October 24, 2021

Businesses reflect on 2020 with Tenney

Greek Peak Mountain Resort and Hope Lake Lodge closed on March 16, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic reached Cortland County, Wes Kryger, the president of Greek Peak, said Monday. Three days later, 160 people were laid off.

The resort has since reopened but 2021 still poses challenges.

Kryger and other local business owners shared their experiences of operating during the pandemic during a virtual roundtable discussion with Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-Oneida). The event, hosted by the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce, had 17 business owners and heads of local organizations tell Tenney their experiences of the pandemic and how she could help.

Before the pandemic, Cortland County had a problem providing enough childcare for parents in need, said Kelly Tobin, the executive director of the YWCA in Cortland. The YWCA could provide care to only one-third of the children who needed it. That was exacerbated as the organization also had to fire more than 100 employees during the pandemic.

“It’s been really hard to respond to the community’s needs,” she said.

Tobin said that funding from the Paycheck Protection Program has been vital, but concerns over the future of child care as parents go back to work — especially because child-care slots have had to be cut due to financial problems related to the pandemic — have added further strain.

Tenney asked Tobin what parents are doing now, to which Tobin said many parents work at home to help care for their children.

“The reimagining of what child-care will look like for families is just beginning in New York state,” Tobin said.

Rob Garrison, the manager of Homer Men and Boys clothing shop in Homer, said his business was lucky in 2020 as it was deemed essential and was able to stay open. Still, it had to cut employees’ hours, although Paycheck Protection Program funding helped bring all his workers back to full-time shifts, he said.

Garrison also noted a strong Christmas season and end of the year.

“I definitely feel 2021 is going to be a good year for our business,” Garrison said.

Tenney asked if Garrison’s business would need more PPP funding, which Garrison said it wouldn’t.

Like other business owners who spoke, Sean Smith, the owner of Jax Service Center in Cortlandville, said he did have to fire some workers early on in the pandemic, but PPP funding, and people using money from their stimulus checks to help pay for car repairs, helped his business.

He additionally was able to move to a new location for his store off Route 281 in Cortlandville.

But as a Black man, Smith said it has hard for non-white people to get business loans, even before the pandemic.

“For eight years I tried,” he said, noting that it took the pandemic to get financial assistance.

In terms of getting loans, Tenney said Smith should talk to small, community banks to get a loan as they’re more willing to lend to small businesses.

Smith also said it seems like minority business owners’ voices aren’t being heard and they aren’t always made aware of visits by politicians like Tenney.

Tenney said she would like to visit Smith’s business and, additionally, help minority-business owners by showing what can be done using Smith as an example.