Good idea. Not always easy to execute properly.
On September 12 Ulster County executive Mike Hein’s economic development office will bring a busload of what Hein assistant Suzanne Holt now calls techpreneurs (technology entrepreneurs) up from New York City to see Ulster County. The hope is that these one-day visitors will like what they see, want to visit again, and ultimately seek to relocate their businesses here, to telecommute from here, or perhaps to locate their families here while they tend their businesses in the Big Apple.
These people do tend to flock together. Go any late Saturday morning, for instance, to Outdated Café in Wall Street in Kingston, and you’ll find young families talking with each other and single hipsters staring at their computer screens. Those in transition to the Hudson Valley lifestyle will likely be trolling for business contacts at the occasional tech meetup. Practically every local real-estate salesperson in the area can regale you with clusters of anecdotes about these urban refugees. They are ubiquitous at farm markets, estate sales, and certain restaurants.
The county government has sponsored a short video called Do Business Differently in Ulster County. Marketing expert Raleigh Green, who worked on the project with local digital media producers Kale Kaposhilin of Evolving Media (the sound bites) and Jeremy Ellenbogen of Ellenbogen Creative Media (the tourism pictures), managed to compress a combination of it’s-a-great-place-to-live and you-can-do-business-from-here sentiments into four minutes and four seconds.
The video, shown to the county’s Economic Development Alliance (EDA) last week, featured nine persons expressing their local loyalties. Diner Porn bloggers and adventurers Tom Smith and Alecia Eberhardt, web developer Aaron Quint of Paperless Post, freelance creative director and artist Norm Magnusson (who’s responsible for the fake historic plaques on Kingston’s Wall Street and elsewhere), entrepreneur Calandra Cruickshank of StateBook and her associate Dana Valdez, Ruby programmer and web developer Eileen Uchitelle of Basecamp, digital search engine optimizer DragonSearch executive Abe Uchitelle, and digital identity and security expert Dave Shropfer.
The production strove for a sincere, unscripted feel. “There is no comparison,” Uptown Kingston resident Quint said earnestly about living in a stone house in Kingston compared to living in crowded Brooklyn. “It’s like a whole different world.”
“It was draining,” said Smith, who now lives in Saugerties. “Living in New York City was draining. So we would come up here a bunch,” Costs are much more manageable in Ulster County, he noted. “We were able to lower our cost of business and to be able to care more for our customers.”
“There’s lots of digital companies around that are really strong and that compete not only on the local and regional levels but on the national level,” said Shropfer. “Not only are you an hour and a half away from Midtown, you’ve got wi-fi. You’ve got power. You can plug in your laptop the entire way.”
“We’re running a virtual company from here,” said Cruikshank.
The federal government’s County Business Patterns, available for 2013, didn’t record much growth in the number of technpreneur jobs in Ulster County. But the number in New York City continues its robust growth.
Abe Uchitelle detected “meaningful networking opportunities up here.”
The tentative plan for the September 12 bus trip, always subject to change, is for the estimated to visit the 3D printing facilities at SUNY New Paltz, have lunch at the Mohonk Mountain House, drive through High Falls and Stone Ridge up to Kingston, visit DragonSearch, Seven 21 Media and perhaps other local businesses, take a short river cruise on the Teal, and then return to New York City by ten o’clock after a 14-hour excursion.
The reaction the trip is seeking, Holt told the EDA, is the one expressed in the video by Magnusson. “Wow, wouldn’t it be nice if we lived here?” the visitors would ask.
If this proves such a good approach to economic development, why wasn’t it done before? Don’t ask. Better late than never.