The Wappingers Falls Business Professional Association is a collective of business people from the Village of Wappingers. An eclectic and accomplished group of individuals working towards a common goal: to grow the business district in the Village and to nurture a culture of community and togetherness.
A few months ago, I had the chance to ask the Mayor of Wappingers, Matt Alexander, and the former president (and current director) Kristin Catalano, about the association. (For personal reasons, this article didn’t run a few months ago and for that I apologize. I highly recommend that if you have a business in this area, you should check out a membership in the association). The association is a sponsor of Wild About Wappingers.
What is the purpose of the WFBPA and why is it important to the local businesses?
Kristin: The purpose of the Wappingers Falls Business & Professional Association is to provide a vehicle through which Village businesses and individuals may work towards a better business and community environment. It serves not only the Village of Wappingers Falls, but the Towns of Wappinger and Poughkeepsie, and stretches to other outlying communities.
The association is important because, like with anything, there are strength in numbers. When we come together to accomplish something, we get noticed when it’s all of us. It does not come without some bumps in the road. Unfortunately, sometimes businesses come and go, and we hate to see something fail. It hurts the community. But generally, there is an attitude of positivity and excitement for the future and when the businesses are confident and welcoming, the community feels that.
What impact has the WFBPA had on the economic development of the Village?
Mayor: The Business Association is a fierce advocate for the businesses in the Village and, furthermore, they are a tireless promoter for the Village. Case in point, during the closure of Rt. 9D when our anchor building Goring Hall suffered a structure threatening partial wall collapse that ultimately led to the demolition of the building, the association stepped up. They played a key role in gathering the comments from the businesses and brought them back to Village Hall to ensure that business needs were addressed. They have advocated on behalf of their fellow business owners to ensure that communication made its way back to businesses regarding road projects and closures. I’ve been excited to meet with them on how our state-funded Brownfield Opportunity Area Program Study could be a really transformative planning document that brings real value for our Economic Revitalization. They have been working along with other members of the community on this important document to make it relevant for future business investment in the Village.
Local business seems to be booming. What would you say is the biggest reason for this?
Mayor: As much as it would be fun to say that this is something for which we were directly responsible, the booming factor really has to do with the natural expansion of the national economy after one of the worst downturns since the Depression. When our administration took office at the beginning of the downturn, we asked why has the Village successfully avoided the largest economic expansions in American history. After mall culture devastated Cities and villages, the village missed the go go boom days of the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s. We decided that we would invest as much as we could in our infrastructure to prepare this community for the imminent uptick which would follow the 2007 downturn. Back then, we had no idea that it would last as long as it did. However, we found that it was a great time to take advantage of low interest rates and low contractor pricing, while leveraging those elements with $30 million in grant awards. We then began to invest in the village with a very aggressive program for our capital infrastructure. What we found was that there was a nearly 2:1 ration for private investment on public investment. We also experienced the positive effects of improvements that were made to our community. It increased pride in our community, investment from outside as well as bettered our perception from visitors. In essence, we positioned the Village to ride the wave of economic expansion in a way that made outside investors more interested in investing in our future, because they could be assured that we believed in investing in ourselves.
Kristin: Of course, economic flow has certainly helped with economic revitalization. We are surrounded by many communities that are in the peak or near end of their revitalization, and we are happy to see it start to expand in our area. The difference recently is that the Village is really trying to work to be more business friendly, as far as its zoning regulations and codes go to make opening business here more streamline. The business association is just happy to be a voice for these concerns and help where we can.
There have been many events, such as Make a Difference Day, Solarize Wappingers, Taste of History, to name a few. What is the Village hoping to accomplish by hosting so many events?
Mayor: We are really trying to fill the gaps and provide better services/support/entertainment for our residents. A healthy community is one that seeks to better itself and its residents by addressing a great many issues faced by all of us. The last two events by the Village were interesting because they really came from grass roots organizations coming together. Habitat for Humanity approached us from a desire to spread their good work to the Village of Wappingers Falls – they brought Thrivent Financial and really made a great difference in our community by addressing needs in a big way for our community. The Solarize campaign has been a great success because they have been working to offer not only savings to our residents but also weaving everyone into the push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the ever increasing associated climate change. I would say that all of these events coming up in the Village show that we have a healthy invested and involved community that wants to continually offer more to our residents.
What else does the association do to bring a sense of community to the Village? Do you think this was missing for the businesses and residents in the past?
Mayor: The association offers a platform for residents/business owners to network together and discuss needed improvements/investments/opportunities. I don’t think this was missing in the past. In fact, the association has existed for decades. I think that it served a much different community back then where residents and business owners were much more home grown and there was a generations old thriving community that knew how to take care of its own problems. I would say that this business association has evolved to address changing dynamics that are happening here in the village (and all throughout the country) to allow newcomers, new businesses and others to get together and network and make great positive change with their investments in the Village.
Why is the Wappingers Falls Business and Professional Association important to the area and has their been any challenges with the community and the association?
Mayor: The association collaborates on ways of promoting the village as an investment opportunity area. It reaches out to its businesses to address their concerns to the appropriate agency/local government. It brings information back to its community to share with each other. One of the best things about this association is that it not only welcomes businesses, but allows residents to also join. Because our community has so many resident business owners, there is a real sense of ownership where business/resident conflicts are minimized for the most part. It has been a positive link between community and investors.
I love that the goal of the WFBPA is not only to help businesses, but to help the residents, as well. You have organized events such as the Job Fair and Clean Sweep.
Kristin: Working as a community is first and foremost; business and residents cannot survive without each other. And showing that we care about the whole picture is what drives our events. Last summer, we hosted our First Annual Festival at the Falls. It drew people from in and around our community, allowing us to show off our assets but also do something nice for the community without having to spend a lot. We have also had programs where we give back to our businesses. This past spring, we had a lot of infrastructure projects happening which meant roads closed for several weeks and a dusty mess when it was done. The Business Association sponsored a window washing campaign for every business on Market Street, East Main Street and South Avenue that was touched by the construction. It was free to the businesses and just something to show them we stand behind them.
Simply, the businesses thrive, the community thrives. People have a better place to live, property values go up, a general better morale. A healthy economic structure means only good things for those who live in and around it, and that starts with our businesses.
Mayor, anything else you would like to add about the association?
Mayor: It’s a great way to network with others who are looking for opportunities to better the village through their own business ventures. Great collaborations can come from meeting and talking with others who have worked on their own businesses. The association goes a step further to give back to the community as a whole. The association’s first community wide festival was a great hit and appreciated by all of our residents as well.
Thank you both for your time and terrific responses.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the WFBPA, please email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.