It’s not hard to find warnings and bad news about the future of small business in New York State. Still, some see a silver lining.
The recent influx to Westchester County of new residents is good news for the region’s commerce and industry, according to Matthew Rudikoff, head of the City of Peekskill’s Office of Economic Development. He says he has been speaking with a number of people who are interested in starting businesses in the city.
“There is a strong coterie of organizations here that make people and businesses feel welcome and engaged,” says Rudikoff. He points to the city’s Business Improvement District (BID), Art Industry Media (AIM) arm of the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce, and thriving local arts scene, with organizations like Peekskill Arts Alliance.
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Part of what makes Peekskill particularly attractive to small business, Rudikoff says, is that it is a centralized, walkable city. “It’s remarkable how well the downtown area is designed and laid out,” he says. “It’s not spread out, it’s an integrated city. It’s not a suburb.”
The city has been awarded a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grant from the state, which it plans on investing in infrastructure, business development, façade renovation, and a bikeshare program.
Mr. Rudikoff isn’t the only municipal official who’s optimistic about prospects for local economies. Town of Cortlandt economic development consultant George Oros says his town has no shortage of plans for the future.
Oros recognizes the effect the pandemic has had on the way people work. He says that Cortlandt is planning a mixed-use housing complex where residents will also have access to private office space and technology. “We don’t know if people will have to work anywhere but at home anymore,” Oros says, “but when people need a specialized area they like to go somewhere they can do that type of thing.”
That mindset is reflected in the town’s new marketing campaign to lure new residents and businesses, with its tagline, “Where Life Works.”
Cortlandt has already attracted interest from several new businesses, including hard cider mill Merchant’s Daughter, indoor soccer field Cortlandt Pitch, and a special education tutoring center.
The town also hopes to eventually convert the 62,000–square foot, abandoned Shop Rite on Route 6 into a food hall where vendors could operate and produce. “It has a very high ceiling, three loading docks, high pressure gas lines and electricity,” says Oros. “It’s a perfect location.”
Christian Larson lives in Peekskill, having recently moved from Brooklyn, where he worked for NY1 News. He is a writer, podcaster, and event planner.