AMSTERDAM, NY — State Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk held an informational meeting and press conference on April 18 to discuss a package of economic development bills that she believes will help small businesses and farms grow, create new jobs and spur the local economy.
“Our rural communities and small Upstate cities are not getting the support they need, and many of the unique challenges facing our local businesses are not being addressed,” Tkaczyk said. “The cornerstones of my legislative package would help small businesses by expanding Broadband Internet service, and would also support the small and medium farms that contribute so much to the Upstate economy.”
“Broadband is an absolutely crucial component of our modern-day business infrastructure. It is essential for job creation and economic growth,” Senator Tkaczyk said. “Unfortunately, it is not readily available at an affordable price in many portions of Upstate New York, particularly in rural areas. My bill would encourage broadband service providers to invest in rural areas that are currently underserved.”
The Broadband Internet Access Act of 2013 (S4523) would expand High Speed Internet service in rural, underserved, and unserved areas by awarding tax credits to companies that install new broadband service. According to the Senator, cost is the primary reason companies have not developed broadband technology in many rural areas. The Senator called the tax credit one step, acknowledging that other means — such as grants and loans — may need to be made available, as well, to make this a feasible step for internet companies.
Senator Tkaczyk noted that broadband is also an increasingly important educational tool, allowing for distance learning and preparing students for the modern job market. Many of New York’s rural areas cannot effectively utilize distance learning because of a lack of broadband.
“To have thriving rural communities, you need good schools that parents want to send their kids to,” she said. “Any investments we make in bringing broadband to rural areas will be good for our schools, good for the business community, and will lay the groundwork forlong-term economic development and job growth.”
Ken Rose, CEO of Montgomery County Business Development Center, also spoke at the event. “We need sufficient broadband service in order to take full advantage of all the new technological advances available for small businesses, schools and families,” he said. “Expanding broadband as proposed by Senator Tkaczyk would help businesses in Montgomery County to grow, create new jobs and better serve their customers.”
Helping Small Farms
Senator Tkaczyk’s legislation also recognizes the critical role agriculture plays in the Upstate economy. Senator Tkaczyk’s measures would support Upstate agriculture by helping small farms to modernize their equipment and address cash flow shortages caused by natural disasters.
Senator Tkaczyk called for the creation of The Small Farm Modernization Revolving Loan Fund (S4520) which would provide low interest loans of up to $25,000 to help small farms modernize, purchase new equipment, or expand the amount of crops planted.
Additionally, The Small Farm Disaster Recovery Grant Program (S4521) would provide grants of up to $10,000 to small farm owners to purchase and replant crops that have been destroyed by a natural disaster.
Corey Nellis, manager of the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District, shared his expertise at the event. “Small farms are an important part of the culture and economy of Montgomery County,” he said. “But the severe storms we’ve had in recent years have created hardships for many of our local farms.” According to Nellis, last year’s weather conditions resulted in 15-20 percent crop loss for some area farmers. He also cited the past damage of Hurricane Irene, which cost some farmers 100 percent crop loss.
Currently, these pieces of legislation define small farms as those planting a product that produces $100,000 or less gross annual income. The Senator did say that, as these proposals are discussed and debated, this definition can be subject to change.
Senator Tkaczyk concluded by saying, “The legislative package I am proposing will bolster entrepreneurship and educational opportunities and help small businesses and farms increase productivity. These are common sense measures that we can enact with little cost and with a great return on our investment.”