Friday, May 30, 2008

Permit and Licensing Assistance

There are many industries and businesses in New York State that require permits and licensing in order to operate. Restaurants, day cares, liquor stores, contractors, and hotels are just a few of the more popular businesses that our clients start that require permits. In order to find out what NYS requires, the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform provides OPAL - Online Permit Assistance and Licensing.

OPAL provides information for all of the state agencies, as well as contact information, fees, and requirements for applying for the permits and licenses. The site also provides pages of "Helpful Information" on a variety of businesses, not just the ones that require permits. There is a keyword search to facilitate easy searching of the database.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Info on the Outdoor Industry


Planning some outdoor recreation? Its a great time of year for biking and hiking, and just getting outside.

Interested in the economic and demographic aspects of outdoor recreation? Check out the research provided by the Outdoor Industry Association.

Some of the more technical or current reports are only for members, but free reports include a 2006 state of the industry report, state by state examinations of the active outdoor economy, demographic profiles, and retailer operational analyses.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Intl Competition Effect on U.S. Mfg; Small Biz Energy Costs

Does international pressure really affect the survival of domestic manufacturers? Does it have the same effect regardless of size? A new study released by the Office of Advocacy, The Impact of International Competition on Small-Firm Exit in U.S. Manufacturing, provides answers. The study finds that changes in exchange rates affect the smallest of manufacturers, those with fewer than 20 employees, but have limited a impact on larger manufacturers. Manufacturing firms in high-tech industries felt less
impact from international pressures than low-tech industries did.

A full copy of this report is available here and the research summary can be found here. Should you need further information, please feel free to contact Brian Headd at (202) 205-6533 or advocacy@sba.gov.
***
This report, "Characterization and Analysis of Small Business Energy Costs,"
compiles available information to (1) characterize the potential impact of energy price increases on small entities in individual industry sectors; and (2) identify whether, and to what extent, small entities face higher energy prices by major economic sector. The study results indicate that small entities in the manufacturing and commercial sectors have the greatest exposure to energy price increases.

A full copy of this report is available here, and the research summary can be found here. Should you need further information, please feel free to contact Joe Johnson at (202) 205-6533 or advocacy@sba.gov.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Grants Database

Everyone has a story to tell about a client who wants/needs a grant for their business. We know from experience that there are very, very few (if any) grants for private, for-profit businesses.

Despite this experience, some clients are likely to insist that the money is "out there," somewhere.

If they insist, then send them to GrantGopher.com. It's just been released. It promotes itself as a free website where information on grant funding possibilities can be found.

From their home page:
"We believe that this information should be freely available, especially because grants are so desperately needed by people and organizations that may not be able to afford subscription fees or a professional grant researcher."

We're one of those organizations that have paid an annual fee for a database that we've used for your grants requests over the years (and that fee went up this year, and will go up again next year).

GrantGopher requires a free registration to access the information. In addition, it offers tips on grant writing, as well as how to conduct searches so as to get the best results.

From a recent press release:
"This service is offered to anyone interested in finding grant funding. While there are fewer grants available for individuals or small businesses (emphasis mine), GrantGopher.com does incorporate them in the database. Grant awards range from $300 into the millions, and are included from every source available, including community, family, and corporate foundations, as well as departments of local, county, state and federal government agencies."

It's worth a try . . .

Friday, May 23, 2008

Gas Prices

A few weeks ago, I filled up the gas tank in my car and for the first time ever, I paid over $40. For those of you that drive large cars, trucks, or SUV's, $40 must sound like heaven. But for myself and my little Honda Civic, $40 is a lot. It is predicted the the price could hit $5 per gallon by the end of the year and certain gas stations in Germany are already charging up to $8 per gallon. Below are links to websites to help your clients (and you) find the cheapest gas in the area.

Websites to find gas prices
Gas Price Watch
Gas Buddy
Gas Prices from Mapquest

The following links provide widgets that can be downloaded to your desktop or embedded in the programing of your blog or personal webpage.
Automotive.com Gas Prices Widget
Interdimension Media Gas Widget
Apple Gas Widget for Macs

Finally, here is a list of websites that are also pertinent to the gas crisis.
Fuel Economy
AAA Fuel Cost Calculator
Alternate Fuel Prices - Includes prices and purchase locations for BioDiesel, Ethanol, Electric, Hydrogen, LNG, and LPG.

*The majority of links found in this post were taken from an article in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday May 8, 2008.

Changing Minds

I was thinking about changing minds. How difficult it is to do. To change one's own mind or another's. From the point of view of an individual but also from that of a company or a brand - once a person has made up their mind about something, it almost doesn't matter what they hear or see. It seems that lack of perception is reality. If a person is not looking for new information, they are only picking up on the elements in a person or product that agrees with their established opinion. All other information is weeded out so that the image agrees with the bias.
We can see that in the political process, in the media; once a point of view has been repeated a few times, it solidifies in the mind and is intractable.

They say the key to changing someone's mind is to acknowledge and understand their point of view and then slowly point them to another option, and repeat.

Changing Minds: The Great Resistance
Branding Strategy Insider
Posted by Jack Trout
November 12, 2007

Attack of the Zombie Brands!
Why Tab, the Taurus, and so many other failed products are getting resurrected.
By Daniel Gross
Posted Friday, March 16, 2007, at 7:17 AM ET

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Government blogs - If the Health and Human Services Secretary has time, so do I

According to a recent article from Federal Computing Week there are at least 31 active public blogs run by federal agencies. This piece highlights 5 blogs hosted by (or at least related to) federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services (Secretary Mike Leavitt was the first head of an agency to write a public blog), the Congressional Budget Office, the State Department, and the Navy.

We spend a fair amount of time searching for federal regulations and statistics. This more personable and conversational side of federal government feels particularly refreshing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New York State Statistical Yearbook

The Rockefeller Institute of Government has published the 32nd edition of its popular New York State Statistical Yearbook, providing updated information on a vast array of state data and state agency contacts for news media, citizens, government officials, and others. The 714-page Yearbook contains information ranging from population and health statistics to information on education in the state. Information is freely available online as a series of Excel pages here.

For more information or to obtain a copy, click here. Read the news release.

Monday, May 19, 2008

File Converting Website

We have Adobe Standard on our desktops, which helps us convert Word documents, images, PowerPoint slides, spreadsheets, and the like into PDF files.

If you don't have this, here's one way to (freely) convert your stuff: a site called KoolWire. In addition to PDF, this site enables you to convert files into MP3, RTF, or WAV formats. On the home page, simply select (in Step 1) the format you want the item converted to. Click "start," and it will open a formatted email. Attach the file (or files - you can do more than one) to that email, click send, and await the results.

If your file (or files) are more than 10 MB in size, they require you to upload through their website instead of by email.

As for other file formats, check out the "KoolVersion Rules" link along the bottom of the home page.

As a test, I sent them a Word file earlier today. It was 54K in size, and took about 90 seconds to be turned around back to me. Pretty cool (with a "c," not a "k").

Friday, May 16, 2008

How To Do Almost Everything

Suppose you want to open an ice cream parlor. You like ice cream, you know most people like ice cream, and the city that you live in doesn't have an ice cream parlor. Sounds like a great idea for a business. Except for the fact that you have never worked in an ice cream parlor and really have no idea how to make, keep, or serve ice cream. Where would you go to learn the basics?

On Wednesday, May 7th the Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled "How to Teach Yourself How to do Almost Anything." In the article, a few websites were listed sources where interested individuals, including my hypothetical ice cream parlor owner, can go to find instructional videos.

Howcast - Cool how-to videos and guides from cutting-edge filmmakers, savvy experts, - and you!

How To Videos on Wonder How To - Video Instructions, Tutorials, and Hacks

eHow - How To Do Just About Everything

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Art Prices

I've had a few requests for pricing information for fine artists. There are a few sources either available online or available in paper at a local library or by subscription.

Gordon's Art Sales Index

Gordon's is described as one of the largest databases of artists and art prices used by collectors,museums, and others. You will find links here to other databases as well like:

Gordon's Photography Price Annual

Gordon's Print Price Annual

Hislop's art Sales Index

Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not a coincidence – matching television and advertising content

We know that television advertisers place advertisements during programs that attract their target demographic. Turner Entertainment Networks is taking it one step further. They have developed a program, TV in Context, which matches advertising content to related scenes in the program.

Read all about it in this New York Times article, Turner to Offer Marketers Way to Link Ads to Content. They provide a few examples of how this could work. Let’s say you’re watching the movie “Hitch” on a Turner channel. In one scene a character suffers an allergic reaction, and immediately following, viewers see drug store commercial for an allergy medication.

Turner is comparing the program to "contextual targeting, which is all the rage in online advertising and takes advantage of tracking the online behavior of computer users to serve them ads they would find relevant."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wayback Machine

Websites come, websites go. But are they really gone? Not always. There's something called The Wayback Machine, where you can retrieve old versions of current, or even defunct websites. It's not every page, and it's not every version of a given page; some companies block access to their pages.

It's not just curiosity, though, that fuels the Wayback's usage. Once, I had a question that involved accessing a form or document from the Bureau of Indian Affairs website. For some bizarre legal reason, the BIA page was blocked, but I was able to access the piece using the Wayback Machine to get an earlier version of the BIA site.

Here are 50 Fun Ways to Use the Wayback Machine.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Baby, You Can Ride Your Bike

Al Scher, our resident cycling geek, emailed me two interesting items this week. Both would be of interest to any clients you might have who run bike shops:

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune comes an article titled $4-a-Gallon Gasoline Knocking Bicycle Sales, Repairs Into a Higher Gear". Bike shop owners around the country are noticing a remarkable jump in the number of bikes being bought. I haven't had a bike in years, and I'm thinking of paying a visit to a local shop.

TheCyclePeople.com promotes itself as a site where 1.5 million cyclists visit often. This page is promoting a deal where owners of bike shops, touring companies, or cycling clubs can submit one or more listings - for FREE - for display for the rest of 2008. The catch is that they need to have the business' information by May 31st, 2008. So, again, if you have clients in this industry, let them know about this deal.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Grab Bag

Welcome back, everyone. Just a few items of general housecleaning:

1) You all got the email for the new LISTSERV that we set up earlier this week. Some folks have been in touch with us, saying that they'd rather not receive every single email that's posted to the list. If you're one of them, you can set it up so that you receive just one email a day that summarizes activity from the past 24 hours.

If you're interested, then just do this:

Send an email to: LISTSERV@LISTSERV.ALBANY.EDU

Leave the subject line blank.

In the body of the message, type:
SET NYSSBDC DIGEST

You'll get an email confirming this command. I'm not sure if it takes effect immediately, but definitely within 24 hours.

2) Our May 5th presentation was geared mainly at new advisors, but it was also meant to be a forum to exchange ideas on best practices on when & how to use our services. Not all of the new folks could make it, so I promised that we'd send out a summary of what went down that morning. Alexis has prepared a document, and asked me to look it over before it went out to the SBDC community. I'll send it out via the LISTSERV on Monday.

3) At that Monday meeting, Myriam Bouchard (from the Mid-Hudson center) suggested that the Research Network keep a repository of each center's media contact list. She has had occasions where one of her clients needed such a list for, say, Long Island. Having that information centrally located would be a help to clients like that.

With that in mind, she recently emailed the Mid-Hudson list to me. It has contact info and descriptions for 30+ newspapers and magazines that are pertinent to their center's service area. I'm assuming that they update the list regularly. If you have something similar, we'd like to start a repository of them. (When our wiki page is fully functional, that's a list that we can make available there.)

That's all for now. It was great seeing everyone again. Until next year . . .

Searching for NAICS Codes

I would like to start this blog by saying what a pleasure it was to meet most of you at this week's staff training. It was a wonderful opportunity to add faces to the names that are becoming familiar.

During this week's training, at the session regarding the updated MQS system that will debut next Spring, a point was made that the NAICS search function within the current MQS system is difficult to use at times. I would like to offer an alternative. The NAICS codes are listed online with definition throught the Census. Although the NAICS search function within MQS searches the text of the Census' NAICS directory, there is a way to do a tiered search of the directory.

The search starts with one of twenty broad industry categories. For example, Construction codes begin with 23. After Construction is selected, searchers can choose Construction of Buildings (236), Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction (237), or Specialty Trade Contractors (238). After a three digit code is selected, searchers can choose more specific selections to find the desired six digit NAICS code.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Thriving in Lean Times

Trying to stay on the bright side? I'm sure we'll be reading more about how we can conserve and make the most of what we have. Encouragement may come in the form of an article in Inc. magazine: Starting up in a Down Economy which looks at companies that got started in lean times. Some of the examples are household names like Coors, IBM, Domino's, Wikipedia, and Clif.

On a more personal (financial) note, The Simple Dollar looks at protecting oneself and succeeding in challenging times.

MSN Money: Smart Spending has a bit on it as well: Preparing for and Surviving an Economic Downturn Jan 11 2008 by Karen Datko

And from Small Business Notes comes Surviving an Economic Downturn with tips specifically geared to small business owners.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Copyright Orphans

Paul Rapp "is an intellectual-property lawyer with offices in Albany and Housatonic, Mass. He teaches art-and-entertainment law at Albany Law School, and regularly appears as part of the Copyright Forum on WAMC’s Vox Pop." He writes a regular column on intellectual property rights.

His most recent column addresses the "Orphan Works” copyright and potential legislation regarding it. What is an orphan work? Paul cites Meredith L. Patterson's Radio Free Meredith where she uses this example about "your parent’s wedding pictures from 1955. You want to publish them? Guess what? The copyrights are probably owned by the photographer! Who was who? And is now where? You don’t know? Uh-oh." The proposed bill, H.R.5889, the Orphan Works Act of 2008, seeks to provide "limitation[s] on remedies in cases involving orphan works."

Rapp wrote just before the actual legislation was introduced, but still got it right. "The legislation will...seek to rectify the problem of lingering, abandoned copyrights, to loosen this stranglehold of ghosts on our culture, by allowing the reuse of pre-existing materials in situations where after a reasonably diligent effort, no copyright owner has been located. If, after the work is re-published, a copyright owner shows up and says 'that’s mine', the copyright owner will be entitled to a reasonable licensing fee for the use, but won’t be able to stop the use."

If this legislation had been enacted, the case about the use of the street artist's picture for their business that Alexis wrote about last month would almost certainly have applied.

Rapp, BTW, is a/k/a Lee Harvety Blotto, drummer for the legendary Albany band, Blotto.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Fuel Economy website

Rising gas prices dominate the headlines these days. Our paper in Albany featured a photo of a family of three, with a gas pump wrapped around them collectively, like a python. It's a squeeze, all right, and a daily topic of conversation around here.

Fuel Economy is a website - an almanac, really - put together by the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office within the U.S. Department of (you guessed it) Energy. In addition to linking to sites with information on why we're paying $3.80 a gallon (check out the FAQs section in their "Gasoline Prices" section), there's also a wealth of material to help you when you're buying that new hybrid vehicle, or exploring alternative fuels.


And now, I'm off to drive my six-cylinder car to Kerhonkson. See you there!