When the pandemic shut down the economy in late March, many of Hudson’s thriving small businesses ground to a halt. Instead of waiting for the flow of visitors, shoppers, and diners to return, however, members of the business community began to refocus their efforts to come up with creative solutions.
“I’m a great believer and fan of this community,” says Anita Otey, a Catskill resident and the manager of KeyBank in Hudson. “It’s one of the most diverse communities in our area and we have opportunities to support one another that maybe other communities don’t.”
Otey’s enthusiasm for creating common ground was part of what inspired her to join the Hudson Business Coalition this year and to take a seat on its board this summer. “It gives businesses a place to brainstorm together, and outside-of-the-box thinking happens when you have people from different types of business and aspects of life,” she says.
While the Hudson Business Coalition has always had a mission to stimulate the city's business district, the pandemic has revealed the importance of ensuring its membership and initiatives support those outside its historic core of brick-and-mortar stores. “We have an opportunity to be more inclusive and mindful of businesses that are off of Warren Street, don’t have a storefront, or provide professional services,” says Eric De Feo, founder of the Hudson Community Incubator and another recent addition to the Hudson Business Coalition board.
This May, as part of its efforts to support the entire business community, the organization’s membership has worked together on several new initiatives. In May, it introduced Hudson Bonds. The program aims to help rebuild the community by enabling small businesses to reopen safely when they’re ready. Each $50 bond provides $25 to the purchaser to spend at any participating business and allocates the other $25 to a grant fund where those same businesses can get direct relief.
To better serve the city’s residents, businesses, and visitors alike, the organization also just launched a new website that serves as a digital hub for aggregating info on how to best enjoy everything Hudson has to offer—from upcoming events to how to safely visit and resources for supporting the city's business and cultural communities.
The initiatives quickly attracted the interest and funding support of the City of Hudson Tourism Board and the Columbia Economic Development Corporation, which have been working extensively to support creative events and initiatives throughout the city during the pandemic. “This is a group that makes me feel so good about Hudson,” says Tourism Board member Chris McManus. “It was very clear that with the programs they put forth, we weren’t just funding one program or event. We are helping every single business in Hudson continue to thrive.”