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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"For the holidays, remember shopping small"

ALBANY, Nov. 25 -- You hear it all the time, especially in government where we debate constantly about how best to create jobs and strengthen local economies: small businesses are the backbone of the economy.

That’s as true as it’s ever been and so is the fact that Albany and Washington can take steps to help improve the economic climate for our small businesses. That’s especially true right here in New York State, where businesses large and small continue to face one of the worst (the most hostile by some standards) business tax climates in the nation. Nobody explains it more succinctly than Governor Andrew Cuomo himself, who has repeatedly said “New York State has no future as the tax capital of the nation.”

But we need to do more than just say that we’re Open for Business. That’s why just this past legislative session in New York, for example, the state Senate put forth a “Blueprint for Jobs” plan I co-sponsored that included a series of tax breaks and credits aimed at small business development. In fact, we’ll be taking up another version of that blueprint when the new session begins in January. There are strong signs of a growing consensus to act on it. Let’s hope so.

But government’s not the only place to make a difference. We all can, and there’s never a better time than now with the holiday shopping season kicking into high gear this week.

So much of our annual holiday shopping increasingly takes place online (I’ll have more to say about this phenomenon in next week’s column), we know that, but the further we get into the holiday shopping season the more consumers start turning to “brick-and-mortar retail.” And that, of course, is only great news for local businesses. Fortunately for many of us, there’s still a store right down the street or a shop right around the corner from home that turns out to be the best destination of all to find that perfect (and meaningful) gift.

So here’s hoping that we’ll do our best to support these small businesses on Main Street, Market Street, Water Street, the Commons or wherever they happen to be found in your own community. One strategy that really keeps making a difference takes place again this year through a nationwide event on Saturday, November 30th called “Small Business Saturday.”

It’s all about consumer choice. Here’s how the head of the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) defined the idea of “shopping small” as a guide worth remembering throughout the holiday shopping season: “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the fabric of our communities. By shopping small…we can support the men and women who are building these amazing small businesses. It’s a chance to say thank you to the small business owners who do so much for our communities.”

Small Business Saturday takes place across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions on November 30th, including one special event that’s been brought directly to my attention. The Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Cmmerce recently announced that nearly 40 businesses in and around Schuyler County will participate in “Shop Small BINGO” on Small Business Saturday. It sure sounds like a fun way for consumers to stop by participating businesses, pick up that shop’s distinctive BINGO-related marker and potentially earn a chance to win an amazing grand prize gift basket. There’ll be live entertainment, wine tastings, storytelling and much more. In other words, it sounds like a great day to be out and about around Schuyler County. You can find out more about it on the chamber’s website,

Our small businessmen and women – in many instances, our small business families – play such a fundamental role in local job creation and preservation, to say nothing of economic opportunity and hope here at home and, collectively, across the nation. The SBA notes that over the past 20 years small businesses have been responsible for creating two out of every three net new jobs nationally. More than one-half of all of America’s working men and women, according to federal statistics, own or are employed by a small business.

It’s also worth recalling these words from Mike Durant, the director of New York’s leading small business association, the National Federation of Independent Business/NY: “It’s about the entrepreneurs and families who have put everything into stores that offer what the chains and e-commerce companies don’t – something different, something special, from handcrafted gifts to genuinely friendly service…When you shop at a small business, you’re supporting your hometown, your neighborhood and your neighbors..”

You’d be hard-pressed to say it any better.

Indeed, the last few weeks before Christmas are among the heaviest shopping days of all. A National Retail Federation survey a few years ago found that as of mid-December, the average consumer had only completed less than half of his or her holiday gift-buying. And, yes, there was even one survey by the International Council of Shopping showing that more than 23 million consumers planned to shop on Christmas Eve.

So when we head out the door in the busy days and weeks ahead to finish up this year’s holiday shopping – and if you’re anything like me, that’s going to include plenty of last-minute gift buying – there’s nothing keeping us from setting aside at least one stop along the way to support a local small business somewhere across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions.

The job you help save by shopping local and buying “Made in the U.S.A.” may ultimately be your own.

I’ll look forward to seeing some of you out there.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Gary Whyman, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869