Kate Liberman of HVSF will lead effort to expand
Michael Turton spoke with Kate Liberman, the newly appointed board president of the Cold Spring Area Chamber of Commerce, about the organization’s priorities for the upcoming year. Liberman is managing director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. Her responses have been edited for brevity.
Have you been involved with other chambers?
Before moving here two years ago I was with the Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach, California, a small town with many similarities to Cold Spring, including visitors getting away from the city and parking issues. Prior to that I was with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and attended meetings of the Downtown Business Association there.
What makes the Cold Spring business community unique?
We have diverse businesses both on Main Street and outside the village, and they have unique customers: tourists versus residents looking for an electrician or insurance agent. The number of strong nonprofits such as Glynwood, Boscobel and Manitoga is also distinctive for a small community.
What did you glean from the chamber’s brainstorming event at Glynwood in November?
I heard that we have to bring the different types of businesses together, from Main Street shops and contractors to plumbers and IT specialists. There were also a lot of great ideas presented, including from new businesses. We have to take advantage of that.
Has the new board discussed priorities for 2017 ?
Next week is our second meeting. We have set the events calendar and will have monthly membership meetings with breakfast sessions devoted to business education and evening mixers for networking and finding ways to collaborate. We’re also planning a newsletter that will include business news from national organizations and local chambers.
Do you have a pet project you’d like to see initiated?
Not a pet project, but we have to be responsive to our membership. Our big goal is to bring the diverse businesses in this community together. Most of the new board members are not from Main Street and some joined to help us think about that goal. We’re eager to hear from members on that issue.
Chamber-sponsored events such as the town-wide tag sale, summer music series and Halloween parade are popular with residents, but do they help business?
Others have brought that up. We want those events to continue, if it is financially viable. They bring business to Main Street but not to our full membership.
The Chamber website has been greatly improved but is very tourism-oriented. Is that at the expense of non-tourism businesses?
We want to tweak it, giving all businesses equal opportunity to be featured on the site. And we want residents to find it useful when they need to find a local business.
Many feel it is unnecessary for this small community to have two business groups — the Chamber and the Cold Spring Merchants’ Association. Will the new board address that issue?
[Immediate past president] Alison Anthoine and the previous board spent a lot of time working closely with the Merchants’ Association. We want to continue to build on that relationship.
The Chamber has 85 members, which seems like too few for an all-volunteer organization. Is thought being given to partnering or merging with the Beacon Chamber?
That is something Alison mentioned toward the end of her term. We’d love to discuss how we can collaborate with Beacon; there may be economies of scale in partnering for specific events.
There is a dearth of local tourism data to support marketing efforts. Should the Chamber gather visitor information such as hometown, mode of transportation, length of stay, spending, etc.?
We do that at HVSF. It would be good to reach out to other organizations to see what they do.
What could Putnam County Tourism do to aid the Chamber?
We can’t ask much of them until they hire an executive director. We have a good liaison with Barney Molloy on our board. [Molloy is also president of the Putnam Tourism board.]