The Otsego County Chamber of Commerce hosted a Zoom town hall Tuesday, July 27, to discuss workforce needs for small businesses.
The participants included Congressman Antonio Delgado, D-19, State Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Maryland, Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-New Hartford, and Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie.
The overall sentiments of the Zoom call echoed the reality of a huge problem with understaffing and the difficulties hiring employees in Otsego County.
Business owners spoke of restaurants being unable to service customers due to staff shortages and some businesses being forced to close early based on having no staff available.
Audrey Benkenstein, from Opportunities for Otsego, spoke about how many of her organization’s positions required advanced degrees and training, which made finding employees very difficult.
“We serve a vulnerable population and without staffing our programs suffer,” Benkenstein said. She said there were also lack of transportation options, lack of internet issues and lack of day care assistance available.
The history of the national pastime stretches across multiple centuries. But the connections that link baseball’s early days to today’s game are always evident in Cooperstown.
Through its new YouTube series, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is sharing those connections with viewers at home, according to a media release.
The Hall of Fame is debuting a YouTube series, “Hall of Fame Connections,” produced by MLB Network and made possible by a grant from I LOVE NY/New York State’s Division of Tourism.
The series looks at the Hall of Fame’s collection from a new and exciting angle, with each episode telling a different story of how two seemingly unrelated artifacts in the museum’s vast collection connect to each other, crossing through generations of baseball history.
COOPERSTOWN — Following last week’s announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that lifted significant COVID-19 restrictions, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced Monday, June 21, that tickets will not be needed for free lawn seating for the Wednesday, Sept. 8, induction ceremony.
The ceremony was rescheduled from its traditional last Sunday in July to an event at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 8, on the grounds of the Clark Sports Center in the town of Middlefield.
The event will celebrate the inductions of Class of 2020 members Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons and Larry Walker and will be broadcast live exclusively on MLB Network.
Since 1992, the event has been held on the grounds of the Clark Sports Center, with estimated crowds approaching and surpassing 50,000 at five of the last six ceremonies, from 2014 to 2019. The second-largest crowd on record – an estimated 55,000 people – attended the Hall of Fame’s last induction, July 21, 2019.
Can good genetics help ag businesses
be good environmental stewards?
A farm in Middlefield is on the cutting edge
By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
MIDDLEFIELD – Agriculture is often blamed for a negative impact on climate change. However, at a farm near Cooperstown run by twins Owen Weikert and Dr. Ben Weikert, that perception is exactly what they are working to change.
The Katahdin sheep are selectively bred by studying their genetic makeup in order to calculate things like maternal ability, how to create sheep that need less shearing and less food, and to reduce herd size.
Owen Weikert said that upstate agriculture is at a “tipping point” and that dairy farms have been “really decimated.”
“A lot of people are interested in getting out of the cattle business,” Weikert said. Therefore the new way of raising livestock might be the future of agriculture for not only Upstate but the entire country, he said.
By selecting different DNA, it is used to find out how the biological process of the animals interact with each other, and learn how to introduce beneficial characteristics into livestock that will allow breeding to be easier.
By MICHAEL FORSTER ROTHBART • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA — It has been a dark time for theater in Otsego County.
In 2020, the Glimmerglass Festival and Fenimore Art Museum each canceled its summer performance seasons because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In Oneonta, Foothills Performing Arts Center went 14 months without a live show, according to Operations Manager Geoff Doyle.
High schools and both Oneonta colleges experimented with streaming virtual theater, performed live without an audience. Local troupes such as the Catskill Puppet Theater and Orpheus Theatre cancelled shows, while Stuff of Dreams Productions pre-recorded performances for later broadcast.
This summer, stage by stage, the lights are back on and theaters are reopening — albeit with some modifications for COVID safety. Theaters have been operating at 33% capacity, with mask requirements in place, but that will change going forward, with an easing of most pandemic requirements from the state.
COOPERSTOWN – The mood was jovial Saturday, June 12, as about 60 people, including elected officials state Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, gathered outside the Cooperstown Distillery on Railroad Avenue for a ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of the expansion to celebrate what is considered a big success for local businesses in particular and a revitalization of Railroad Avenue specifically.
Eugene Marra, the founder of Cooperstown Distillery, began with an emotional moment on losing his dad to the coronavirus. He said his dad was his “biggest fan and number one investor in this opportunity.”
However, the atmosphere was celebratory.
“It’s an auspicious occasion for sure,” Marra said. “As much as I want to claim it as my own, I want to share it all with you because you have made it possible,” Marra said.
Marra spoke at length about the trials and tribulations of opening the expanded brewery on Railroad Avenue. He talked about how COVID had delayed the opening a year and how the distillery was tasked with producing hand sanitizer during that time.
He also mentioned how he was initially told by real estate agents that opening a distillery in Cooperstown was not possible.
“I like to believe we are responsible for what has become a revitalization of Railroad Avenue,” Marra said, saying that industry on that street in years past, “appeared to be dead.”
Marra said that Cooperstown Distillery, which has been around for eight years, is the “story about how it takes a village … the village of Cooperstown.”
Marra said he was loaned about $100,000 and received state fund grants of about $80,000, citing that his success was thanks to “local money.”
“We all hear these phrases, buy local, shop local, stay local. We are all of that,” Marra said, calling the Cooperstown Distillery the “fabric of this community on a very local, grassroots level.”
“We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than the village of Cooperstown,” Marra said.
Tillapaugh said the Cooperstown Distillery is a business “in which the village takes a great deal of pride.”
She noted how the village implemented zoning law changes in order to help grow businesses.
“I certainly know what this Railroad Avenue looked like for decades,” Tillapaugh said.
She noted it was once not considered industrially viable, but that developments on the street, including the distillery and the Railroad Inn, created “positive synergy.”
DiNapoli joked he didn’t accept the invitation “because of the complimentary drinks,” but was happy to come because of how difficult a year it had been.
DiNapoli said that while Cooperstown is known for its Baseball Hall of Fame and Fenimore art museum that “the distillery becomes yet another reason to visit.”
“This really was an incredible effort with all stakeholders playing their role. That’s usually not how it happens,” DiNapoli said. “This is the model that should be replicated.”
DiNapoli said he was going to go back to Albany and tell other lawmakers to “look to what happened in Cooperstown as an example of how it should work” in terms of state funding for local businesses.
After the ceremony, people took a tour of the distillery.
The Susquehanna SPCA, with help from the Otsego County Sheriff, rescued some 30 horses from a farm that was apparently hoarding them.
Stacie Haynes said on Facebook that they worked more than 30 hours to relieve the farmer from those horses, who was unable to manage the amount that he had.
“Seriously cannot thank the many amazing people who have stepped up to help,” Haynes said in a Facebook post. “As always, the SQSPCA staff and our Sheriff’s Deputies have and will continue to go above and beyond for animals. The volunteers are the absolute best.”
Most of the horses were relocated to the Otsego County Fairgrounds. The owner of the horses was not criminally charged.
Affordable and available housing remains an issue in Otsego County in general, but particular issues have come up recently in both Cooperstown and Oneonta.
However, both areas are doing their part to amend this issue. Although there has been some backlash, elected officials acknowledge the necessity of creating affordable housing in the area.
A planned development at 10 Chestnut St. in Cooperstown is being considered by the village’s boards.
Francesca Zambello, who partnered with Josh Edmonds of Simple Integrity on the Chestnut Street project, described herself as a “concerned citizen” who was worried about the “really dire housing situation.” Zambello and Edmonds own three connecting lots and have formed their own company, not associated with Glimmerglass or Simple Integrity, to build on the site.
Although COVID is starting to fade in Otsego County with towns such as Cooperstown and Oneonta lifting mask restrictions, the same cannot be said for many countries such as Nepal.
Zak Aldridge, who was born in Cooperstown, went to Milford Central School and considers himself an “honorary Oneontan,” said he didn’t intend to stay in Nepal for more than a year, but COVID-19 changed his plans.
He said he planned on staying there for two weeks. That was 15 months ago.
“I was planning to come to check out a school over here that I was thinking of coming to study languages and Buddhism,” Aldridge said. “And the lockdown happened and I wound up getting stuck. That was a year ago.”
Aldridge, who is a Columbia University graduate, has decided to help feed families in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, which is currently under a strict lockdown, causing day laborers to suffer from malnutrition.
A local education company is planning to fill the gap in camps this summer.
ResourceME, an Otsego County company started by Cooperstown Central School special education teacher Stephanie Nelen, will offer summer camps this year.
“The thing about this company is we want to be a source to fill a need in Cooperstown for educational enrichment, not to compete with anything we already had,” Nelen said.
Nelen’s company had been working with Cooperstown Baptist Church during the height of the coronavirus pandemic to host learning pods and tutoring sessions.
The church had applied for COVID money to help with educations needs during the pandemic. However, when Pastor Joseph Purdue left for a church in Connecticut, Cooperstown Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk — who is a member of the church and had helped Purdue apply for the grant — reached out to Nelen for help.