Brooklyn in the Catskills?

Mark Greene, Kingston’s own Emmy winner and founder of Pecos Design, just submitted a proposal to the mayor that essentially rebrands the city as a tech hub, a sort of “Brooklyn of the Catskills” where hip, smart and small-biz savvy folks can relocate and thrive in an urban setting — yet be strikingly close to assets such as the Catskills, the Gunks and the Hudson.

“The city has a brand, but it is dormant,” Green said. “It needs to be brought back to life, and this is one way to do it.”

To see his entire proposal, read on…

Marketing Kingston, New York:
Creating A New Digital Tech-Friendly Brand

PART ONE: The Challenge for Kingston

Kingston’s Existing Marketing Brand: Kingston has typically been branded as an arts city with historic tourist attractions. This existing brand offers no point of difference from any other town in the Hudson Valley (or the Northeastern United States) and provides no clear incentives for potential incoming businesses or residents to choose Kingston. Furthermore, this brand is inert and vague.

Summary of Current Economic Development Challenges: Kingston is pursuing a traditional economic development strategy. With limited success, Kingston is attempting to attract small to medium manufacturing. Kingston is also also trying to attract national retail chains to shore up the city’s depleted retail tax base. To this end, the city of Kingston has undertaken an effort to shift the tax burden from businesses to home owners assuming that it is the retail tax burden that is causing small start up retail to often fail.

But this is not the key issue for the lack of healthy retail in Kingston.

Although high taxes do not help struggling Kingston retail businesses, the primary issue is that a large percentage of the residents of Kingston are low/fixed income and do not have the disposable income necessary to drive local retail. When they do spend money, they buy almost exclusively based on lowest price, which means they shop at big box discount retailers like WalMart. This makes creating robust retail activity in Kingston a challenging prospect.

Part Two: The Opportunity for Kingston

The solution: Recruit a new class of resident with a higher income level and a community minded interest in supporting local businesses.

Proposal:
Kingston should make a concerted effort to attract New York City and New York State wide web/digital entrepreneurs to relocate and set up shop in Kingston by branding itself as the upstate digital tech-friendly city.

Web entrepreneurs will find Kingston attractive due to the price point of real estate and the slightly more urban quality Kingston offers.

The benefits of attracting web/digital entrepreneurs to Kingston include the following:
* They have disposable income to fuel retail.
* Their income does not rely on the state or local tax base. (They are not teachers, city employees, or the product of a city or state funded jobs initiative.)
* Because they have a range of clients both nation wide and by business category , they function as “economic shock absorbers” for Kingston during times of regional or business category specific economic downturns.
* They purchase property, thereby taking real estate off of the rental roles and potentially eliminating “absentee landlords”.
* They hire local businesses/contractors to renovate property, improving Kingston’s economic outlook and housing stock
* They skew more progressive politically, thereby being mindful of shopping locally and supporting local retail businesses. (They tend to shop based on value not just on price.)
* They tend to be more active politically and in terms of their community.

Marketing Kingston to web entrepreneurs

Definition: Web/Digital Entrepreneurs
Web entrepreneurs are self employed or small business owners who offer the following services:
Web Design
Video Design, Editing and Post Production
Applications Programming
Web Marketing
Viral Marketing and PR
Graphic Design
Music Recording and Composition
Web Editorial Content
Web entrepreneurs are:
Self employed or work for companies with less than ten employees
Often work from home
Often pay for their own health insurance
Average between $40 – $100 thousand dollars a year in income
Have clients that are outside of Kingston and often outside of New York State
Are politically, socially and community wise, much more engaged

Part Three: Taking Action
“Define it and they will come.”
Branding Kingston as a Digital Tech-Friendly City

What Kingston offers:
*Proximity to NYC
*Cheap real estate relative to surrounding cities/towns
*Abundant warehouse space
*A burgeoning tech class
*Mixed work/living spaces in uptown and downtown
*Existing and planned tech focused business/educational centers

Kingston’s 721 Media Center and the planned Carnegie Library Digital Arts Center represent defining lynchpins of the new Kingston Digital tech-friendly branding Initiative.

By promoting these two entities and tying them to the web entrepreneur community here in Kingston, the city can re-brand itself in the eyes of surrounding communities and New York City.

How to Re-Brand Kingston on the cheap

1) Modify the city web site to include a Kingston Tech-Friendly component, inviting micro to mid size Web companies to visit Kingston and meet with real estate agents and local mortgage banks. Include links to WAREHOUSE SPACE LISTINGS and put up a Kingston AMAZING HISTORIC HOUSE OF THE MONTH link.

2) Create the Kingston Digital Business Association. Promote a monthly web entrepreneur party at a local pub or bar.

3) Have an annual Digital Tech Street Party every summer with technology displays, light shows and live music.  Call it the Kingston Digital Tech Street Party and promote it up and down the river.

4) Once a month, sponsor a bus to go to Brooklyn and bring a bus load of web/digital entrepreneurs up to tour Kingston and meet with real estate brokers. Then take them to the local brew pub and then return them to NYC.

5) Take another look at free wireless hot spots. At least some in uptown and downtown. Call them Kingston Tech Spots and make sure that all city locations who can share bandwidth are doing so. Each location can be posted on the city’s web site and branded with a logo at the location. Also list all other hot spots. It’s not a question of how many you create. This is a perception issue.

6) Reach out to local Chamber of Commerce to echo the new Kingston Digital tech-friendly branding and see if they can help organize additional events.

7) Create a Kingston Digital tech-friendly! logo and branding initiative. Begin putting the logo on all city business cards and buildings. Make it part of all city communiques.

8) Have the city’s Business Development Office focus on branding issues of importance to web entrepreneurs. Sell this new brand as part of the traditional economic development efforts.

9) Create buzz around tech in Kingston by promoting citizen’s who are running tech micro businesses here. Kingston has, EMMY and GRAMMY award winning micro business owners living and working here.  Promote them and others who work and live here.

10) Promote progressive assets in Kingston! Web entrepreneurs skew progressive. Promote what Kingston already has!
* Named number one arts city
* Natural Food Buying Club
* Nearby hiking and biking trails
* Waterfront access for Kayaking and Boating
* Kingston Land Trust
* Local music venues
* Uptown Bicycling Club
* Historic Real Estate
* Farmers Market in Uptown
* Fleicher’s Natural Meats
* Trailways Bus to NYC
* AMTRAK station just across the river
* Solar Energy Consortium
* Hudson Valley Tech Incubator
* Mac User Group
* Mid Town YMCA
* Victory Garden Initiative
* Community Gardens
* Walk friendly mixed business/residential neighborhoods
* Top restaurants
*UPAC Bardavon partnership
*Etc.

Summary:
While all of Kingston’s current economic development efforts are important and should continue, Kingston’s public branding is currently inert and unclear. Kingston is not differentiating itself from other Hudson Valley towns and cities. By not having a clear defined point of difference, Kingston is wasting it’s brand and missing opportunities to capitalize on things already happening here.

Why is this important? Kingston’s economic challenges stem from it’s significant percentage of poor and fixed income residents. In order to create and stabilize a viable RETAIL TAX BASE, Kingston needs to recruit a new more economically vibrant class of residents.

We recommend the city differentiate itself from dozens of “arts and historical” cities up and down the river by promoting itself as a “DIGITAL tech-friendly CITY” and promoting its clear points of difference: 721 Media Center, Planned Carnegie Library Tech Center, affordable real estate, ample warehouse space, tech assets, and its progressive quality of life assets to attract more web entrepreneurs. A successful effort to attract web/digital arts entrepreneurs will improve Kingston’s economic base. Only then will there be enough disposable income to support the retail tax base for the city.

We recommend the city rebrand itself as Kingston, the Digital Tech-Friendly City because that is exactly what we are becoming!

This branding proposal was created by Pecos Design, Inc.
A Kingston based web and digital design micro business.

markg@pecosdesign.com  http://www.pecosdesign.com

12 thoughts on “Brooklyn in the Catskills?

  1. I want to commend Mark Green for composing what is a brilliant, and frankly, obvious way to capitalize on some of our most valuable assets at this time. Kingston’s population has shifted dramatically – and will continue to do so. The changes need to be embraced instead of….ignored.

    I look forward to learning of his follow-up after meeting with city officials.

    Bring on Brooklyn! I’m a state of Mainer at heart. Combining my home now with one of my most favorite parts of New York City – Brooklyn – sounds like a brilliant idea to me Arthur!

  2. WOW!! Make it a mission statement! I am very impressed on his business acuity and how he perceives the city of Kingston and then to offer a plan is fabulous. He is so right. Nailed it on the head. Will be looking with great interest as to the city officials responses. I can get excited about this proposal.

  3. This touches on many important points, one of which is the economic importance of telecommuting as we enter a new economic and cultural era. Telecommuters in the category elaborated by Mark bring dollars in from other communities and spend them locally. We use less gas, bring foot traffic to our neighborhoods and provide neighborhood presence by working from home. We have more volunteer energy because we are here–not treating Kingston as a bedroom community but really living here. Telecommuting is good for employers because it lowers overhead, improves employees’ health and family life and therefore productivity. This plan could also be a means of promoting telecommuting at a time when its incidence should be increasing more rapidly.

  4. Mark, this is wonderful and I will be in touch to see whether you might participate in an April 4 conference called Magnetizing Cities (everyone note, program etc. available very soon) at Seven21.

    One friendly amendment: there is an emerging role for the green digital entrepreneur, w/ variations on the theme. Building science needs modelers, and so does transportation planning. Air and water quality need localized monitoring. Waste exchanges and time dollar systems and ride shares and all the rest… e-conferenceing… lots of ways that the knowledge economy and the green economy feed each other.

    I’ll follow up off list and welcome followups from other brainy people… and oh yeah, let’ s not only talk about recruiting… let’s talk about helping entrepreneurs who live here, to stabilize their professional lives here.

  5. Hat off to Mark as this is an opportunity which should be explored. As there are a growing number of us in this category – maybe we should just hold a first meeting see about forming the Digital Business Association as we really do not fall into the Uptown, Mid-town or Downtown associations.

  6. Some of you may remember back in the stone age when the fastest broadband was ISDN and we were the second building after the Kingston Fire Department to get ISDN we had a multimedia breakfast club that met once a month in our church/studios in the Rondout. I’d be happy to host a tech meeting here if you like.

  7. This is an excellent plan Mark. Wonderful opportunities.
    I don’t think the Mayor should be too involved. I do not trust him at all. Take care.
    Lisa

  8. This is an interesting proposal. I’m a little late in the game here, it’s two years after this post was written, but, anyway…. My first thought is…Great!… someone’s interested in making Kingston a better place to live. My second thought is, wait… so you’re saying basically you want to replace the current Kingston population with a new, hipper, more tech-savvy, wealthier one? This poses some problems. Don’t get me wrong, gentrification has done good things for Brooklyn and Long Island, and is in the process of spreading out the mega-money of Manhattan into Queens, Staten Island, Bronx, and the Hudson Valley. However, it seems to me that this is a rally cry to an effort which would push out people who have lived in this area for generations in favor of people who just have more money to spend (but who probably have less invested in the long term health of the community). This proposal doesn’t solve the fundamental problems which exist in Kingston: big-box stores exporting capital out of Kingston, little access to fresh and local produce, talent being funneled from the local schools out of the Kingston area, and increasing commercial development taking over the local landscape which could be a source of fresh, local food and which holds potential for increased tourism.

    I say the people of Kingston should act in favor of an ethnically, spiritually, and economically diverse community which looks to solve problems not by replacing the current population and exporting the “issues” to another town, but by building a healthy, holistic, and sustainable local infrastructure which could support its diverse population. From there, dependence on stores like Wal-Mart would decrease, and the flow of capital could stay within the community. This approach would mean that we not merely advertise on blogs for wealthy telecommuters to come live in Kingston, but that we invest in the local structures such as public schools, libraries, police and fire departments in order to retain the kind of talented, committed public servants which hold a community together.

    Don’t get me wrong, I personally appreciate any effort which would improve the quality of life in Kingston; but a meaningful proposal should improve the quality of life for ALL citizens, not just the ones who think the same, make the same amount of money, or want to see the same art galleries/boutiques/restaurants in the town. A truly whole community is built around the desire to see long term sustainability – both economic and ecological. And that type of vision means everyone should be involved.

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