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    Warren County Watch
    -- A twice-a-month column by Maury Thompson about economic development, business and quality of life in Warren County
    Fertile ground for creative economy
    The partners in Sidekick Creative have a common interest in television crime shows.
    "New Netflix drama 'Mindhunter,' is their latest spare-time fixation," said Will Fowler, one of the three partners in the six-month-old graphics design, branding and marketing firm in Glens Falls.
    "It's so good," said Kelli Germain, a second partner, referring to the new drama, set in the late 1970s, about two FBI agents who delve in the psychology of murder.
    Their greatest passion is solving the mystery of how best to convey a client's message in a logo and visual marketing.
    Cara Greenslade is the third partner in the firm which shares office space with Behan Communications, on the third floor of the NBT Bank building on Glen Street in downtown Glens Falls.
    Clients, at this point, primarily are tourism and small business ventures.
    Simultaneously, Fowler, Germain and Greenslade have launched Ramble Design & Goods, a line of artistic greeting cards, art prints, post cards and gift bags featuring local landmarks and regional themes.
    They sell the cards on line at rambling goods.us and on Etsy, and at several retailers, including Minky Mink in downtown Glens Falls, Lake George Olive Oil Co. in Glens Falls and Lake George, and Made in New York at The Shirt Factory arts and healing center at the corner of Lawrence and Cooper Streets in Glens Falls.
    Fowler, Germain and Greenslade are finding Warren County to be fertile ground for the "creative economy," a business sector made up of artists, designers, writers, musicians and similar vocations.
    Fostering creative economy opportunities is among the priorities of EDC Warren County.
    AWE, which stands for Arts, Wellness and Entertainment, is the theme of the $10 million Glens Falls state Downtown Revitalization Initiative plan, which EDC Warren County is administering.
    The plan includes funding to establish a Glens Falls Arts District to collaboratively promote galleries, museums and arts organizations with signs, banners, wayfinding markings, joint marketing and collaborative events.
    The DRI plan also includes a loan fund for non-profit organizations.
    EDC Warren County is establishing a film commission to promote the county as a location for film and television production.
    "Radium Girls," a dramatic movie set in the 1920s, was filmed in Warren County in fall 2016, and is now in the production stage.
    Gov. Andrew Cuomo in November 2016 signed legislation that state Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, and EDC Warren County advocated for to make additional counties, including Warren County, eligible for an expanded state film production tax credit of 40 percent for production and 45 percent for post-production, instead of the basic credits of 30 and 35 percent.
    EDC Warren County is exploring ways to expand broadband internet services in outlying areas of Warren County.
    Creative economy entrepreneurs can work in communities where they have roots, if there is adequate communications infrastructure.  In the case of Sidekick Creative, Fowler and Germain both graduated from Glens Falls High School. 
    The three partners all did internships at Trampoline Design, a marketing and design firm at Empire Theatre Plaza on South Street in Glens Falls.
    The creative economy is a growing sector, particularly with the advent of e-commerce and social network marketing.
    About 30,000 people in the 8-county Capital Region, which includes Warren County, earn their livelihoods as artists and designers, according to the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy.
    "From a competitive standpoint, Warren County is less saturated with artists and designers than some other area counties, such as Saratoga County, which was one of the factors in locating here," Fowler said.
    "The creative economy also encompasses those who work in other fields and pursue creative activities for self-enlightenment," said Kate Austin-Avon, president of Advokate, a Glens Falls internet design, graphic design and marketing consulting firm that specializes in creative economy ventures and arts organizations.
    "It's the nurse who is painting at night. It's the customer service rep who is in Community Theater," she said.
    Opportunities in the creative economy are increasing, but success requires gumption, risk taking and perseverance, said Austin-Avon, an artist herself who found her niche advising others on the business side of art.
    "It's not like money flying at you," she said. "You have to be able to go find it and be clever but it's easier (than it used to be)," she said.  "Warren County is a fertile ground for creative economy entrepreneurs because of its support network through organizations such as the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council," said Austin-Avon.
    "I think it's how tight knit we are and welcoming," she said. "You can come here and start something new and there's a really good support network."
    "The partners at Sidekick Creative," said Mark Behan, founder and president of Behan Communications, "has been a mentor, not just in providing space but also advising them on how to start a business."
    "Austin-Avon and George Normandin, president of Normandin Marketing in Glens Falls, also have offered advice and referred business to them," Fowler said.
    Austin-Avon recommends two local programs for start-up creative economy ventures.
    One is the SUNY Adirondack Microenterprise Assistance Program, a 10-week course in how to prepare and execute a business plan.
    Information about the course, offered twice annually, is available by calling (518) 743-2238 or e-mailing conted@sunyacc.edu.
    The other is SCORE, a national program, offered locally through Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce, in which volunteer retired business executives counsel small business owners.
    "Those two programs are going to give an entrepreneur of any kind, but certainly in the creative field, a leg up," she said.
    In other Warren County economic development, business and quality of life news:
    White space
    EDC Warren County President Edward Bartholomew and Vice President John Wheatley recently met with representatives of Microsoft to discuss a program the company is developing to assist rural communities establish "white space" internet projects.
    "There are certain areas of our county, as well as the country, where hard-wired broadband just is not feasible," Bartholomew said Oct. 17 in a report to the EDC Warren County Board of Directors.
    White space internet operates on gaps between television stations on the communications frequency range.
    Bartholomew said EDC Warren County will work with municipalities to document the market potential.
    "There has to be a better job of determining the economics in the area," he said.
    Turning on the heat
    State Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, and Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, visited the Greater Glens Falls Senior Center on Oct. 23 to switch on a new heating system.
    Little arranged a $100,000 state grant to pay for the heating system and insulation of the building's third floor.
    "This is a historic landmark. ... Restoring it will benefit the entire community," Little said.
    The new heating system replaces an antiquated system dating back to 1925 that was "affectionately known as 'The Beast,'" said Rob Keating, chairman of the Senior Center multi-year capital campaign to renovate the building and establish a reserve fund for future renovation and repairs.
    The building at 380 Glen St. in Glens Falls was constructed in 1844 to be the home of Augustus Sherman, a 19th century local business man.
    "About $200,000 has been raised so far in cash and in-kind services toward a first-year campaign goal of $500,000," Keating said.
    "Good to Go!"
    Glens Falls Foundation, a long-standing local charitable foundation, has contributed $50,000, and is encouraging area residents to chip in another $50,000 to match the contribution, to support the "Good to Go!" food and nutrition program, a collaborative venture of Open Door Mission, Northeastern Regional Food Bank and area schools.
    Backpacks of food are sent home with children of needy families on Fridays so families have nutritious food to eat on days when students don't receive free or reduced price lunches at school.
    Contributions can be mailed to Glens Falls Foundation, 2 Progress Blvd., Queensbury, NY, 12804 or made online.  Click here.
    Manufacturing history
    New York State Treasurer Addison B. Colvin of Glens Falls in 1897 boasted about the vibrancy of manufacturing in Warren County.
    "Not for one day has the hard times been felt in Glens Falls," he said in an interview with the New York Mail Express during a visit to New York City. "We have seven of the largest manufacturing establishments in the state, which, with other plants, employ thousands of persons, and not for a day was there any cessation of activity. Not one of the factories shut down or curtailed in any way."
    The April 2, 1897 New York Mail Express report in which Colvin is quoted can be found in the Addison B. Colvin Scrapbooks, on file at the Folk life Center at Crandall Public Library, a stop on the New York State Path through History.
    Maury Thompson is a former newspaper reporter who retired from The Post-Star after 21 years covering the region. He keeps his finger on the pulse of economic development, business and quality of life in Warren County by writing a twice-a-month column for EDC Warren County.
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