SARANAC LAKE — More than 10,000 business owners nearing retirement in the North Country, and new ones are hard to find, but the new Adirondack North Country Center for Businesses in Transition stands ready to help.
The unique collaboration of regional organizations and leaders aims to support existing business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in developing successful business transition strategies.
Following its first gathering of lead partners and representatives at the Adirondack North Country Association office in Saranac Lake earlier this year, the center announced a slate of community liaisons, a monthly workshop series and other ways the group will share insights, skills and resources to assist local businesses in transition.
“I like to think of this program as an organic movement towards collaborative problem solving,” said Danielle Delaini, ANCA’s Business Transition program coordinator, in a press release.
“We’re tackling a national issue with a regional approach. The talent and expertise represented within this partnership will provide outreach and education strategies that are appropriate for North Country businesses.”
ANCA began developing the concept for the Center for Business in Transition in 2016, after the Regional Economic Analysis research process identified a need in the region for such a partnership.
A $248,364 grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission in July 2018 helped get the center off the ground by funding workshop development, community liaison outreach and other resources for small-business owners.
The center has received bipartisan backing on the federal level; US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) have publicly expressed their support for the effort.
Although it's called a "center," the program is is not housed in one location, according to the website.
Staffed with a full-time coordinator at ANCA's central office at suite 201, 67 Main St., Saranac Lake, its community outreach liaisons are on the road, using technology and collaborating with other organizations to bring assistance to communities across northern New York state.
"These individuals have been chosen for their understanding of area business and involvement in their communities," the website description says.
"They share co-working space with chambers and economic development agencies throughout the region; ensuring the sharing of resources, information and objectives."
According to Delaini, more than 50 organizations and community leaders are supporting the partnership throughout the 14-county North Country region.
Eight designated “community liaisons” play a crucial role in supporting successful transitions, including the following options: selling on the open market, intergenerational family transitions, and conversions to a worker ownership model.
"In St. Lawrence County, we have witnessed a number of favorite local businesses close their doors due to the absence of a new owner or transition strategy,” said Mike Besaw, assistant director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, in the release.
“The Center for Businesses in Transition will provide businesses looking to retire or transition with the support and resources to explore options, making sure they have enough time for succession training and transition.”
Angela Smith, of the SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center at Clinton Community College, is a lead partner for the center and will leverage the SBDC’s research tools and expertise in order to strengthen the initiative’s efforts across the region.
The Center for Businesses in Transition hosts a monthly workshop series that covers topics relevant for transitioning businesses including “Preparing to Sell Your Business,” “Transitioning to Employee Ownership,” “Intergenerational Family Transitions, Creative Solutions and Alternative Structures,” and “Aspiring Entrepreneurs: Taking Over an Existing Business.”
Five morning workshops, hosted by partner organizations throughout the region, are scheduled for April through August.
For those who are unable to attend in person, community liaisons will offer online viewing opportunities at other locations.
Workshops will also be recorded so that interested business owners can view them at their convenience and as needed in the future.
“We want these programs to be flexible, sustainable and easy to share with the people who need them,” Delaini said.
“We’ll be developing useful tools like videos, documents, case studies, success stories and best practices that partners can easily access and that small businesses can actually use. ”
In the year ahead, the center will sponsor additional programming developed by regional partners, including half-day workshops on business valuation, farm transitions and other topics related to business transitions and succession planning.
All materials developed by the partnership will be available for other organizations to use to assist local businesses in transition. Economic development staff who would like access to these tools are invited to contact the center.
The partnership is also seeking co-working spaces and event partners to assist with workshops and other events.
North Country business owners looking to transition their operations to new owners or a new ownership model, as well as aspiring entrepreneurs looking to take over an existing business, are invited to contact the center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-891-6200 for more information or to be connected with a community liaison.
Find information about the center and its programs at: www.adirondack.org/businesses-in-transition.
Adirondack North Country Center for Businesses in Transition's regional representatives are:
Mike Besaw, St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.
Matthew Courtright and Molly Bechard, Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce.
Brittany Davis, Lewis County Economic Development and IDA.
Russ Kinyon, Franklin County Local Development Corporation and County of Franklin IDA.
Kelsey O’Shea, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the North Country Regional Ag Team.
Christy Wilt and RaChelle Martz, Hamilton County Economic Development and Tourism and Hamilton County IDA.