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Discussion: Reopening The Capital Region

State lawmakers representing the Capital Region say it will be long way back for local businesses now that phase one of reopening has begun.
Broadcast via Zoom and Facebook, "Back to Business: Reopening the Capital Region in Phase 1" examined the health of the area's business climate. It was hosted by Democratic state Assemblymembers Pat Fahy and John McDonald.

Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce President Maureen McGuinness says COVID-19 presents many challenges for the 430 businesses under her jurisdiction.

"We've had businesses, local businesses, being accused of price gouging, but the reality is they are facing increased costs themselves. They also have increases in their supplies that they have to buy. So now they have to provide PPE to staff. They have to have different kind of cleaners to do cleaning, and they're cleaning more than ever before. There's the cost of getting plexiglass shields so all of those things, are going to lead to increased cost for the consumer."

Downtown Troy BID Executive Director Katie Hammon says it's been inspiring watching local businesses, many built around a handful of people, come up with new ways to stay in business.

"Funding is the number one need right now. The ability to to have income in order to pay your rent to, pay for new inventory and things that you're going to need to be able to reopen. One of the main things that we're trying to help support right now is connecting people with that funding."

Marcus Goldston owns two clothing stores in Troy that have been shuttered for weeks. He's grateful he's managed to stay afloat.

"With the loss of one business, whether it's Illium Cafe or someone else in our town, it's disheartening and it's disappointing, because we all draw clients to the area. And if someone goes out of business it affects all of us."

Hammon is fearful that loan and grant programs will soon run out.

"We can encourage people to be downtown in safe ways. So in phase one, being able to have curbside and in-store pickup is so important because these businesses are looking to connect with others to bring that funding in, but also to bring people back into our downtown to make them feel comfortable in downtown."

Goldston agrees safety is going to be a big issue. He says the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market has been a great source of customers in his shops. Fahy urged potential customers not to be afraid to venture out:

"Those who are being infected, 0.3 percent, 0.3 percent of those infected are being infected outodoors, so I'm with you Marcus, on getting those outdoor venues, outdoor events, reopened in, obviously, in a very responsible way."

Retail Council of NYS President Ted Potrikus says the two-week period of Phase One will get businesses ready for "the really exciting day," Phase Two.

"Now what phase two is going to look like we don't yet know. I've not seen the guidance that will be coming out. I suspect that what we've seen so far is the root of it. It will, you know, it's going to be a bit of a daunting prospect to let customers back into your stores again. We all want to do it. It's just a matter of what is that going to look like."

McDonald, who owns Marra’s Pharmacy in Cohoes, told the webinar participants he is cautiously optimistic:

"This is kinda like watching, you know, a baby get up for the first time and stafrt to walk again. I hate to say it but it's the truth. Hey everyone's going to be a little bit wobbly coming out of the gate. It doesn't take much to push 'em down, so let's not do that."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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