Putnam County Business Outlook Seen as Improving in 2022

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By Michael Gold

Business is picking up in Carmel and Mahopac and employers need more workers.  Costs have also risen, and supply chains are still tangled.

So, John Iorio, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Mahopac-Carmel Chamber of Commerce and owner-operator of Funtime Amusements, a local special event and party rental company, seems cautiously optimistic.

Iorio has seen a lot of help wanted signs in store windows in the area. He thinks more people will be filling the jobs posted.

“As government pandemic aid ends, more people should be coming back into the workforce,” Iorio said.

Many potential employees stayed home for fear of getting sick, he explained. But as the virus seems to be receding, he hopes to see businesses thriving and expanding.

However, business costs have increased about 10 percent, Iorio said. For example, the cost of helium, for party balloons, has gone up by that amount. Printing and paper costs are higher, too, the chamber learned, when they printed their new directory.

The cost of the pizzas Funtime serves at parties has risen more than 25 percent per pie. Pizza boxes were hard to come by for a while because of supply chain issues. The cost of flour has gone up as well, Iorio said.

Also, employee salaries have risen, so companies are passing those costs onto customers.

Restaurants and retail shops are spending more on masks and cleaning agents, to keep both employees and customers safe.

Supply chains are still snarled, in part because trucking companies don’t have enough drivers, Iorio said.

“The cost of trucking, raw materials and labor have gone up. And ports lack people to offload goods” from ships, he explained.

As well, the cost of gasoline has gone up, which fuels inflation, but also may draw teenagers with cars back to the workforce, Iorio said. They may need to get a job to pay for their driving habits.

Iorio, who started working when he was 13 years old painting houses for his uncle, is encouraged that people will start looking to fill all the job openings.

Funtime had a sluggish January, Iorio said. Fundraisers and bar and bat mitzvahs are often booked in January, but COVID-19 has impacted event bookings.

“People are skittish. Catering halls lose clients and bookings if someone gets COVID,” he said. “Event planners wonder if the guests will show up, how many will attend. The party may get canceled.”

But March bookings are “looking promising,” he pointed out.

“Hospitalizations are going down. More people are getting vaccinated. As the number of the sick are going down, we expect people will feel more confident. People are starting to book (events).”

Also, home sales are increasing, always a positive sign for the economy.

“Home sales are strong,” reported Jennifer Maher, founding chairwoman of the Putnam County Business Council, who is also a partner and chief operating officer at J. Phillip Real Estate, a commercial and residential real estate brokerage.

“Putnam County is becoming more diversified, with buyers coming from New York City,” Maher said. “They’re diverse in race, politics, culture and sexual orientation. Putnam has a different feel than before the pandemic. The landscape has changed. Businesses should acknowledge that and adjust.”

A benefit of new home sales is that appliance sales often increase as buyers look for new washing machines, dryers, dishwashers and other products to supply their new home. Local grocery stores, clothing stores, restaurants and other consumer businesses should benefit from an increase in shoppers.

The commercial real estate market was “not a super-hot market going into the pandemic,” Maher explained. But commercial sales and leasing are up so far in 2022.

A possible explanation for the uptick?

“A lot of people are rethinking their careers,” Maher said. “They’re starting businesses.”

One potential hiccup in the business outlook is the “uncertain guidelines” coming from the state and county governments.

“Businesses feel unsupported on masks and vaccine mandates,” Maher said when I spoke with her a few weeks ago. Gov. Kathy Hochul allowed the state’s strict mask mandate for businesses to lapse on Feb. 10, so that eliminates one roadblock for businesses in the area.

Overall, Iorio sees things looking up.

“New Yorkers are very resilient,” he said. “The risk (of the virus) is becoming less. We expect people will feel more confident.”

Pleasantville resident Michael Gold has had articles published in the New York Daily News, the Albany Times-Union, The Virginian-Pilot, The Palm Beach Post and other newspapers.

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