A Magazine About Food, Art & Exchange In Midtown Kingston, Published By The Hudson Valley Current.

Local Economics: Putting “Made in the Hudson Valley” Back on the Worldwide Map

Once upon a time, the Hudson Valley was famous for making things: bricks in Kingston, cars in Tarrytown, natural cement in Rosendale, antennas in Ellenville and much, much more. And for about forty years in the late 20th century, the landscape and economy in many areas were largely dominated by IBM, the company that drove much of the computer revolution.

When IBM downsized its operations in the 1990s, the mid-Hudson took an economic blow. A casual observer could be forgiven for assuming that, combined with the gradual erosion of other kinds of manufacturing, the shrinkage of “Big Blue” spelled the end of manufacturing in our area.

Thankfully, not all those observing are casual. Making in the Hudson Valley is very much alive and well. And a coalition of actors, including the Kingston-based Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship (GCSEN), the NoVo Foundation and others, are finding new ways to lift up our manufacturing sector and help it thrive, spreading awareness, education, and support.

In 2019, the NoVo Foundation asked the GCSEN to conduct a study that would identify the makers of the greater Kingston region. “They were basically looking at resilience, trying to find out what resources we’d have in the event of a major disruption and what facilities could be repurposed to help us survive,” says Tony DiMarco, Managing Director of the GCSEN Foundation. “And of course, a disruption did happen, and local companies did repurpose and help make PPE and ventilators.” 

The three-month study tapped 29 different resources to gather data, discovered 118 makers in the Kingston area, and identified them by industry and location. “Our definition was broad,” says DiMarco. “If you’re making bread, making signs, making jewelry, blacksmithing—we wanted to know about it.” A dozen makers were interviewed, and data was gathered about equipment and capabilities.

Unsurprisingly, midtown Kingston is a hotspot for makers. “The biggest cluster by type is metal-based manufacturing; we have 40 in midtown, which is great,” says DiMarco. “We started getting a sense of what’s where—arts and metals in midtown, food in Lake Katrine, textiles more distributed. The question was, if you needed something made, where would you go? We found a lot, and this was just Kingston. Imagine if we covered the whole Hudson Valley!”

Keeping it Evergreen

Another major GCSEN initiative, the Evergreen Water Solutions Accelerator, is a joint effort co-founded by Sustainable Hudson Valley and in partnership with Ulster County. Beginning in 2022, Evergreen will bring together six cohorts of seven companies each, carefully chosen from the region, the nation, and around the world, to participate in a three-month intensive program providing significant mentoring, coaching for investor readiness, and investor access.

Each cohort will have an organizing theme. Planned themes are Emergency Management (mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery); Water Conservation; Water Purification; Water Pollution Prevention, from point and nonpoint sources; Water Data and Analytics; Aging

and Vulnerable Infrastructure, such as wastewater treatment plants and municipal pipes; Water Scarcity; Agriculture and Water; Energy and Water; and Ocean Cleanup of Plastics and Microplastics.

Four of each seven in a cohort will be manufacturing-based startups, with the remaining three being software companies. The common theme, water management, will focus on one of the world’s most urgent problems; the methodology will craft a significant boost to the local economy. Manufacturing companies will receive $160,000 in capital, while software companies will receive a $100,000 investment; half of each company’s haul must be spent with Hudson Valley manufacturers and service providers.

The Hudson Valley Current’s Role

“Water came up ahead of climate change in a Gallup poll about people’s primary environmental concerns,” says DiMarco, “and here in the Hudson Valley we are very well positioned to move solutions forward. We have 200 years of experience as the watershed for the New York metro area. We also have more people with PhDs per capita than anywhere else. So there’s a great native concentration of organizations and people.”

Beyond that, we have a local currency—and the GCSEN Foundation envisions the Hudson Valley Current as an aqueduct, so to speak, that will help keep the local investments local in perpetuity. “What we want to do,” DiMarco says, “is distribute the portion of the investment capital that is required to be spent locally half in cash and half in Currents. That will mean a really significant infusion of new money that will stay in the Hudson Valley forever, and it will open up new business-to-business capacity for the Current, which is not something that has been emphasized in the currency’s initial rollout.”

VentureFest: It’s on!

It may not make the same kind of headlines as a music festival or high-end crafts fair, but for those in the industrial and innovation side of our regional ecosystem, it’s big, good news that VentureFest is back. Started in 2019, the gathering at SUNY New Paltz had to go virtual in 2020 amid the pandemic, but this year it’s happening live—and, DiMarco says, this iteration will be the best yet.

Happening this year on Wednesday October 13, Venture Fest Fall 2021 is “designed to bring together the broad Hudson Valley entrepreneur ecosystem including entrepreneurs (high-growth startups and growth-oriented small businesses), investors, services providers and educators,” according to the description on the SUNY New Paltz web page. There will be tracks tailored to the concerns of entrepreneurs, investors and service providers, with speakers, panel discussions, and “speed dating” sessions for networking.

“We have a wonderful keynote speaker, Michael Shuman, who’ll be talking about how to invest locally and his latest book, Put Your Money Where Your Life Is: How to Invest Locally Using Self-Directed IRAs and Solo 401(K)s,” says DiMarco. “The whole day is a great opportunity for everyone in our manufacturing and service ecosystem to get together, network and learn from each other, meet investors and mentors, find services they may not have realized existed.”

A “PitchFest” in the afternoon invites women and/or minority-owned entrepreneurial companies to make presentations to the gathering. After that, it’s party time; an Oktoberfest full of food, drink, music, and networking opportunities—and of course, the fare will showcase local makers. Who—whether you’re talking sausages or signage—are simply some of the finest in the world.