PHILMONT — A group of Philmont residents wants to bring promise to the village’s economic development opportunities.
The unofficial organization, Philmont Economic Development Group, has been meeting for a couple of months, member Jean Giblette said. Peter Johnson, a retired Princeton University professor, is the chairman. Karen Davala, Jeff French and Susan Michie are also group members.
Giblette, who has lived in Philmont since 1990, asked the village board March 24 to recognize the group.
The group needs support from the trustees to become an official economic development committee and receive grants accordingly, Giblette said.
Mayor-elect Brian Johnson will appoint trustees to various committees at the April 5 organizational meeting, Village Trustee Douglas Cropper said. Johnson will likely appoint an economic development representative on the board who can move forward with the committee if the board agrees to do so.
“We were aware that other towns and villages in the county were doing this and we were feeling a little bit left out,” Giblette said Tuesday.
A thorough assessment of local businesses hasn’t been done in the past 25 years, she added.
“We decided that we wanted an emphasis on small business to see what is here, what might be here, what are the spaces, or what opportunities are here for a small business to relocate or develop,” she said.
The group identified 10 objectives in a document sent to the board: identify local market needs and opportunities for businesses; direct activities with other organizations involved in economic development in the area; identify investment and grant opportunities for the village and make recommendations to the board of trustees; promote Philmont’s potential for water power energy generation; compile an updated catalog of Main Street businesses for the village website; maintain and up-to-date inventory of commercial spaces in the village; foster networking among businesses; survey local businesses to identify unmet needs and compile findings as recommendations for the village board; recruit and assist small businesses to locate within the village; and create effective means to showcase local business successes.
Giblette advocated for Philmont revisiting its history of generating water power during her presentation to the board.
“The fact is, we have a huge asset here, which most other communities in New York don’t have, and that is water power,” she said.
The group’s focus will be on small businesses, but its members would help the village investigate the potential for water power development.
The village is in danger of becoming a “nonprofit ghetto,” she said to the board.
Giblette is the founder of the High Falls Foundation nonprofit, coordinating a group of about 30 farms statewide that grow Chinese medicinal herbs, she said Tuesday. The nonprofit does not have an office.
“We are in danger of becoming a nonprofit ghetto, which is a very bad thing because it skews the tax burden to homeowners and it makes it so only rich people can live here,” she told the board. “I do not want to see that happen. I want to see the tax base broadened, and so the solution to that is to recruit, to find, recruit, identify small businesses that can come in here and work.”
Giblette wrote a letter to the editor Dec. 11, 2019, cosigned by Tom Paino and Christopher Reed. The three Philmont residents and members of the High Falls Property Owners Association were appointed by the village to a steering committee of the Brownfield Opportunity Area Nomination Study, 2012-2018, for the economic development of Philmont.
The letter criticizes the village for leasing public property to two nonprofit organizations for $1 on property the writers deemed dangerous.
“Are we so poor that we cannot exercise good business judgment?” according to the letter.
The BOA study produced hope for the village, according to the letter.
“The worst aspect of the Board’s decision is that it completely precludes the more appropriate, income and tax-generating use of the space as envisioned in the BOA,” it said. “The potential for restoration of local green industry, jobs and taxpaying businesses has never been greater than now. Rather than continue its string of business failures or turn itself into a nonprofit ghetto, Philmont can act now to build on its unique physical assets and generate economic renewal that serves the needs of people right here in the village and county.”