PAUL SMITHS - Community.
That was the theme of this year's Student Business Symposium at Paul Smith's College, where students gathered to hear from numerous speakers including state Sen. Betty Little, NBT Bank President-CEO Martin Dietrich, and two panels of small business and economic development professionals.
"We do well when we do right by our community," said Dietrich, the keynote speaker of this year's event. The symposium was organized by Prof. Diane Litynski and students in the college's Business Management and Entrepreneurial Studies Program.
NBT Bank Executive Vice President Jeff Levy speaks at a business symposium last week at Paul Smith’s College.
(Photo — Jake Sporn, Paul Smith’s College)
Dietrich said NBT Bank has strengthened the communities it operates in by donating to nonprofit groups, helping people buy cars and homes, teaching financial literacy to the public and investing in the employees and future employees who serve those communities' banking needs.
"That's real important stuff," Dietrich said. "Community banks are a special profession, and I just wanted to take this opportunity to show you how much good they can do. Helping people is my favorite part of the job."
Little told students that new infrastructure could help bring more year-round residents to local communities and boost the economy.
While tourism is the region's biggest business right now, she said, attracting more year-round seasonal residents is even better for the economy because those people attract more caretakers, plumbers and electricians along with people who work in the skiing and fishing industries.
One way to do that is to expand the area's broadband Internet cable infrastructure, Little said. She pointed to the recent expansion of broadband in Keene, where many residents can now work from home.
"You're good for the area's economy, too," Little told the crowd, comprised of about 70 students. "But our goal is to keep you here after graduation."
The symposium concluded with two panels of small business and economic development professionals from the United States Small Business Administration, the North Country Chamber of Commerce, SCORE and the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources for the state Senate.
Their message was simple: There are resources in the community to help start-ups and existing businesses, and students should take full advantage after graduation. Those resources do everything from helping start-ups develop a business plan to providing benefits and counseling for existing businesses.
"Many people fail to take advantage of these free resources, even though they would really benefit from them," said Erica Choi, the senior area manager for the United States Small Business Administration in Albany. "Don't be afraid to ask for help."
(Editor's note: The byline of this story has been corrected.)