Ten Ideas for Reviving Amsterdam, New York

I call them “buzz-worthy project proposals.” They are ideas designed to enhance development of an urban community and its surrounding area, which are designed and structured in such a way so that they have the potential of generating huge volumes of FREE PUBLICITY. Let’s face it. There are plenty of reasons why developers, new businesses and tourists are not flocking to or spending money in Amsterdam on their own. We need to eliminate those reasons. How? By being smarter and more creative in our efforts to convince those same groups otherwise. They need to be sold so we need to come up with better development and tourism packages that are compelling and unique enough to get newspaper editors and bloggers from outside our area to write about and help sell them. Here are five such idea packages that I think have this type of appeal. I include five more in my upcoming book. I’d like to get your feedback and perhaps other ideas you may have for enhancing Amsterdam’s economy and quality of life:

Business Plan competition to fill vacant Chalmers’ site: How can the City of Amsterdam attract young entrepreneurs with solid, fully financed business plans to consider locating their start-up businesses and their personal residences in our City? By providing them with attractive enough incentives to do so. What could the City offer as an incentive? How about one year worth of free rent for newly constructed combination living and business space on a rejuvenated waterfront and their choice of a free membership to a Robert Trent Jones designed Golf Course or a fully equipped health club.  Where would this City find the new business applicants needed to drive this program? By having AIDA, with the assistance of Montgomery County EDC and the offices of Tonko, Amedore and Santabarbara network with all of the local universities (RPI, Union, Albany State etc.) and all of the state, county and privately funded programs that promote incubator business development. How would AIDA decide who receives a grant? Applicants would need to submit a business plan that includes full financial disclosure. A committee of business and finance professionals would be formed to review these plans and select those most likely to succeed. Those selected would receive the above-described incentive. Who would develop the combo units on the Chalmers property? One of the advantages of pursuing this strategy is the fact that the incentive offered the entrepreneurs would also serve as a strong incentive to potential developers of the post demolition Chalmers property. The fact that AIDA would be willing to promote the property and pay the first year’s rent of new tenants significantly reduces the burden and risks that the developer of such a property would normally face. What happens after the first year? Each new business selected for this grant would be required to sign at least a two year lease at an agreed upon rate for the second year. Perhaps the City could also agree to adjust the property tax rate for the property so that during the first five years of the development’s existence the owner is paying taxes only on those units occupied by tenants. Small businesses have been traditionally, the single largest provider of new jobs in the US economy. Thanks to the Internet and the efficiency of wireless and e-commerce technologies, location is no longer an essential component of success for so many types of business start-ups. Put yourself in the shoes of a young electrical engineering student at RPI, or Nano Tech graduate assistant at SUNY who has a documented great idea and a brilliant mind. Being able to start your business on the first floor, live on the second floor with a balcony that looks out over a beautiful river, play golf at Muny, be in Albany or Saratoga in just half an hour. Why not Amsterdam?

Create a New York State Walk of Fame that extends from The old Armory on Bridge Street, across the Pedestrian Bridge through Riverlink Park; I love Amsterdam’s new pedestrian bridge, I really do. The problem with it, however, is that folks who don’t live in Amsterdam are not coming to see it in any where near the numbers originally projected by its planners. So the challenge now is how do we make that happen. There are 62 counties in the State of New York. Lets create a more compelling reason for residents from every one of those counties to consider coming to see the new pedestrian bridge that opened in 2016 or at least consider making it a stop in Amsterdam to take a look on their way to someplace else. Let’s incorporate the bridge into New York State’s Official Walkway of Fame. Ask our state legislators to seek a state charter for this designation. Then let’s find out via an online election, who residents feel is their county’s most famous native. We will have 62 winners. Have a designer come up with a standard plaque/display piece to commemorate each Walk of Fame honoree and then have each county create one for their most famous resident and as those displays are completed have an official unveiling ceremony for that county held on the bridge. Add new inductees each year. The bottom line is that a bridge that celebrates the history and culture of our entire state will have much greater media and tourist appeal than a bridge that celebrates the history and culture of only our community.

Build the largest Cross in the world at the Auriesville Shrine: In the 1970’s I worked for Tom Constantino at Amsterdam, New York’s Noteworthy Company. Tom loved the Auriesville Shrine and wanted to do something that would assure its long-term survival. He presented the owners of the Shrine, the Society of Jesuits a plan to construct the largest Cross in the world on the grounds of the site. The Jesuits rejected it back then but now they have ceded control of the site to the Albany Diocese. Perhaps the time is now right to get the Cross project approved. Back when Constantino was pushing the project, there was no Internet, which means fundraising efforts for the construction would have had to been raised via expensive direct mail and broadcast efforts. Today, one well designed, Web-based campaign on a popular donor appeal site like GoFundMe.com might be all that is needed to raise the necessary funds. Adding such a significant spiritual landmark to the location where the first Christian missionaries to North America were martyred, would greatly enhance the Shrine’s appeal as a religious attraction and would certainly garner the ongoing attention of both the Christian and mainstream media.

Create the Amsterdam Demolition Institute: Propose to the state that Amsterdam become the site of a new training institute for demolition skills certification. Communities from around the state would be able to send their public works employees to this school where they will be taught the skills necessary to safely and responsibly demolish abandoned dwellings in their community that have been deemed beyond repair. All aspects of the demolition process would be taught including site prep, hazard remediation, heavy equipment operation, safety and environmentally compliant disposal of all construction debris. Each class will actually participate in a live demolition of one of Amsterdam’s uninhabitable, irreparable dwellings. Every time a final exam is given another unstable and dangerous Amsterdam eyesore disappears.

Formation of an “Invest in Amsterdam” venture capital group: One of the things I’ve discovered in the process of writing about the history of Amsterdam is that there exists a large community of current and former Amsterdam residents who have done well in their careers here and elsewhere and remain interested in their hometown and would be willing to help rejuvenate it if given the appropriate opportunity. I believe it is entirely possible to find a group of these current and former Rug City residents willing to purchase shares in a venture fund that would then be used as a revolving loan/investment fund to help bring new business to the city and/or expand existing businesses. Even more importantly, many of these ex-Amsterdamians could be convinced to sit on an advisory board to not just evaluate each investment opportunity but to also mentor and advise recipients of these monies.

6 thoughts on “Ten Ideas for Reviving Amsterdam, New York

  1. Mike, what about more accommodations for people visiting. There is really no place to stay in Amsterdam. If you want to attract people, they need a place to stay. Reunions are sometimes held in Saratoga or Johnstown. That is sad.

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    1. I agree Jackie. Challenge is that major hotel franchises base their location decisions on market studies and Amsterdam does not have enough outside traffic coming in to warrant the investment. That’s why the original pan to keep the old Holiday Inn a hotel fell apart. Its sort of the what comes first, the chicken or the egg argument but I completely agree a new and nice hotel is a priority.

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  2. Love all these ideas on how to rehabilitate Amsterdam ! I especially love the one about constructing the largest cross in the world at Auriesville Shrine. I had no idea that it was proposed before. I’m sure a lot of people would donate. I know that I would !!

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  3. I like the idea of the Amsterdam Demolition Institute Mike. I can see much benefit with that. Isn’t AIDA set up along the lines of your venture capital group?

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    1. The advantage of the Venture Group would be that they have perspective, experience and contacts that AIDA folks don’t. No disrespect intended but i’ve always felt it pays to have the outside looking in opinion. The investors I’d target have all started and managed successful businesses of their own.

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