Over the 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, elected leaders and business officials in Columbia and Greene counties have repeatedly asked us to roll with the punches of an ebb-and-flow local economy that alternately peaked and cratered.

Our patience was rewarded Wednesday when financial tech analyst SmartAsset announced Greene and Columbia counties were ranked in the top 15 in the state for being small-business friendly. Columbia County was ranked No. 2, behind only Yates County, and Greene County came in at No. 15 of 62 counties statewide. In 2019, Columbia County also ranked second in the state in the same survey and Greene County was No. 21. Greene jumped six positions this year.

As Columbia Economic Development Corporation President and CEO F. Michael Tucker says, one of Columbia County’s strengths is its geographic diversity with small businesses spread throughout the county. And, similar to Columbia County, Economic Development and Planning Director Karl Heck says Greene County’s diversity in geography and industry are strengths.

A large percentage of businesses in both counties are small and locally owned. The variety of businesses is another strength in Greene and Columbia counties, with small businesses in the retail, professional services, hospitality and nonprofit sectors. All four are cornerstones of the local economy and 95% have fewer than 50 employees compared to 5% of county businesses larger than 50 workers.

But the pandemic continues. Vaccinations are expanding in terms of sheer numbers and the ages of people lining up for inoculations. Yet there is the nagging sense that more pain is in store from this mendacious disease. If the people of Columbia and Greene counties need a tentpole of hope to cling to as spring unfolds, it is the small business boom underway here and now.

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