforts should be commended and supported. However, and rightly so, as mainly volunteer efforts, they have created focused projects.

There is however not a similar zeal or effort to market the region for the opportunities suggested in Entrepreneur Magazine and others related to opportunities in the health care industry, green businesses and information technology. I challenge you to pick up any on-line magazine or blog that deals with the new economic opportunities and tell me there is not at least some opportunity to go after them.

Why is that when marketing the region, too many folks role their eyes? Is it because they do not want to admit they do not understand how to do so? Do they think it costs too much money? That we cannot compete? Is it because there is not much glory and while we may get lucky and find the next IBM, the reality is our efforts will be small companies and that our success needs to be measured one new job and one new family at a time?

We have the resources here already to help us with letting the world know that we want business and that we are uniquely positioned to attract them. Think of our medical and biomedical base that already exists, our tourism infrastructure, construction businesses and quality of life opportunities. We have spent much in term of planning with the Comprehensive Plan, CEDS, and Tourism Destination etc. It is time to put these plans into a marketing action. Potential ingredients for success may include:

• Buy-in by local government, business and residents to create an unaffiliated private-public partnership. No one municipality or organization can take the lead; it immediately divides the effort between supporters and detractors. We need to do this together.

• Create a coordinated effort, I would suggest between the Tri-lakes community. While working with Malone should perhaps be included, partnering with Lake Placid with their name recognition and marketing power is a necessity. Do not fear the lion, work with them.

• Bring in other partners like the County IDA’s, regional organizations that have a home in the Tri-lakes such as ANCA and AEDC as well as the state and federal business development organizations.

How do we start? What are your ideas?

Here is one: How about we commemorate Small Business Week that takes place in May with a “We Want Your Business Day?” We invite the medical and biomedical industry, tourism businesses and officials, construction, information technology based businesses and others in a series of round-tables to explore how we can market our region to similar businesses. Topics may include:

• What market strategies would you suggest to lure businesses in your industry?

• Are there ways we can utilize your contacts, resources to market?

• How do we Follow-up? What are next Steps?

We separate the sessions by key industries such as green business, medical/biomedical, information technology, tourism, construction etc. to create focused sessions.

We start the day off by bringing in what Entrepreneur Magazine calls “disrupters” who challenge our thinking to take advantage of these new business opportunities and how our own businesses can be both a resource for such thinking as well as a base from which to expand. “Disrupters” may help to get our voice out to the world which is “…screaming… for companies [who] can capitalize on the resources they already have to spark the next possibilities.” Who are the “disrupters?” Why they are you and me of course, those of us that believe “waiting around is ill-advised,” our “world is brimming with potential.”

A “We Want Your Business Day?” is only a first step. The real purpose though is to attract business and to put how we do this on everyone’s agenda whether it is our own businesses, the chambers or municipal government. There should not be a meeting that goes by from anyone of these groups without a discussion on this issue.

What do you think?


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