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March 6, 2014

Store closings concern Richfield supervisor

By Joe Mahoney The Daily Star
Cooperstown Crier

---- — The sluggish economy in and around the historic village of Richfield Springs has prompted the town of Richfeld’s top official to begin organizing a brain-storming session aimed at luring new businesses to the community.

“If all the young people keep moving out like they are, you’re only going to have the seniors left to pay the taxes,” said Town Supervisor Fran Enjem, a retired businessman and a Republican.

Much of the concern has been generated by a worrisome trend of shops closing or moving — and no new businesses moving in to replace them, Enjem said.

He noted Yankee Dollar has vacated the building it occupied in the village, and Springer Tractor has also left the community. At least a half-dozen store fronts sit vacant, he estimated.

He recently escorted the new consultant for the Otsego County Industrial Development Agency, Alexander “Sandy” Mathes, on a tour of the community to show him sites in which business developers could take an interest.

Income levels in the community are relatively low, said Enjem, making an observation confirmed by U.S. Census data. According to the federal agency, the median income in Richfield Springs in 2010 stood at $21,520, well below the New York’s median income as a whole — $35,713.

Enjem said he has been in conversation with local architect James Jordan, Richfield Springs Mayor Ronald Frohne II, Otsego County Rep. Keith McCarty, R-Springfield, and others about the options that could be pursued to entice businesses to the town and stimulate the economy.

He said he will also be inviting state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, and Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, among others, to a meeting this summer where the goal will be to frame a plan for boosting economic activity. A precise date for that meeting has not been set.

Meanwhile, Enjem said he is hoping to enlist assistance from the TREP$ program at Cooperstown Central School — a project that encourages students to learn entrepreneurial skills — to assist in setting up a similar program in Richfield. Perhaps an owner of one the vacant storefronts will agree to an arrangement where the youngsters could use the space and launch their own business, he said.

“We have really got to get something going here,” Enjem said. “You can’t just talk about it. You have to just do it.”