UTICA -- Sixteen of Utica's 63 businesses came to a recent Village Hall meeting with hopes of becoming a vibrant and necessary organization that would be able to weather the storm of road construction in and around town.
But while construction is the one of the reasons the Utica Business Association is forming, it is not the main or only one.
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"We need to come together as a group to bring in tourism. The construction is definitely a problem but we can get through this if we all work together to come up with ideas and ways to make people realize we are open during construction," said Jennifer Stoneking of Utica Hair Company.
"We welcome people here no matter what time of the year. There is strength in numbers and we need to be involved in city government and the things they decide that can affect our business district."
Bylaws were read and discussed. Terms for officers were set: two years with one half of the board up for election every year.
During the meeting it was decided that any Utica business owner in the 61373 zip code can join the group as a voting member. If someone owns two (or more) businesses, they have only one membership vote.
Anyone interested in the business district's future can join but will not be able to vote on any issues. However, all ideas, comments and suggestions for improving the group and the village are welcome. It was brought up that one business owner, Andy Skoog, also is a village trustee.
"Just as he does on the board when a business issue that would affect him comes up, he would have to abstain from voting," said Gloria Alvarado, a village trustee and the group's government liaison.
But the main purpose of the meeting was to elect five officers who have to be in place for the group to become a non-profit organization: president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and correspondent secretary.
By the end of the meeting there were two official officers: secretary Stoneking; and treasurer Paula Payne, Joy and Ed's.
"I wanted to take this position so that we can start moving forward," Stoneking said. "We all have a lot of ideas and we need to start planning because we have the Taste of Utica (Saturday, Aug. 27) and Burgoo (Sunday, Oct. 9)."
There was only one nomination for president: Ron McFarlain of Cajun Connection. He decided, reluctantly, to think about accepting the position.
"I'm not turning it down," he told the group. "I was thinking more about the vice resident position, so I need to think this over. I've got a lot on my plate and I want to make sure that I would be able to handle the position before I accept. All business owners need to be involved so let's see else might be interested. I know for sure I would be willing to serve as vice president."
It was decided that the group needed to re-contact all the businesses with a brief description of each of the open offices before the next meeting so all nominations could be considered and voted upon.
The idea of a "business association is a good idea," said Mike Slayton of Finnegan's Bookstore. "I think that in the beginning we need to be careful of expectations."
Linda Schweickert of Seasons Gone By told The Times "the Village of Utica should be very excited about this group forming. It's been quite a number of years since we've really come together like this and it will take time to be really organized. It will take a lot of baby steps because it's just like starting a business. You have to start out small and as you grow, you'll be able to make good decisions. This is a very good and positive thing for the businesses and the village. I'm very excited to be a part of it."