Judi Latt and her husband moved their young daughter to the Adirondacks in 1997 because they felt Saranac Lake was a nice place to raise children. She didn't start out repairing computers. Judi's first job was teaching computer classes at Clinton Community College based on her previous experience as computer instructor at Jamestown Community College in western New York. Judi admits that she has been teaching computer classes since 1994.
With her background in graphic design and page layout, she started a tourist magazine called The Adirondack Monthly with her husband for about a year and half because, she laughs, "There should be another tourist magazine out there."
The day she closed Adirondack Monthly, she was hired to work for the Enterprise as the production manager.
(Photo — Diane Chase)
"It was an interesting place to be working on 9/11," Judi said. "I worked there for about three years before working at Paul Smith's College doing computer repair."
She was first a subcontractor when Paul Smith's College was building the Joan Weill Library and helped to pick out the new computers. After transitioning into a full-time position, Judi stayed there for an additional three years. She then began looking for another tech job and found work at the Adirondack Medical Center. She left in May 2010 to work for herself full time with Judi's Computer Support and Learning Center.
"Starting a small business anywhere is a daunting task for anyone," says Judi. "I was lucky enough to start my business on a part time basis while continuing to work full time. That helped lay the groundwork which made the transition to full time self employment much easier.
"I taught at North Country Community College eight years as adjunct professor and adult education, all computer classes," Judi said. "I've always been busy. Sometimes I would be teaching computer classes at NCCC in the evenings but still working fulltime during the day.
"In 2008 I slapped a sign on my car and started doing computer repair on the side. I was just dabbling in it. I would come out of the grocery store and someone would be waiting for me to ask about computer repair."
She first rented a small office space on Main Street in Saranac Lake then moved to a Broadway location. According to Judi, with the 2011 spring flood, she found herself closed down for the month of June and having to relocate due to mold.
"The basement flooded and no one cleaned up after the flood, so both my husband and I got ill," Judi said. "We moved to this new second floor location and did all new network jacks and wiring. We are at 41 St. Bernard with some of the government offices, the Labor Market Information Bureau and Health Department. All the other offices that are supposed to educate people, like the Labor Board, and get them back to work are in Malone. There is nothing here anymore."
The Computer Learning Center is in a separate room from the repair section on the business.
"I love doing the computer repair, but the training has always been my focus since 1994," Judi said. "I can look at someone's computer and see that maybe they need a bit of extra help. I was working with the Adult Center and providing training. We have an elevator now at this new location, so it's handicap- accessible. We have seniors come and sit in the groups. I am also working on a new project for veterans to help them build resume skills after they return from war. I have been talking to various people because other than NCCC, there is no other computer training lab than right here."
Judi sees herself as being able to work with area hotels and businesses for work retreats to provide computer training to employees.
"I am thrilled to be able to provide e-waste recycling here," Judi said. "With all the new laws that you can't take any electronics to the dump anymore, people don't know where to go. Being diligent and recycling the responsible way, we have worked with the Enterprise for the past few years where we would help collect and the newspaper's truck would drive all the old electronics over to Vermont to be recycled."
Judi praises Enterprise publisher Catherine Moore for help making that happen. The first year, Judi's Computer Support and the Enterprise collected 20 pallets of old computer equipment. The next year, the annual Earth Day event saved 10 pallets full of electronic waste from the dump. Judi wants people to know this isn't just a one-day a year event. She collects and disposes of old gear all year long for free at the 41 St. Bernard Street location.
"We are an official eWaste Alliance Partner," Judi said. "We aren't a dismantler. That is something else, someone who is dealing with all the toxic materials. We collect any old materials for free all year and have an organization out of Syracuse come once a month to collect and dispose of the materials. This isn't for export. It is legitimate, " assures Judi. "In some way, I consider that my way to give back to the community."
Judi said she makes sure to protect personal information by either erasing or destroying the computer hard drives. In addition to computers, she accepts keyboards, mice, fax machines, scanners, printers, VCRs, video game consoles, DVD players, electronic consoles, cable and satellite receivers, small scale servers, digital converter boxes, monitors and portable digital music players.
According to Green Peace International, the U.S. EPA estimated that 4.6 million tons of e-waste ended up in U.S. dumps in the year 2000 alone, not including the illegal exportation of e-waste to developing countries.
The New York State Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act law took effect April 1, 2011. It prohibits private and public waste transporters from disposing of electronic waste, including computers and televisions. The new law hopes to divert toxins such as lead, mercury, beryllium and cadmium from polluting the air, water and ground as well as conserving natural resources as materials are reused. Computer monitors and televisions can contain between 4 to 8 pounds of lead.
"There is a company out of Albany called New Horizons Computer Learning Center that does computer training. When a business needs computer training they are sending people three and a half hours away," Judi said. "It doesn't make sense. So I will be able to provide credentials because I am Microsoft and Dell certificated. I hope to finally get people and corporations to realize that Saranac Lake is a destination and there isn't any other training facility near here."
Other "irons in the fire" for Judi are working with a real estate computer training company to provide a space for business seminars, individual training classes and computer repair. JudisComputerSupport.com, lists all the various services and training classes such as Quickbooks and Microsoft Word.
"I won't teach a lot of these classes but I'll provide the space for those businesses that need a facility to train people in the latest technology," Judi said.
Judi admits when you work for yourself it is difficult to find spare time to recreate. She does have two German shepherds that help get her outside for short hikes and long walks in the woods to clear her mind.
On occasion she still gets out on her Harley, when the weather permits. Her daughter Jessica is "all grown up" and a graduate of the University of Buffalo cum laud with a major in psychology and a minor in sociology.
"Jessica is still living in Buffalo, working for a law firm and volunteering at the Buffalo Zoo," Judi said. "She loves to come back to visit - especially for Winter Carnival. I also enjoy going to antique stores, craft shows and art galleries. We have quite a lot of talented people living in this beautiful town."