PODCAST: Port 100 organizers discuss future of small business

Chris Cooley, Michael George Gonzalez, and Maureen Ballatori of Port 100 in Geneva are in-studio to talk about the new collaborative work space and how what it has to offer entrepreneurs and creative professionals in the region.

COLUMN: Skepticism is good for progress in the FLX

Economic development is possible in Seneca Falls.

I wanted to lead this column with that statement.

Parts of rural, Upstate New York have struggled for several decades, as jobs — particularly those in manufacturing — exited the state and country in search of less-expensive places to do business. Our problems are undeniably tied to a state that historically has chosen more government as a solution instead of letting solutions occur naturally.

Taxes have risen, businesses have left, and well, this isn’t news to anyone reading today’s edition of the Finger Lakes Times.

The decision by Seneca Falls to fund a development corporation that will be tasked with advertising and selling this expensive place to do business speaks to how deeply people want to see economic growth.

Born out of necessity, like an Industrial Development Agency, local development corporations sell a difficult-to-market business landscape. There’s no shortage of opportunity, but without the state changing how it does business and without having a team of people dedicated to the cause, selling these rural communities, and bringing businesses back through a variety of means, the development that is so desperately needed cannot happen.

Listening to those who are skeptical of development corporations like the SFDC offers an intriguing insight into the socioeconomic battle taking place in rural communities.

Several people rolled their eyes when they heard the news that the SFDC had “revamped” its marketing with a new slogan and logo.

A particular part of the SFDC’s new message received mixed reviews — the concept of branding and reaching beyond our current borders.

For some, it’s the concept of appealing to people and businesses outside their own immediate circle that’s worthy of an eyeroll. Many of those same people laughed at the idea of Seneca Falls, the birthplace of Women’s Rights, having even regional appeal.

Skepticism is an important part of any political process. It ensures that the ideas and policies being drafted can stand the test. The line between skepticism and cynicism, though, is razor thin.

Skepticism is constructive. Cynicism is destructive and oftentimes contradicting.

Being skeptical of a development corporation tasked with an incredibly difficult mission is one thing. Being skeptical of individual plans carried out by the organization is understandable. When it ultimately has an impact on the entire community — and even those surrounding it — the stakes necessitate a level of skepticism.

Cynicism is what I see out of some people who scoff at the prospect of growth in a place such as Seneca Falls. Their own cynicism for what the area has become over the last several decades has clouded their vision for what this community — and others like it — could ultimately morph into with the proper leadership.

Using the SFDC as an example, it seems incredibly cynical to argue “Who’s gonna wanna come here?!” — as many have over the last several years — while simultaneously saying, “We need [insert name of person/group here] to get out of the way so people and businesses will come!”

The irony is that these two sentiments are often spoken in a flurry together, as people and elected officials scramble to solve our economic and business development issues. The first question implies that no one wants to come to start a business while the second implies that businesses are lining up to come, if only it weren’t for those pesky political and community leaders getting in the way.

Both of those issues are very real things in small communities where nostalgia dominates. People look back at the days when manufacturing was king and all that was needed were a high school diploma and a good work ethic for a 30-40 year career at any dozen businesses in or around Seneca Falls.

That isn’t the case any more, but it’s equal parts unrealistic and misguided to expect a return to some past norm. “Our history. Your future,” the slogan reads proudly. The new plan includes innovation, change, and aggressive marketing. It encompasses old and new ideas — driving growth in the process and provides college graduates, as well as those just entering the work force. A diverse economy that doesn’t just rely on one industry, like in the past.

It’s the introduction of a new era for Seneca Falls: Skeptics welcomed and cynics — hopefully — converted into informed participants in a local economy that did them wrong in years past.

This column originally appeared in the Finger Lakes Times. Read all of Josh’s columns from the Finger Lakes Times here.

COLUMN: Local news needs engagement moving forward

Many were quick to call it an “upset” when Donald Trump won the presidency on Nov. 8. They were equally quick to point out how the national media failed to get it right, or as some point out, recognize the momentum Trump had built leading into Election Day.

These are the two subjects that have been whirling around since Donald Trump, the candidate, became Donald Trump, the President-elect. News networks have been trying to figure out where they went wrong. Meanwhile, over 48 million voters (a majority, in fact) were left saying, “How did this happen?”

In my mind, addressing those two points is easy because they’re connected.

While nothing is ever as open-and-shut as it may seem, the national media played a serious role in lulling Democrats into a false sense of security. As a result, Republicans — particularly a segment of the party that hadn’t been activated effectively in decades — turned out in force on Nov. 8.

The second part involves the media and its role and is a little more complicated. The core of the media’s failure to recognize what was coming with a Donald Trump campaign draws back to the data the organizations were relying on to make their projections prior to Election Day.

Forget about the process or who is being called when pollsters phone those “expected voters.” When you’re relying on data without human support, it can be very, very wrong. It wasn’t horribly wrong, though. Ultimately, if we use the “polls” as our measuring stick, the data was off only by a point or two.

Data doesn’t replace people. Newsrooms are not what they were 20 or 40 years ago, and as result, people in the media are left relying on data more heavily each day. While there are news organizations out there — such as the Finger Lakes Times — doing well for themselves and maintaining their operation without shrinking their newsroom by the day, that cannot be said across the board.

Make no mistake: News organizations that were thriving a couple of decades ago, those that were not broadcast organizations but local, print organizations, are trying every day to adapt to a new world.

Once upon a time, dedicated readers of this paper know that it was called the Geneva Times, a true reflection of what was once hyper-local, Geneva-only print news at its best. It was a different world, though, and now, the Finger Lakes Times is accomplishing the same mission on a regional scale. In fact, back 40 or 50 years there were daily and weekly newspapers for many of the communities served today by the FLT.

In simple terms: The game has changed.

Ease of access to information has made what newspapers do challenging. They adapt, and for those who still thrive, do an excellent job of making it happen. That said, these organizations are often left trying to do more with less.

That’s how this election was gotten so “wrong.” In the ecosystem of news, organizations of all shapes and sizes are required to make the whole system work. Information has to be available in all forms — whether that’s in print, online, or on social media platforms.

People have become passive consumers of information. There was a day when sitting down to read the morning paper was part of the culture, as much as it was part of a daily routine. An unfortunate reality is that people who aggressively consume information in the form of news are members of a dwindling crowd.

As local news organizations have failed to adapt or survive, it’s fed the above trend. As a result, people become less and less engaged, to a point where they rely on the same big data that was relied on by major news outlets throughout this presidential cycle.

The news ecosystem has been damaged by the disappearance of local, intensely scrutinized reporting, the boots on the ground, if you will, digging into important, relevant, and timely stories.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Local news relies on people being engaged. Dialing up a national news organization, or worse yet, acquiring news through a source such as Facebook, exacerbates these problems, potentially jeopardizing the existence of local news.

This column originally appeared in the Finger Lakes Times. Read all of Josh’s columns from the Finger Lakes Times here.

PODCAST: Charlie Evangelista talks Geneva, YMCA and Ontario Co.

Charlie Evangelista, Director of the Geneva Family YMCA and representative on the Ontario County Board of Supervisors, is in-studio to talk about the future of the 54th Senate District, issues facing the Ontario County Board of Supervisors, and what is going on at the YMCA in Geneva.

PODCAST: Ryan Chiropractic & Wellness talk health, practice

Chris Ryan and Jenn Salone of of the Ryan Chiropractic & Wellness team join Josh Durso in-studio to discuss the services offered at their new location at The Learning Tree in Waterloo. The transition process has been a great success and founder Chris Ryan DC, PC talks about the evolution of the practice that he and his brother Paul began working in during the late-80s.

PODCAST: Seneca Co. Manager John Sheppard talks new Finance Dept.

Seneca County Manager John Sheppard was in-studio on Tuesday afternoon to discuss a Local Law on the ballot next Tuesday for Seneca County residents that aims to streamline the financial department.

PODCAST: How one program is changing the ‘obesity fight’ in the FLX

On Thursday’s edition of Inside the FLX, former Seneca Falls Mayor Brad Jones, joined Josh Durso to discuss the growing obesity problem in the U.S., with particular focus here in the Finger Lakes region. BlueCross BlueShield estimates that obesity in the Finger Lakes costs residents nearly $501 million per year. According to their same study, the region faces an obesity epidemic with more than 60 percent of the population in the Finger Lakes being considered ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’.