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Entrepreneurism a major driver of the Hudson Valley economy

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For the Hudson Valley to truly thrive in today’s volatile economy, we need a constant flow of creative, innovation-driven entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds launching and sustaining new businesses — and the jobs that come with them.

Entrepreneurism plays an incredibly important role nationwide, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finding that there were about 3 million jobs created by businesses less than 1 year old in 2015. About 11 percent of the national workforce serves within companies that are less than 4 years old.

In 2015, a Kaufmann Foundation study found that young businesses are the primary source of new jobs in the U.S. economy, and perhaps more importantly, they are more likely than older companies to provide a competitive boost to markets, thereby spurring innovation and new products and services. In fact, businesses with 50 employees or fewer make up about 95 percent of all American companies today.

And according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, businesses with fewer than 500 employees have been the most successful at creating net new jobs over the past 10 years — much more so than larger employers.

We have already seen the positive effects entrepreneurism can have on our regional economy, from the food and beverage industry and manufacturing to technology and renewable energy.

Mary and Ernie Molina, founders of Lola Granola Bar in Croton Falls, had lost their family-owned cellphone retail store in the most recent economic downturn. Facing serious financial hardship, the couple began selling Mary’s homemade granola bars, eventually starting a full-fledged business based on the concept. Now the bars are available in Whole Foods and other large retail stores.

Jay Fischer has been an innovator for many years, most recently as CEO and founder of Tyll Solar, a research and development company with operations in Kingston and Sullivan County that creates combined heat and power solar panels. He currently has several patent-pending innovations in the field. Before that, Fischer founded Spotlight Data, a company that designed groundbreaking software, pioneering the use of personal digital assistant technology.

And then there is Evolving Media Network principal and founder Kale Kaposhilin, who leads a team of web developers and digital media experts to produce web and mobile apps, marketing videos, animations and websites. Kaposhilin has leveraged his knowledge to launch the Hudson Valley Tech Meetup, which provides amazing networking opportunities for professionals in the technology sector with more than 1,000 members spread throughout the region and climbing. Collectively, these entrepreneurs are powering the Hudson Valley economy to new heights.

Fortunately, the Hudson Valley has been known for many years as a very business-friendly region, with fewer regulatory barriers than average and attractive incentives for new businesses to start up or relocate here. Added to that is the fact that our colleges and universities are extremely active in partnering with businesses and organizations throughout the region, creating a pipeline in which companies are able to draw from the talent coming out of these institutions. At the same time, students receive a real-world education through internships and other practical experiences.

In our region, we know that true innovators tend to be serial entrepreneurs who rarely start just one business over the course of their careers. We can harness the energy and ingenuity of these individuals, making them a central part of how we grow our economy both now and in the years to come.

Recognizing all of this, the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. has continued to make fostering entrepreneurism a major focus of its efforts. On June 22, our organization will hold an event centered on the State of Entrepreneurism in the Hudson Valley, as part of our ongoing Thought Leaders Master Series that helps bring local leaders together to harness our region’s growing resources.

The event will feature discussions on the opportunities for expanding job creation across a wide range of industries and leveraging the creation, nurturing and expansion of businesses of all sizes and types. Paul Harrington, professor and director of the Center of Labor Market and Policy at Drexel University, will be the keynote speaker. There will be a panel discussion featuring leaders from businesses and organizations throughout the Hudson Valley. Fischer, Kaposhilin and the Molinas will all take part in this panel, as will entrepreneurs from Alianza, Gravity Ciders, Medisprout, MedSender, Newburgh Brewing Co. and Yodle.

From jeans you wear to genes you repair, from digital bytes to craft brews, all representing the future of the regional business ecosystem, and all in need of support from public and private enterprise.

State of Entrepreneurism in the Hudson Valley will be held from 8 to 11 a.m. June 22 at SUNY New Paltz. To attend, register at hvedc.com.

Laurence P. Gottlieb is president and CEO of Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit economic development agency working in public-private partnership to market the seven-county region of Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Rockland, Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties. He can be reached at lgottlieb@hvedc.com.

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