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Opportunities in the County for New Businesses are on the Rise
National Small Business Week, which spans May 4 though 8, crept up quietly in Saratoga County this year, with small businesses out doing what they do best – raising awareness about the contributions of small businesses to communities.
The annual event is hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration and designed to recognize the nation’s top small businesses, entrepreneurs and business advocates.
“Small business is the backbone of all our communities making our towns, cities and villages unique and a destination for many,” Denise Romeo, IOM, vice president of member services, Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said. “Behind every small business there’s an independent owner who has a story worth knowing. We should all take some time to learn what those stories are and how they have impacted the communities in which we live.”
One local businessman said that Saratoga Springs has become a hotbed for up-and-coming businesses.
“About 90 percent of our members are small businesses,” Tim Holmes, president of the Downtown Business Association and principal at Wheatfields Restaurant, said. “There are more areas of development in the downtown corridor, creating more opportunities for small businesses. In the last three-to-five years, we're seeing a lot of new startups, especially in the areas of marketing, technology and retail.”
According to Holmes, small businesses represent 50 percent of the employers in Saratoga County.
Clint Braidwood, owner of Saratoga Olive Oil Company and co-owner of the new Saratoga Tea and Honey Company at 348 Broadway in Saratoga Springs, is not surprised.
“Saratoga is the gem of the area. Minus maybe a few coastal areas, I'd rather be right here than anywhere else inland in New York and New England,” he said.
“This is a real neighborly place to do business,” said Alex Miller, co-owner of Saratoga Tea and Honey. He acknowledged that becoming a small business owner is quite an undertaking. “We didn't do anything the easy way, but it's been fun. We did a lot of the renovations ourselves [on the building]. It's really rewarding to walk on a floor that I laid.”
Miller said that he and the Braidwoods were committed to using local businesses to help them get their new store off the ground.
“We worked with local craftspeople and small business owners for our cabinetry, rough cut wood, electrical, things like that,” Miller said. “We've been working with TC Paris on Henry Street – they are helping us out with the complimentary shortbreads we offer when people buy a pot of tea. We're really grateful for everyone's support here.”
More than 90 percent of the shop’s items cost less than $20. They hope to provide the region with a wonderful and affordable gift-giving option. The store serves mainly as a retail operation but offers iced and hot cups of tea to go. Guests are also encouraged to sample the wide variety of teas at their eight-seated tea bar.
Kari McEntee is currently working on opening a bed and breakfast in Stillwater. She said she was kick-started by her family and passion for the town.
“When my brother become mayor of Stillwater, he spoke passionately about the importance of bringing small businesses to the village,” she said. “It inspired me to come home to Stillwater, get a plan together, and see my Newland House Bed and Breakfast dream come to fruition.”
“It's great to experience the process working, from funding to starting a business to touching so many people in the community,” said Amber Chaves, owner of The Bundle Store in Ballston Spa, a natural parenting store that offers natural products, classes and other resources to families and expectant parents. She began her business with a loan from the Community Loan Fund, and plans to hire additional staff soon.
“Non-traditional lending opportunities like ours help people make their dreams come true using their natural abilities to build a business and contribute to local economies,” said Linda Chandler, director of development of the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region.
“It's important to support small businesses,” said Matthew Hosek, business development officer at Ballston Spa National Bank. “The owners are your neighbors. Their children are on the same sports teams as your children. The are clearly an invaluable part of communities, and we are fortunate to have two strong chambers of commerce to support their efforts.”
Susan Farnsworth, director of promotion and marketing at Saratoga's Downtown Business Association, agrees.
“It's unbelievable how much they give back to the community,” she said. “Their presence creates a warm, friendly place here, a safe and vibrant region that attracts conventions to the Saratoga Springs City Center, which in turn attracts business for our local entrepreneurs and small businesses. It's quite a partnership.”
Local Teen Opiate Use Still on the Rise
SARATOGA SPRINGS – It was a night that would permanently suspend a parent’s disbelief. The Parent University of Saratoga Springs City School District presented a program in conjunction with the Prevention Council on Tuesday evening that brought home in no uncertain terms that the heroin epidemic is just as real in Saratoga Springs as it is across the country. The program, "The Heroin Epidemic - What is the Impact on Saratoga Springs?” was held April 28 in the Saratoga Springs High School Library to about 75 parents, district staff and community members.
Speakers included Robin Lyle Director of Coalition Development at the Prevention Council and Maigan, a 26-year-old recovering opiate addict. With facts, figures, and honest revelations, the speakers brought home to parents the ease with which any child can access and become addicted to prescription drugs and heroin, including in Saratoga Springs.
"By hosting the Parent University workshop on heroin addiction, the School District brought attention to a growing problem in our community,” said Michael M. Piccirillo, Superintendent of the Saratoga Springs City School District. “Parents need to be informed about the connection between gateway drugs like alcohol and marijuana, which can lead to the use of opiates like heroin, so they can be vigilant in ensuring the health and welfare of their children.”
“Abuse of prescription pain killers has become more common in small cities like this one,” said Lyle, “so it's important that we get this information out there. We're seeing increasing numbers of overdose situations, and the NY Times recently reported that heroin overdose deaths now exceed traffic fatalities nationwide.”
Lyle spoke about the causes of the heroin epidemic, which she says primarily is the use and misuse of prescription drugs. “Young people aren't seeing it as risky now that it doesn’t need to be injected anymore.”
She advises that parents dispose of any unused, unwanted prescription drugs. “Opiate-based prescription drugs can get them started on heroin. Kids can get the same high from heroin for cheaper than from prescription drugs, which can run $150 per pill. A small bag of heroin is about ten bucks. Fifty percent of participants in drug treatment have court criminal charges related to heroin use, and all but one started with prescription drugs.”
The audience also heard from Maigan, a recovering addict. “Maigan was really terrific,” said Lyle. “She had a lot to share. It’s a harrowing story of something that could happen to any child. She was honest and courageous, and when she spoke of spending $1,000 a day to support her habit, the audience just gasped.”
"Sadly we have been experiencing approximately 4-6 heroin related overdose deaths per year for the past couple of years," said Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Veitch. "We have another 20 or so responses to overdose situations that require transport to the hospital."
According to Saratoga Springs Fire Chief Robert Williams, “Heroin is cheaper and more available. Teenagers tend to experiment and it’s very addictive. Once it gets ahold of you, it’s tough to get it off your back.” He said they answered 135 calls in 2014 for poison ingestion, which included alcohol and accidental or purposeful overdose. He said they administered Narcan 13 times over the last 12 months. “Narcan neutralizes the opiate receptors, reversing the effects within seconds.”
“We have definitely seen a significant rise in heroin,” said Veitch. “For perspective, from 2001-2006 when I worked in the narcotic unit as an investigator we never once were able to buy heroin on the street. From 2008-2013 when I supervised the drug unit we only purchased heroin on the street sporadically, maybe a few times per year. Today (2014-2015) we buy heroin on the street in about half of all narcotics purchases, which is about 20-30 times per year. We routinely arrest people in possession of small amounts and with needles (several times per month).”
“It's good that schools be very concerned about opiate addiction,” said William Bean, Program Manager at St. Peter's Addiction Recovery Center (SPARC) in Saratoga Springs at 125 High Rock Avenue. “They can help parents realize the issue is more the over-prescribed availability of opiates in households, which is a much more insidious problem than they might think. Adolescents will experiment with pills that are free. They find them and share them. We must let parents know that this medication needs to be closely guarded and locked up.”
Prescription drugs containing opiates that are often abused include: Vicodin (hydrocodone & acetaminophen), Percocet (oxycodone &acetaminophen), Oxycontin (oxycodone), Darvon (propoxyphene), Dulaudid (hydromorphone), morphine and codeine. Codeine can also be found in prescription cough medicine. For parents unsure if their medication includes opiates, Bean advises, “When in doubt, lock it up.”
A couple years ago, the state passed a law that mandated controlled substance prescriptions go into a shared database so people cannot go from doctor to doctor getting over-prescribed.
Dr. Manuel Astruc, M.D., Medical Director at Saratoga County Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment Center and practicing psychiatrist in Saratoga Springs for 18 years, added that the new law had some unintended consequences. “This new system mandates medical practitioners to check the patient’s database for already-prescribed controlled substances,” he said. “Now that supply has dried up. It’s resulted in more people turning to heroin. This is a real problem because they don’t know what they’re getting on the street. Potency and purity varies, increasing the risk of people dying from accidental overdose.”
Fortunately, recovery programs have improved greatly over the years and many are outstanding. “The adolescent program here is for those between 12 and 17 years old,” said Bean. “There are usually about 12-15 kids in a program on average. Groups meet twice a week, one with a family member present, such as a parent, and the other a teen topics group. We also have individual sessions. The average length of stay in the program is right around six months to eight months.”
Bean said that many of the program’s adolescents are referred either through a school, a family member, or through the legal system such as PINS, family court, criminal court, a probation officer, or a family physician or mental health provider such as Four Winds in Saratoga Springs.
“Recidivism is an issue, but anecdotally, I think that involving one or both parents has been very effective,” said Bean. “We know that treating an adolescent as an adult is not effective. We have wonderful staff here who do wonderful work with kids, and are able to hold their attention. We’ll see some kids come back into treatment and perhaps fall back into trouble, but there's no cure for addiction. That’s where parents come in, and it’s not easy. Adolescents are not really set up to talk with much intimacy with adults. Developmentally they are supposed to be developing relationships with their peers. When a parent asks an adolescent ‘where does it hurt’, it's counter-developmental. We introduce ways of communication to normalize that, educate parents and adolescents and help the process. Although they may look like it, the truth is that kids don’t stop listening.”
Dr. Astruc reminds parents, “An adolescent’s central nervous system hasn’t matured, which makes them more prone to risky behaviors. They are not adults, so we have to manage those expectations.”
Bean said that the issues that lead to someone wanting drugs start at a very early age. “The problems didn't happen yesterday,” he said. “We see a lot of parents come in and say ‘fix Johnny, there's nothing wrong with us’, but in truth it is a family disease. Nobody asks for addiction, but something in the family opens this up. Parents are going to ask, ‘how can we see this coming’, but you really can't.”
So what can a parent do? “Be as genuinely interested in your teenagers’ lives without smothering them,” said Bean. “As they get older, let them stretch outside the home, but still be involved and hold them accountable, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Kids do turn themselves around with treatment, and treatment helps everyone in the family. Communication is the central core of all of this. Listening and asking questions that lets them know you’re listening.”
"Monitor the painkillers or other prescriptions given legitimately to your child," said Lyle. "Count them, or dispense just the amount your child needs for that day. That way you know where those pills are going." Following doctor's orders will help keep children from becoming addicted to their medications that contain controlled substances like opiates.
"Teens and young adults often do not understand the risks associated with drug use," said Veitch. "In particular, heroin addiction is exceptionally difficult to handle for both the user and their loved ones. Heroin is an issue in Saratoga Springs as it is everywhere and law enforcement is only one part of the solution. Families, friends and service agencies all have a part to play in reducing the adverse effects that heroin has on individuals, their loved ones and the community.
Parent University is a community collaboration that offers opportunities for parents and caregivers to continue their learning. All events are open to parents, caregivers and staff of all buildings and grade levels.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – In honor of Arbor Day, Sustainable Saratoga held its Second Annual Tree Toga event on Saturday, April 25, training and leading volunteers in planting 25 large shade tree varieties around the city.
“I’d like to commend all the volunteers, not only this year, but last year, too,” said Anthony "Skip" Scirocco, Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Public Works. “I’m glad the group keeps getting bigger. Hopefully it’ll catch on for future generations. I don’t mind supplying the trees – Tree Toga is a major benefit to the city.”
“It’s really exciting! Our goal is to plant large species trees in high profile areas with the intent that they will be here 100 years from now,” said volunteer Linda Whittle of Saratoga Springs. “The city would have to plant 500 trees a year to keep up with what’s being taken down due to development, but they can’t plant that many. Tree Toga and the Centennial Trees project will make a big difference.”
Sustainable Saratoga has also begun a Centennial Tree project with a goal of raising funds to plant 100 trees over the next three years in honor of the city’s 2015 Centennial. About 70 volunteers met on Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market area at High Rock Park to gather tools and trees and learn how to plant them. The trees for both projects include basswood, crab apples, oaks, tulip poplars, American elms and maples, among others. The trees were provided by the City of Saratoga Springs, and the planting project was funded by Sustainable Saratoga.
“We sent them out to 25 sites around the city,” said Tom Denny, point-person for the Tree Toga project and board member of Sustainable Saratoga. “We planted bare-root trees, which means the roots aren’t covered in heavy soil and wrapped in burlap. Without all the extra weight, we were able to plant trees that were about two inches in diameter and up to 14 feet tall. With that size, they already make a little bit of an impact, but they’ll be really something before you know it. They say one generation plants the trees and the next enjoys the shade.”
The Tree Toga effort began in a roundabout way. In 2008, some citizens reached out to the city of Saratoga Springs to encourage the city to seek a grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for a tree inventory and master plan.
“Well, the economy tanked, and the city was about to give up the grant because they couldn’t finish the inventory, so Sustainable Saratoga organized over 120 volunteers to inventory 5,600 trees for the city's DEC grant.” The grant was saved and Sustainable Saratoga’s Tree Toga effort began.
The nonprofit has a supportive, ongoing partnership with the city’s Department of Public Works for the Tree Toga program, which is dedicated to helping the City of Saratoga Springs with the annual planting of trees in line with the Master Plan. The city plants about 50-80 trees a year, and Tree Toga adds another 25-30 on top of that.
According to Denny, the city used to plant two tree species, one small ornamental and one large. “The new Master Plan recognizes that we need more diversity, so we’re including basswood and crab apples, for example,” said Denny.
The trees are planted in the City Right-of-Way (ROW), which refers to a tree lawn between a sidewalk and the curb. Tree planting sites were selected by Sustainable Saratoga in consultation with the City Arborist.
A 2012 City study revealed that Saratoga’s $120,000 tree budget returned annual benefits and savings to the community of over one million dollars. According to Sustainable Saratoga, trees are one of the most cost-effective parts of an urban infrastructure. Trees save energy, reduce air and water pollution, and store carbon that mitigates climate change. They increase property values and enhance the profitability of retail and restaurant businesses. Trees reduce healthcare costs, provide habitat and food for wildlife, and beautify the city.
Denny became involved with the inventory effort in 2011 with a small patch in his neighborhood. “Before I knew it, I was point-person for the Tree Toga project. It helps that I’m recently retired, so I have time to devote to this important work.” Denny retired from teaching music history at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. For more information about Sustainable Saratoga, please visit sustainablesaratoga.org.
Community Leader Discussion Panel Highlighted New Directions on Marketing and Overhead
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Representatives of nonprofits, businesses, and people interested in philanthropy traveled from as far as Hudson, N.Y. to hear nationally renowned TED Talk speaker Dan Pallotta challenge their thinking about charitable giving on Tuesday, April 21, at the Saratoga Springs City Center.
His talk before a crowd of nearly 400 people – representing a broad spectrum of nonprofits, businesses, board members, staff, clients and donors – was titled “If We Changed the Way We Think About Charity, Charity Could Change the World.” Pallotta is the founder and President of the Charity Defense Council and founder and Chief Humanity Officer of Advertising for Humanity.
“I really appreciated Dan’s emphasis on the importance of investing in the capacity of an organization to meet its mission,” said President and CEO Karen Bilowith of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region. “In our work, matching donors and nonprofits, we understand the need for overhead, for tools and staff to accomplish their mission. On all sides there are misperceptions about the cost of delivery of services, and we need to provide funding to nonprofits often for capacity.”
The event was presented by the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region; Captivate, the Regional Alliance for a Creative Economy (RACE); the Center for Economic Growth, and the Saratoga County Chamber. It was sponsored by KeyBank and Steadfast Risk Advisors, LLC, with support from Leadership Saratoga, The Saratogian and Saratoga TODAY.
“It’s been a dream of mine to bring Dan here to talk about transforming the way the donating public thinks about charity and change,” said Kathleen Fyfe, Vice President of Community Development and
Program Director of Leadership Saratoga at the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. “We wanted people to have an opportunity to hear his message, which is pretty cutting edge, and we couldn’t have done it without all the great support we received from our program partners and sponsors.”
Pallotta spoke about the tremendous competition for donor dollars nationally, which is also apparent in the Capital Region. According to the Charitable Barometer Report of New York’s Greater Capital Region by the Community Foundation in 2011, “Charitable organizations are substantially more optimistic than donors about future giving levels in the region. Almost three-quarters of organizations expect giving to remain the same. Half of donors expect future giving to decrease.” The report discusses increased selectivity and higher scrutiny of organizations by local donors in future.
Robert Scrivens, AIF, CFP, Managing Partner of Steadfast Risk Advisors, LLC, said he thought the program was an overwhelming success, and he appreciated the irony of Pallotta’s juxtaposition of for-profit administrative expectations with the high scrutiny of nonprofit overhead costs.
“I highly doubt that Apple is kicking themselves over how much they paid Steve Jobs as CEO,” said Scrivens, “but for a nonprofit to pay a CEO his or her worth, it’s seen as obscene waste. The attraction, retention, and recruitment of good people is a talent war, but as Dan said, nonprofits have been pushed into a low self-esteem environment when it comes to spending money on their own people. They’re only cutting their own legs off.”
“I hope businesses and donors took away the idea that they should ask questions about a nonprofit’s effectiveness rather than just administrative overhead and general metrics,” added Bilowith.
Following the keynote was a panel discussion moderated by Linda Toohey, Chair, Skidmore College Board of Trustees. Program panelists included Laura Schweitzer, PhD., President, Union Graduate College; Bo Goliber, Community Relations, Fingerpaint Marketing; Doug Sauer, CEO, New York Council on Nonprofits; and Theresa Agresta, Partner, Allegory Studios. The audience asked several questions, including about marketing.
“There’s a bias against marketing in the nonprofit community,” said Agresta. “Some see it as a manipulation, but it’s made a huge shift toward transparency. It has to be a part of a nonprofit’s toolkit to develop a strong message and share it. The same tactics used to motivate in the for-profit sector can be used to move the needle in the nonprofit sector as well. Motivation and manipulation are not the same thing.”
Rodney Brewer, II, Managing Partner at Steadfast Risk Advisors, LLC, agreed. “What people need to take home from Dan’s words today,” he said, “is the importance of taking their dollars and maximizing the opportunity through marketing and increased exposure to their mission. Don’t fear getting a bigger donation.”
The keynote and panel discussed storytelling and emotive appeal as an important and natural part of sharing a nonprofit’s mission with the larger community, and challenging how the donating public think about administrative costs.
“I am delighted the event was so successful,” said Fyfe. “I know some people went in thinking ‘there’s no way this program will change my mind about overhead’, but they were surprised and afterward commented that they not only ‘got it’, but were committed to telling other people. These one-on-one conversations will change the story, and that’s how we can change the culture and how we perceive nonprofits and administrative costs.”
“Dan’s talk was a validation. We are on the same page,” said attendee Kathy Lanni, Chief Community Officer of SEFCU. “The system has to change in the charitable community. I agree that the lowest overhead for the highest impact may not be fair. I also think there could be more collaboration within the community for shared services and spaces, too. Those realized savings could enhance programs and train more staff. If nonprofits with missions relevant to each other would collaborate, we’d have the brightest minds and the most resources together to have the highest impact. It just makes sense.”
Pallotta is a William J. Clinton Distinguished Lecturer, and has spoken at TED Talks, Stanford, Wharton, Harvard Business School, Harvard’s Hauser Center for Nonprofits, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Tufts University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, The Gates Foundation and now New York’s Capital Region at Saratoga Springs City Center. He is known as the inventor of the multi-day charitable event industry with the AIDS Rides and Breast Cancer 3-Days, which altered the landscape of options for ordinary individuals seeking to make a difference. He is an author and featured weekly contributor to the Harvard Business Review online.
Parents Take a Stand Looking for Results, Not Scores
SARATOGA COUNTY – There was a time when it would have been unthinkable for a student to refuse to take a school exam, but according to grassroots organization United to Counter the Core, about 2,654 Saratoga County students opted out – with full parental consent – from the NYS Standardized English Language Arts and Mathematics assessments last week and this week, respectively. In the Capital Region, two districts reported more than 40 percent opted out of the ELA, but that number has risen this week with more districts hitting that number and one reporting closer to 70 percent opting out.
According to Michael Piccirillo, Superintendent of the Saratoga Springs City School District, 467 students opted-out of the ELA tests, but so far that number has grown to 647 for the math tests, which is about 22 percent of students not taking the tests this week. “The number of students who have refused to take the exams has created some significant stress regarding a safe place for students to be during the test and ensuring an appropriate testing environment for the rest,” he said. “Plus, there’s confusion about whether there will be any impact from the Feds [U.S. Department of Education] for these refusals. On the one hand, some are saying we could lose Title I, but States are saying otherwise.”
Ballston Spa Central School District spokesman Stuart Williams stated that about 380 students opted out of the ELA, and the numbers are about the same for math. “We’re looking at about 20 percent of students opting out.” The Schuylerville Central School district reported about 20 percent of students opted out of the ELA assessments, but this week the number rose to almost 29 percent opting out of the math assessments.
“As a school board member and a parent, I see both sides of the issue,” said Nancy Fodera, President of the PTA Council at Ballston Spa Central School District. “I give parents a lot of credit for trying to fight back and speak up for their children, but I’m not sure opting-out of the tests will give them the answer they are looking for. It may result in a knee-jerk reaction from the State. If my kids were still in school, I wouldn’t have them opt-out, even though I agree with parents that tests are not the answer. Instead, I’d be in there talking with the school board, the principals, and the superintendent and try to come together towards a solution. I am sure we’ll be doing that moving forward.”
Jane E. Kromm, Principal at St. Clement’s Regional Catholic School, said about 12 percent of her students opted out. “We don’t use the assessments for teacher evaluations as the public schools do, but our students have been learning the Common Core curriculum for three years now, and it’s a good way to measure their academic growth. Plus, we make it as comfortable an experience as possible for the students, so they can strengthen test-taking skills.”
Janey Klotz, a parent of a 5th grade boy at St. Clement’s, said parents have been having conversations around these new Common Core tests for over a year, now. “I love our school and we have fabulous teachers who have a passion about teaching, but I think there’s a lot of confusion out there among parents – not just at our school but in our community. Some think the tests don’t count, and some think they do. Some worry it is more stress than necessary on students and teachers, others that learning time is being spent on teaching to the test. There’s a lot of misinformation out there.”
“I think parents are trying to make a thoughtful decision on behalf of their children, and I respect that,” said Piccirillo. “This year we went to every parent group represented at each building, plus Parent University workshops, educating the community about the Common Core. I think these tests are important for gauging the progress of students in meeting the new standards, but they are just one of a number of data points. My own daughter is taking the tests and I’m looking forward to seeing what the data says about her progress.”
He went on to emphasize that the districtwide goal for 2014-15 is 65 percent at least at proficiency level and 20 percent at mastery, but that it will be difficult to know if the number of students opting out of the assessments will skew the results, which may in turn make the numbers of students at those two levels an invalid measure of progress.
The districts reported seeing an increase in the numbers of students opting out of the math test over the ELA test. Klotz was among several parents who received “robo calls” from NYS Allies for Public Education, encouraging parents to choose to have their students refuse to take the ELA and math assessments. The calls provided a web address with formal forms for parents to sign and present to their schools. “I was surprised that the call came the day before the first test last week. That’s too late for a parent to do anything about it.”
Some parents did do something about it, though. “I received some forms,” said Kromm, “but I also received some that were personal notes from parents who chose to opt-out.”
Klotz mentioned that she and other parents are weighing options for middle school. Although she’s fairly confident she’ll keep her son in the Catholic schools, she and her peers are paying attention to what is going on in the public schools, which she says is a part of the decision-making process. The public outcry around the tests is an influence. “I can’t help but wonder, should a school’s education program be based upon helping children explore their interests and helping them grow to become a good, caring citizen that helps society? Or should we have a system that is based around a test so the state can decide how much money each school should receive and whether a teacher should keep their job based on the outcomes?”
A spokesperson at the New York State Education Department said they would not have numbers of students who opted-out available until summer to allow time for the testing data to be gathered and analyzed.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Dr. Bryan Briddell of Wilton, 62, has formally re-launched his athletic training and personal fitness business with a new facility at 30 Gick Road in Saratoga Springs.
“I’m excited to be re-launching Saratoga Peak Performance: The Training Center of Excellence,” said Briddell. “We feature a variety of group classes integrating the best principles of functional strength, athletic movement and mobility with the sole purpose of helping people improve their ability to move better, become stronger, and achieve more flexibility while enjoying a physically-active lifestyle.”
Originally, Saratoga Peak Performance operated out of a former urgent care facility in Malta, the Orthopedic Associates of Saratoga, but when they merged with Albany Medical Physicians Group, they became Ortho North and closed down the training facility. Briddell purchased the equipment from the practice and continued to train numerous clients in their homes or at the Saratoga YMCA.
Briddell is widely regarded as one of the top sports conditioning experts and certified personal trainers in the Capital District. He has helped people ages 7 to 75, delivering sports-specific, athletic-enhancement, and injury-reduction programs for athletes of all skill levels, in addition to helping adult personal training clients reach their individual fitness goals.
Cheryl Feder, 50, of Malta has been training at Saratoga Peak Performance for about ten years, specifically with Briddell for just under four years. She ran the Boston Marathon this week for the first time.
“It was a tremendous experience. We had beautiful weather,” she said. “It was my first Boston, but my third marathon. I train with Bryan because he is so knowledgeable. While we work on strength and power, we stay very lean, so there’s no extra muscle weight that you’re carrying around. Bryan knows how to do that. I love his new facility, but truthfully, I’ll go wherever Bryan is.”
Briddell, who holds a Ph.D. in the Department of Movement Science from Florida State University, has presented numerous athletic enhancement seminars and workshops around the region to youth, high school, college and adult sports groups. He is a certified SPARQ/Nike sports conditioning specialist in upstate New York and he also has earned certifications with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) and USA Weightlifting (USAW/Olympic Lifting).
“I was an aspiring triathlete at 50 and wanted to be stronger,” said Christine McKnight, 67, of Wilton. “He took me seriously, even though I was an older athlete and a woman. He has a vast array of knowledge and experience, and he is an important part of the reason for whatever success I’ve had.
McKnight has been training with Briddell for 17 years and completed over 100 triathlons during that time. She is a two-time Ironman finisher (Lake Placid 2012 at almost 65 years old and Hawaii 2013 at 66); a top 10 Age Group finisher, USAT National Age Group Championships in 2012, 2011, and 2010; and a qualifier for the 2013 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant, Quebec.
In addition to his training expertise, Briddell has served as an assistant professor and men’s tennis coach at Skidmore College from 1986-1994. His Skidmore program qualified individuals for five consecutive NCAA Division III Championships and produced three All-Americans. While at Skidmore, Briddell also taught the New York State High School Coaches Certification Course and developed the Skidmore College “Sports Performance Strength and Conditioning Training Program.”
Briddell left academics in order to pursue a passion for helping people that he developed as a coach, and in order to stay in Saratoga Springs and begin a family. “Saratoga is one of the most unique small cities in America,” he said, “and has a vibrant, health-conscience community.”
“The new facility is amazing, much bigger and spacious,” said Pam Worth, owner of Spoken Boutique and longtime Briddell client. “Bryan is dynamic and knowledgeable. The group I train with are women in their 40’s to 60’s with a variety of issues with ankles, backs, menopause and the like. We’re all committed to being healthy, and he modifies workouts for each person so we can reach our goals safely.”
Nearly 70 percent of Briddell’s work is adult group fitness, focusing on losing weight, addressing a pre-existing injury, or working toward a goal such as running a 5k. The rest is athletic training for students with individualized instruction in small group settings. His business model is a training studio rather than a health club, with month-to-month clients and no membership contracts.
“It just makes more sense,” said Briddell. “Some go to Florida for the winter, and just this week I lost several student athletes to baseball season. Why make them pay for the months they can’t be here? Besides, those slots get filled by athletes whose seasons are now over or who have time to fit in some strength training.”
Briddell’s typical day runs from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., but he foresees a future when his hours will become more dedicated to directing than training. “I’ve been identifying young, talented trainers and have brought four on board with me,” he said. “You get to a point where you are working for the business instead of on the business, and with the right trainers to carry on the work skillfully; I can devote some time to something like reaching out to the State Education Department with a few ideas I have to reduce student athlete injury, for example. I don’t have time for anything like that just yet.”
Briddell noted that middle and high school athletes are becoming more prone to injuries, such as knee or scapula, because they are starting high-level competitive sports at a younger age and with much more travel, often participating in more than one sport.
“At that age, their strength level often doesn’t match their skill level,” said Briddell. “They are focusing on increasing their skill as a means of increasing competitive edge, so I work with the kids to help build muscle, which will not only increase performance, but also help reduce risk of injury.”
Briddell said he was careful to choose a quality turf and equipment to help meet his goal of providing a safe, effective training ground for athletes of all ages. “I maintain a close relationship with physical therapists and sports injury medical professionals, as well,” said Briddell.
He also noted that children from three to 11 are a formative age group, and his work with them is more about coordination, balance, and movement-based exercise. “We don’t play outside like we used to,” said Briddell. “Informal physical play is a thing of the past. I like to recommend gymnastics, dance, and martial arts to this age group as a way of building body awareness and agility.” Briddell said that the earlier children improve agility, the better their peripheral vision as the age, which can be the difference between kicking a soccer ball precisely to a teammate or not.
Briddell holds a minor in sports psychology, and is not interested in focusing solely on star athletes. His training program builds confidence and self-esteem. He maintains a Wall of Fame in his facility, filled with images of current and former clients. “I have a pro hockey player up here right next to kids who just want to make the team. I tell my clients that all they need is a good action picture, and I’ll put them on the wall.” Briddell also works with students who have learning disabilities.
Briddell’s new facility features:
- 2,100 square-feet, including 18-feet ceilings
- Wide variety of Group Classes including, Functional Strength Training, Interval Training and Basic Conditioning
- Sport-specific and Athletic Enhancement classes for elementary, middle, high school and college athletes
- Running-specific and Triathlon-specific training groups
- Post Physical Therapy programs
- Rogue Fitness Infinity Rig suitable for Group Training
- Two VertiMax Jump Trainers – considered to be the top devices for developing better vertical jump and first-step explosiveness
- Cormax Ballistic Equipment – One of the best tools for safely teaching Olympic lifts; excellent for developing explosive athletic powe
- High-quality Arena Turf – Only upstate training center featuring this special turf allowing teaching/training of multi-directional movements
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