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Committee expands vision from farmers market to 'food hub'

Committee expands vision from farmers market to 'food hub'

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GLENS FALLS — The committee planning how to spend the Glens Falls $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant is considering the potential of an incubator program for entrepreneurs looking to launch food merchandising ventures.

The program would dovetail with the region’s agriculture industry and bring exposure to Glens Falls as ventures flourish and sell products around the country branded as coming from Glens Falls, said Patricia Ardell, managing partner of RES Group, a real estate consulting firm advising the committee.

“Get Glens Falls out on the map as the the place for ‘craft foods,’” said Sarah Yackel of BFJ Planning, another consultant to the committee.

The program could be located on the second floor above a proposed year-round farmers market on South Street the committee has been discussing.

Participants in the entrepreneurial program could use a processing and canning kitchen planned for the farmers market, Ardell said.

The entrepreneurial program would increase the financial viability of the overall farmers market facility, she said.

Establishing the program would hinge on finding a partner to run the educational component.

“The part that becomes important here is the mentorship,” Ardell said. “If SUNY Adirondack can take that on it’s great. If not, maybe it’s the investment community.”

Yackel said the committee should describe the facility in broader terms than just a farmers market, which suggests a part-time venture.

“You need to stop calling it a ‘year-round farmers market,’” she said. “It’s a ‘food hub.’”

The committee met Tuesday at Crandall Public Library to continue a discussion of how to spend the $10 million grant announced in August.

The committee is planning around the theme AWE, which stands for Arts, Wellness and Entertainment, with an emphasis on South Street.

The committee has a late February deadline to submit a plan to the state for review.

The committee will hold a public forum at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 25 in the community room in the basement of Crandall Public Library.

Omar Usmani, the committee’s co-chairman, said he is concerned the committee has not yet identified a significant imaginative project that will capture Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s attention.

“That’s what we are charged to do – to look for that big project that can’t be done without this big check,” he said.

Jim Siplon, a committee member, said the emphasis should be on attracting entrepreneurs who will agree to live in Glens Falls and establish new local jobs.

“To grow this pie, we cannot simply get more people from Queensbury to spend more time here,” said Siplon, chief operating officer of Just Beverages.

Ardell and Randy Ingram, director of RES Group, briefed the committee on a real estate analysis they compiled, using information in previous city planning studies, an online survey, and interviews with 28 local real estate brokers, building owners, business owners and civic leaders.

Recruiting the “right tenants” who will flourish and become stalwart retailers should take precedence over filling retail space fast, Ingram said.

“High turnover was something stakeholders were concerned about,” he said.

Ardell said downtown Glens Falls appears to be faring better than many downtowns in small cities.

“Having an olive oil store here is pretty interesting,” she said, referring to Lake George Olive Oil Co. on Glen Street. “I walked in and they looked like they were doing pretty well.”

Ardell suggested downtown merchants work together on a shared website to sell to a larger market and supplement in-store sales.

Ardell said recruiting a supermarket might not be realistic, but the committee could focus on specialty food stores.

Follow staff writer Maury Thompson at All Politics is Local blog, at PS_Politics on Twitter and at Maury Thompson Post-Star on Facebook.

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