January 2013

January 2013 — print issue

Starting a Business

In each issue of this magazine, I plan to do an in-depth article or set of articles on one subject. The choice for this issue was obvious. This is my first business and, since I did not have anyone as a mentor, I had to do the research anyways. I talked to an accountant, checked out government websites and went to the Orange County Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber hosts a couple programs that I will deal with later.

Everybody will tell you that you need a business plan. Unless you are looking for serious money from grants, loans or investors, this just means you should have some idea about what you will do and how you will sell it. Actually, it can be more complicated than that, but if this is your first business then do what I'm doing and keep it simple. Let it grow as you grow. You are going to change the plan every time you find out you cannot do what you wanted. I lost count of the number of times I changed my plan.

Talk to an accountant. You want to focus on your business, not becoming an expert on tax law, so let the real expert do the work.

Same for a lawyer. Same reason. Especially if you plan to have employees. Don't be afraid to hire, just make sure you know the rules.

Talk to an insurance agent. Make sure you get proper coverage.

Some useful websites:

Laws of New York      http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us
click on laws of New York, skim through the table of contents or click on GBS for the general business section.

City of Middletown Code      http://www.middletown-ny.com
look at the menu on the left and click on City Charter and Codes
(this has changed, there is now a button for the code, next to the button for garbage - Editor)

Business Certificates - DBA's      http://www.co.orange.ny.us
click on County Departments      click on County Clerk
look at the menu on the left and click on Business Certificates - DBA's for information on DBA's and a list of useful links.

If you will have a partner or are setting up a corporation, talk to a lawyer. I am keeping it simple for now with a DBA (from doing business as). You can file a DBA with the County Clerk. To get there, take 17M to 17 and immediately exit. Turn left on 207 and head away from Goshen. You will come to a quarry on your right. Turn right on Quarry Road, just past the quarry, and then left on Glenmere Cove Road. Follow the signs to the back of the complex.

The form has a raised seal, you can't print it off the web. It is easy to fill out the form. You need the name and address of the business, your name and address, and the type of business (pick from a list). You need to check in the records room to make sure no one is using the name you want. They can check for you on their computer. The clerk there also notarized my form. You need one certified copy for the bank, I got two to have a spare. The fees are detailed on their website, even with the spare copy it was less than forty dollars. You will also get an informational package and find yourself on that rarest of things - a useful mailing list. So far I have received a letter from an accountant advertising his services, a catalog from an office supply company, and a letter from a company that makes those signs about equal opportunity, minimum wage and such that employers are required to post in the workplace. I bet you have seen one of those signs in a break room but didn't think about it while reading this article.

You will want a business account to keep personal and business transactions separate. Your accountant will thank you. If you have good credit, you can also get a business credit card. That can help you get started, just remember you have to pay it back.

If you want to put your business in the downtown area, talk to the B.I.D. Their offices are on South Street in the Paramount Theater. Their programs deal more with the property owners but they can help you find a good location.

That leaves us with the Orange County Chamber of Commerce. Their office is located on Scott's Corners Drive near Montgomery. To get there, take 211 to Montgomery and turn right on 17K. Go past the light at the intersection with 208 and almost immediately turn left into a two building complex with a bank on the left and office building on the right. You will see signs directing you to the lower parking lot on the right. They also have a website (http://www.orangeny.com) that suffers a bit from information overload. They host two main programs for new or aspiring business owners, SCORE and EAP.

Entrepreneurial Assistance Program (EAP)

http://orangenyeap.com

The Entrepreneurial Assistance Program was founded by New York State in 1987. They offer a 60 hour course (twenty 3-hour evening classes, two per week) which costs $399 and can be broken into 3 payments. It appears, from the course description, to cover in depth many things that a person new to business would not know, from web presence and marketing to financial statements and cash flow projections. The web site seems to be devoted primarily to this program so if you are interested you should check there for more information. The current class starts January 29 and the price above is for registration by the 25th.

According to the local director, Cynthia Marsh-Croll, The program is designed to be able to help any current or future business owner no matter where they are in the process. When asked about the common mistakes made by people starting their first business, she stressed the importance of a business plan and to ... have a lawyer, accountant and insurance agent to help them protect themselves and their business.

The EAP also offers two sources for loans, the Mid-Hudson Valley Loan Fund and the Minority and Women Owned Business loan fund. They provide help with becoming NYS MWBE certified. MWBE stands for Minority Women Business Enterprise and is in regard to a requirement for twenty percent of vendors for a state agency to be so certified. They also offer workshops and one on one counseling.

They have a workshop, scheduled for January 25, called Get Control of Your Money & Credit which is designed to help you prepare for a business loan.

SCORE

http://orangenyscore.com

SCORE is a national non-profit that uses experienced volunteers to provide counseling to people starting or growing their small business. Their website is very self-explanatory but I will provide you with the highlights. They offer one on one counseling, by appointment, with professionals who volunteer their time. SCORE has also scheduled a series of 1½ hour workshops between March and May. The workshops cost $10 per class if you register early and $15 at the door. You can get the set of ten for $59 if you register early. The topics include financing, insurance and business plans.

Counseling is free and available to all U.S. citizens over 13. Workshops are available to all U.S. citizens over 18.


Commentary

Why would anyone want to take the risk of starting a business in this Great Recession? The answer is, of course, because that is how you get out of a recession or depression.

Economies go bad because people risk too much money on bad investments or too many businesses over expand or some other such thing happens, which results in a lot of money being lost. Then banks start lending less, partly out of a desire to minimize risk and partly to contract the money supply to match the smaller economy. Businesses that need to borrow money to stay in business can't and many go out of business. We saw that, in this recession, with businesses like Circuit City.

This results in people being afraid to invest, lend or borrow. After a few years, people start to take risks again and confidence and prosperity slowly return. However, if everyone waited for the economy to recover before starting a business, we would all be waiting a long time. Wealth and prosperity do not grow on trees. They are made by the work of our minds and hands when we produce things of value. A business is nothing more than a way to organize this work and sell its results.

It has been more than four years since the economy took a turn for the worse. That's right! President Obama is starting his second term and he inherited this mess, remember. It is past time for us to get this economy going again. There is plenty of investment money out there and banks have money to lend. I had no problem getting a credit card for my business at a good rate. If you are a woman or a minority, there are programs out there, including the one through EAP, that provide loans. The only thing missing is someone willing to take the risk and start a business or expand one.

Everyone should start a business at some point in their lives, even if it only lasts for a little while. Every bucket list I have seen includes it. In an age of personal shoppers and life coaches, any idea could be turned into a business. The Romans said it 2,000 years ago and it's still true today ... seize the day.

- Editor

Middletown Celebrating 125 Years

Middletown is celebrating 125 years as a city. It was incorporated in 1888. The main celebration will be held on the weekend of June 29th. More information can be found on the city website.

City Reviews Downtown Zoning

Middletown is conducting a review of zoning in the BID district due to changes such as the increase in apartments and the large number of vacancies in big box buildings in the downtown area. A moratorium on downtown development was enacted to extend from October 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013 to prevent conflicts between new developments and any zoning changes. The zoning review is currently in committee and is expected to be there for a while. If you have any concerns or issues, now might be a good time to bring them to the attention of your aldermen.

The text of the moratorium can be found on the city's website (www.middletown-ny.com) through a link located on the right center of the home page.
(this has changed, can now be found under the new laws section of the code. - Editor)

City Clarifying Definition of Family

Due to alleged attempts by landlords to disguise boardhouses as family groups with distant relations, the Common Council is considering a change to the code to more specifically define a family in situations where four or more people are living together in a single dwelling unit.

The Middletown Historical Society

The Historical Society of Middletown and the Wallkill Precinct is located at 25 East Avenue, the corner of East Ave. and Houston Ave., in a house donated in 1939 by Mrs. Edwin Welling Van Duzer. It is open to the public on Wednesdays from 1-5 pm.

The entry is small and crowded by a chair lift attached to the stairs to help some society members get up to the second floor. Once you navigate past that, the interior is what you would expect from a beautiful old house. An ample parlor has modern books about local history on display and for sale. The first and second floor range from a room for children's things to closets for hats (one for men's, one for women's) and old picture frames. There are war relics, railroad items, a closet full of maps and a large but uncatalogued collection of photographs. The attic has spinning wheels, old pipes and a collection of daguerreotypes, the first practical type of photograph. You will find barber tools and sewing machines in the basement along with bound collections of newspapers from the Whig Press of the 1850's to the Middletown Daily Record of the 1950's.

Of course, this isn't a complete inventory. You will have to visit yourself to see everything they have. The collection is impressive, with some of it historical to Middletown and some of it just old, but suffers from a lack of space to show it all. It is also disorganized, with items only grouped together in general categories. There has been little done to catalogue or identify all this stuff. Most of the members are a little bit older. OK, possibly all of them are a little bit older and could use the help of a few new, younger volunteers.

With a little room and a lot of organization this could be a nice little attraction for Middletown. As it is, you could still spend a couple hours here if you like history and one of the members would be happy to give you a quick tour.

From the Editor

The tragedy at Newtown will have us talking about gun control and mental health issues for some time. Unfortunately, there is an even more important issue that we should be considering, not because what happened does not warrant our attention but because we must address this issue, this problem, before we can adequately deal with any other. How do we make these decisions? How do we decide to employ the coercive power of government to force or forbid a particular action on the part of another person?

Many people cry out for a ban on assault rifles after this tragedy. They say enough is enough. But they don't ask if such a ban will eliminate these crimes or cut down on the number of people killed. Do they assume that the psychopaths who commit these crimes are tactical geniuses who pick assault rifles with high volume magazines because they are the best weapon for an untrained person to use in a closed-in environment when you have to turn your entire body to aim them? These fools use assault rifles for the same reason they use body armor, even though they will kill themselves or surrender as soon as they meet credible resistance, because it fits their power trip fantasy. The people who want these guns banned do so because of the flip side of that same emotional judgment. They fear them, which makes it easy to set these guns up as a scapegoat - a target for their fears. Then they call for a ban without any hard evidence that it will have any effect on the crimes, essentially calling for a placebo law that will make them feel safer because our emotions will accept a lie if it makes us feel safer. There is also a disturbing tendency to reject out of hand the desire of people to own these weapons, to say that people don't need these because they don't fit into accepted norms like hunting.

Now if studies were done, such as having untrained people go through a course, simulating a school, with paintball guns and pistols that accurately simulated the operation of their real life counterparts, and showed that assault rifles had a significant effect on the number killed, and we said to those who wanted to own them, Sorry, but they are too dangerous; then a ban might be reasonable. I personally don't care if they are banned and I believe the 2nd Amendment can survive it. What I do worry about is us, as a society, making decisions based on emotional responses and prejudice against things which fall outside what we regard as the norm. These poorly made decisions are becoming far to common for my comfort.

A city wants to protect its children from predators, so it passes a law that adults can't hang around a playground unless accompanied by children - perhaps not the actual wording but certainly the effect. After all, why should any other adult need to be there? There is that prejudice against something outside the norm. Then a tired old lady is arrested because she sat on a bench and may or may not have done something as natural and healthy as watch some children play. Good thing she wasn't a tired old man.

To fight prostitution, a law is passed making it illegal to be in a park after a certain hour. After all, why does anyone need to be in a park late at night? There is that prejudice against the norm. Then someone who needed to unwind in a natural setting, or wanted to get away from the lights to see the stars a little better, ends up arrested.

Zoning laws are passed to eliminate boarding houses, or keep people from renting out a room in their house. Wait, what is wrong with that. Renters and especially boarders breed crime and lower property values. Good renters have money and spend it on expensive apartments. There is that prejudice against something outside the norm along with with scapegoating and fear. A widow trying to keep her home is put into financial difficulty. A young person trying to keep costs down so they can save for school is likewise hurt.

I rented a room in a house when I first moved here. My father didn't want to sell his house when he got a job down here so he rented a room for 17 years. He was a public official well respected by his peers. The America I believe in does not decide with unreasoned fear and scapegoating, nor does it dismiss the desires of others simply because they fall outside the norm.



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