By Ted Waddell
BETHEL May 15, 2001 Theres a new game in town, and in the Town of Bethel its called progress.
On Wednesday, about 20 local business owners, local officials and others interested in the future of the town turned out for the second meeting of a fledgling association of local business owners. The meeting was held at Gaetanos Cafe in Mongaup Valley.
Temporary officers of the Bethel Business Association (BBA) are James DiCarlo, owner of Friends Pub (president); Jack Genovese, co-owner of Gaetanos Cafe (vice-president); and Margaret Hazen, co-owner of Gaetanos (secretary/treasurer). The organization will hold an election to select longer-term leadership in three months.
At our first meeting [about three weeks ago], there was a full nod from everyone that we should form this association to try to do some good for the town, promote business and encourage tourism, said DiCarlo.
According to DiCarlo, the main purpose of the association is to encourage businesses to stay together and work as one unit and promote each others businesses, thus hopefully attracting more tourism to the town.
The meeting opened with a brief presentation by Jonathan Drapkin, executive director of the Gerry Foundation.
Drapkin said resolutions to jointly appoint the town board and town planning board as the lead local governmental agencies charged with bringing the concept [of the performing arts center at the Woodstock site] to fruition . . . was just terrific from the developmental view.
He added that plans for the 634-acre performing arts center district call for a much smaller area of actual development.
Drapkin said that details of the performing arts center zone, including precise site plans and dates for groundbreaking, will be announced at a public meeting to be held June 12 at the White Lake firehouse.
DiCarlo talked about efforts to establish regulations to clean up the Route 17B corridor, parts of which have been long regarded as visual eyesores in an otherwise beautiful area.
We have fences made out of blue tarps and dilapidated buildings falling down, he said. We need to form a committee of the business association to work on putting laws into effect. We have a vested interest in beautification and improving conditions to attract tourism.
Zack Zaccari, owner of the new 17B Citgo gas station and convenience store in White Lake, cautioned the association members about relying upon laws and regulations to clean up the eyesores. He suggested contacting the owners of the properties directly.
If you think passing laws will accomplish anything, youre out of your mind, he said. It will let the dragon out of the box . . . we already have too much authority and government in general.
DiCarlo told association members that State Senator John Bonacics office recently announced there is $450,000 in grant money available to assist new and existing business (based upon a ratio of employees to funds received).
He said the business organization is looking at setting up several committees, including promotion/welcoming and special events. Possible special events: snowmobile racing at Kauneonga Speedway, cross-country skiing and a Bethel county fair.
In a special presentation, Herb Clark, vice-president of the Sullivan County Visitors Association, said, Tourism is the driving force of the [local] economy . . . things that ding a bell to the international traveler are the Catskills and Woodstock.
As business owners, you cant wait two years for the performing arts center or gaming, he said. You have great golf, the Delaware River and pristine streams. Our mountains are our skyscrapers.
If we all float in the same boat, we all rise at the same time, added Clark, mentioning that current market strategy recognizes the buying power of baby boomers and DINKs (dual incomes, no kids).
Clark said one-to-one matching grant funding is available from the state to business partnerships seeking to promote tourism. He suggested the new association consider requesting the county to hold a grantwriting seminar.
We need to think partnership, not competition, said Bethel Business Association member Joe Tinari, proprietor of the Fosterdale Motor Lodge.
The next meeting of the Bethel Business Association will be on June 4 at 7 p.m. at Friends Pub in Smallwood.