Ron Hicks, Dutchess County Deputy Commissioner for Strategic Planning, addresses the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce meeting at Coppola’s. Bob Kampf / The Observer
Ron Hicks, Dutchess County Deputy Commissioner for Strategic Planning, addresses the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce meeting at Coppola’s. Bob Kampf / The Observer

Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce gets town, county updates

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President David Stewart welcomed one of the largest turnouts in recent times to a Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce monthly meeting Feb. 27. Many of the 60 to 70 people attending the breakfast session at Coppola’s restaurant were on hand to hear about the current conditions of the local town and county economies.

The speakers, Town Supervisor Aileen Rohr, and Ron Hicks, Dutchess County Deputy Commissioner for Strategic Planning, did not disappoint them.

Rohr opened her remarks by joking, “One of the best things about my job is the fact that it hasn’t snowed yet this week!”

She added, “The town is in an $8 million dollar business and we are working to make Hyde Park a more pedestrian friendly community as we seek to expand our sidewalks in several parts of the town.” Her comments referred to more pedestrian access along Route 9 from Farm Lane south to the entrance of the former Stop & Shop, an E. Market Street section from Route 9G to the apartment complexes along the north side of East Market, and a short area fronting the Dairy Queen on Route 9.

Forging improved relationships with local businesses, surrounding towns and the county government is, Rohr said, “one of the most satisfying parts of my job as we seek to make Hyde Park more vital and appealing.”

Hicks brought information to the local business leaders on a county plan entitled Economic Development 4R Future and announced that County Executive Mark Molinaro would be introducing a series of new economic incentives on March 4 at his State of the County speech.

“We are constantly reviewing our strategies on an annual basis for relevancy,” said Hicks, in announcing that Molinaro would be discussing a four-point program, including recommendations for business retention and expansion, expediting reviews and issuance of permits, infrastructure planning and investment, and attracting new businesses.

A good deal of emphasis was placed in Hicks’ speech on attracting younger entrepreneurs to stay within Dutchess County because he said it has an aging community and younger generations are vital to its future.

“With 21,000 college students studying in Dutchess,” said Hicks, “we have to find ways to retain young professionals within our borders.”

Hicks also briefly addressed the controversial energy tax imposed by county government, saying “The energy tax was accepted over issuing higher property taxes because the energy tax can be repealed if the state is willing to provide us with mandated program relief, which we are working for along with our State representatives, Didi Barrett and our State Senators,” he said.

He concluded, saying, “We need to hear from you about what we are doing right, and what we are doing wrong.” Unemployment in the county is down to 5.9 percent from a high in 2012 of 7.5 percent, Hicks said, adding, “We can obviously do better.”

The audience, by its applause, obviously agreed with him.

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