HUDSON — As the COVID-19 pandemic reached the city, members of the Hudson Business Coalition knew what they had to do: support small businesses.

“At the outset of the pandemic, and as things were beginning to shut down, we knew we wanted to develop a program that would accomplish two things: provide short-term, direct support to the Hudson business community, and to foster a prosperous local economy when things started to reopen and people come out of quarantine to begin to shop and dine out,” HBC board member Alexandre Petraglia said.

Hudson Bonds are part donation and part redeemable voucher. The HBC is encouraging donors to purchase a bond for twice the face value.

Half of the donation is a tax-deductible contribution to the Hudson Small Business Relief Fund. The other half, the bond, can be spent at a participating business when they reopen through July 31, 2021. Businesses then submit spent bonds to the HBC and get the amount in cash.

“Nearly every business is owned and operated by a hardworking local entrepreneur, so the money they earn here, stays here, and continues to benefit the local economy,” according to the HBC’s website. “In Hudson, our small businesses generate jobs, provide services, support social, educational and arts programs, and represent a large proportion of the city’s tax base.”

HBC board member Monica Byrne, owner of Home/Made Hudson, called on her experience supporting small business post-Hurricane Sandy.

Byrne helped develop a similar bond program for a Red Hook Brooklyn restaurant.

“It was a way for the communinty to feel like they had something at stake in rebuilding and getting a restaurant open again and it was a way for them to help fund some of the construction that was needed,” Byrne said. “Although it’s a little different this time around, when a disaster strikes, aid is very, very slow at trickling down from government programs and communities need to figure out some grassroots fundraising to get themselves going.”

This time, they helped the HBC expand this program to support the whole business community.

Byrne said one of the challenges in Hudson is that the city is isolated, which makes businesses struggling to figure things out on their own feel alone.

“While individually we might not be able to resolve all of our issues, collectively we could work together to get everybody to come back healthy and whole,” Byrne said.

Individual efforts have been made to buy gift certificates to favorite restaurants and shops in town, but the bond allows consumers to help all the small businesses collectively.

The HBC created the application process for businesses seeking grants to be straightforward and simple without all the usual “stepping through hoops,” with no cost for businesses to participate and no restrictions on use of funds.

“On one hand, it allows us to create a grant program that allows businesses in need right now, and on the other hand, it also helps stimulate business once we actually feel its safe to reopen,” Byrne said. “It gives people incentives to come and spend their money locally.”

As an economic center for the region, money spent locally creates a ripple effect across the county and region, supporting farmers, craftspeople, contractors, plumbers, electricians, landscapers and many other small businesses, the HBC said.

“Small businesses are the heart of every community,” Byrne said. “They provide services and jobs, but they also provide a sense of creativity and the personality and the identity of the community.”

The HBC is doubling down its efforts for Hudson’s business community by holding virtual meetings each week and preparing to reopen when the time comes.

“There’s a lot of work being done across organizations and agencies, so we’re making every effort to avoid duplication of efforts and to help coordinate work and break down existing barriers of communication,” Petraglia said. “Some of that includes purchasing large amounts of masks, face shields, gloves and sanitizer to be able to distribute to stores and restaurants.”

With the Capital District entering Phase 1 of New York Forward, a four phase plan, construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, manufacturing, wholesale trade and retail were allowed to reopen with restrictions.

Retail businesses, for example, are limited to curbside or in-store pick-up and drop-off.

Small business owners in these categories are deciding how to reopen and bring in much-needed revenue while protecting themselves and customers.

Both a business owner and small business advocate, Byrne said she feels as if the state is being rushed to reopen for purely economic reasons.

“I think that that’s happening because we’re not getting sufficient federal funding and the states are running out of money,” Byrne said.

By giving businesses the green light to reopen, she said it shifts from community-based solutions to an individual one.

Byrne said the sentiment is shared among many small businesses in Hudson, and many anticipate staying closed longer than mandated.

“I’m trying to get ready,” said Chuck Rosenthal, owner of Valley Variety. “Am I comfortable reopening or do I know what it’s going to be like is where the question is.”

As the sole proprietor, Rosenthal said he is concerned about being able to help customers, monitor capacity and fulfill safety regulations at the same time once the store reopens.

“It’s not about trying to encourage huge amounts of tourism, it’s about slowly, quietly re-stimulating the local economy and as we do each phase of that, we can expand beyond that,” Byrne said. “It’s really, really smart and important that we not rush into it and try to encourage a ton of visitation from outside the community right now.”

Rosenthal said many people he has seen in Hudson have masks on or are at the ready — but not everyone.

“I think it’s a combination of the warmer weather and people thinking...just because everything’s open, that that means everything is fine,” Rosenthal said. “People are anxious to get back to somewhere that seems normal.”

The Columbia Economic Development Corporation is the fiscal agent for the program.

Bonds can be purchased at hudsonbond.org, where a list of participating businesses can be found.

Abby Hoover is a reporter for the Register-Star. Contact her at ahoover@register-star.com.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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