Locals want more retail, dining options

Loujane Johns

The Finger Lakes Economic Development Council was pleased with the number of responses to a survey on downtown Penn Yan business.  There were 625 survey sheets distributed to local retail, dining, banks and lodging businesses. In a very short time 285 completed surveys were returned. 

Almost all the responses, 86 percent, were from local people.  CEO  Steve Griffin said, “This survey is important because it was done during the non-tourist season, so it shows what the locals want during the slow months.”  He said there are plans to distribute surveys again in the spring and summer to get tourist input.

Board member and downtown business owner, Jim Long said he put out copies during his Christmas open house and got really good results.

Statistics revealed that dining and shopping were the big draws to downtown Penn Yan.  It was interesting to note there are more families making over $70,000 than making less than $30,000, who replied.

Shoppers are more likely to do their business between 10:00 a.m. and 2 p.m.   They lean toward doing business later in the day or in the early evening, rather than 8-10 a.m.

Top on the wish list was a strong demand for casual clothing and footwear (49 percent), followed by a hope for more restaurants (42%).  Having another grocery store ranked third with (31 percent). Respondants wrote in  specifically named businesses they would like to see come to Penn Yan.  Fourteen percent (42) mentioned Target, while 13 percent (38) wanted Wal-Mart. A few people gave write-in votes for Applebee’s, Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Burger King.

Griffin said he and Empire Zone Co-ordinator Ryan Hallings will share the results with other community organizations.

LEASE:  Board members all approved a renewal lease with Badger Technologies. 

MEMBER:  Acting chairman Taylor Fitch noted that it was Sue Anderson’s last meeting, as her term expires.

BUILDING:  Griffin reported the sale on the Odd Fellows building, owned by FLEDC was closed on Nov. 22. The building will now house Milly’s Pantry. The purchase of the building was made possible through funds received from a grant awarded by the McGowen Foundation.  Griffin said he has learned the Board of Directors of the McGowen Foundation are so excited about the Food for the Needy project and other uses for the building, they are planning a meeting in Penn Yan this summer.

EMPIRE ZONE: Hallings said the two applications voted on by the Empire Zone Board have been sent to Albany for state approval.  Three other companies are working on applications and two more have shown interest.

Hallings said after initial indication by the state that would have eliminated the Empire Zone program, it will not be cut from the executive budget. Retail and small funding may be eliminated, according to what Hallings has heard.  “They are going back to what the original program was started for.” The program originated to stimulate economic growth in an area through various incentives designed to attract new business, promote existing business and and create more jobs. 

Yates County was one of the last counties in the state to receive Empire Zone designation.

On Dec. 18 Gov. David Paterson issued a call for reforms on the Empire Zone Program. Businesses participating in the program will now be required to meet a 20:1 cost/benefit standard or they will lose their incentives.

PUBLICITY: Griffin asked the board for money for an image campaign being organized by Finger Lakes IDAs. He said the group wants to get information out to the public to counter negative media being circulated by unions. The unions are pushing for wage mandates on projects. 

Fitch said, “If we lose this legislation for IDAs it would be catastrophic.  We wouldn’t get another IDA project done in Yates County because of cost.”

Board member Jerry Hiller, who is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Keuka College, said he didn’t think publicity would help.  He said at the college level every employee was asked to write letters or talk personally with legislators.  “There are 62 private colleges in New York State and it brings a lot of impact. This campaign needs to go statewide.”

WATERFRONT:  Griffin told the board the county legislature put in money for a marketing campaign for the waterfront development project. 

The money will be used for material to go out to possible interested parties.  He suggested adding $2,500 to this fund. 

Hiller added, “We can’t use our tools unless we have customers.  This is a great site but nobody knows about it.”  Griffin agreed this is a good program for economic growth. All members voted in favor.