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EYE ON BUSINESS: ANCA helping businesses and new owners with transition

October 26, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

SARANAC LAKE - With the Baby Boomer generation on the verge of retirement, it's expected that many businesses in the Adirondack region can liquidate and disappear in the near future. Some refer to it as the "silver tsunami." As we approach that time, many businesses and organizations are looking to keep business districts vibrant and save them from a slew of empty storefronts.

A solution is transitioning owners. Long-standing businesses will go under new management but still provide generally the same services and products.

One group that wants to help facilitate transitions is the Adirondack North Country Association, a nonprofit, that has been working to bolster North Country economies and sustainability for the past 63 years.

ANCA is in the midst of launching its new program, the Center for Businesses in Transition, which will help local practices shift from one ownership to the next whether it's to a private entrepreneur, a family member or a group of employees.

Project Assistant for Regional Advocacy Dani Delaini said in the past few years, ANCA has been meeting with different economic development partners and small businesses development centers in the region, and one thing they've noticed was an abundance of resources but a lack of knowledge.

"At the end of all those conversations, this issue was brought up," she said. "There are a bunch of retiring business owners in these communities, and it's a sort of a glaring thing we see coming down the pike."

ANCA is not a group of lawyers, accountants or real estate agents. Instead, it acts more like a middle-man, connecting businesses to those services.

"If somebody were to come to us who says, 'I'm really interested in seeing how I can transfer this business to my employees,'" Delaini said, "we would help connect them to the Cooperative Development Institute or the Jefferson County Small Business Development Center, which specializes in cooperative and worker employment options."

The Center for Businesses in Transition will most likely have a soft launch in February 2019, but Delaini said ANCA already has owners looking to sell and entrepreneurs looking to buy. The businesses span multiple industries such as lodging, jewelry, architectural firms and recreational outfitters.

Some people think transitioning is a quick process, Delaini said, but it can actually take up to three to five years to complete.

"They really need to be talking to their accountant or tax professional within that time well before they start talking to other people about transferring the business," she said. "Folks really need to start looking at their taxes and how they itemize their income. A lot of smaller businesses up here have houses included within the business or some of their families' stuff is included with the business, which is totally fine, but when you're selling to someone, it changes the value of the business if those things are not included within your taxes from year to year."

Currently, ANCA is working to partner with representatives from colleges and chambers of commerce in the North Country, people who already have an idea of what their community's needs are, who can then send local businesses their way.

"A lot of small business owners don't have the time or resources to go to a day-long conference," Delaini said. "They can't leave their shop that long. We're making sure that we're meeting them in their places of business to let them know that these services are available."

Why not just retire and close up shop?

ANCA Regional Advocacy Coordinator Jake Vennie-Vollrath said his organization's goal is to keep businesses open and people employed.

"Often what's happening here in our region and in rural regions throughout the country is that these businesses end up liquidating their assets, closing down and leaving a lot of empty storefronts on our main streets," he said. "It really hurts our downtown. If you lose one business or two it hurts our region's economy. Our local economies hurt if you lose one employee or two employees."

Whether the transition goes to a local entrepreneur or a corporation is up to the seller, but Vennie-Vollrath said he's noticed some businesses around here who would like to keep things local.

"In instances, it has happened where a corporation comes in and buys a local small business," he said, "but then kind of reduces employment locally or other things happen. I think a lot of business owners locally get it, and they want to keep their business local and they want people to retain their jobs. A lot of these employees have worked there their whole lives often in some of these cases and helped them build that business."

ANCA is based in Saranac Lake.



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