Anula Courtis’ patience was wearing thin. Every morning she’d get in her car and try to pull out of her driveway, but somebody would honk their horn at her for not going fast enough. She lived in Princeton, N.J., where the 12 mile commute to her office took 40 minutes. The overcrowding and congestion were spiking her stress levels — a familiar feeling to many people living in Brooklyn or Queens.
Three years ago Courtis took a bus tour of the Hudson Valley sponsored by the Ulster County Office of Economic Development (UCOED). She liked what she saw. Today she lives in Woodstock and commutes 20 minutes to the health-care technology business she owns in Kingston, 340Best, a “beautiful, peaceful commute,” she said. Her stress has disappeared, helped by the fact that she hops on her bike when she gets home from work. Finally, there is balance.
Courtis is just one of many who’ve escaped from rising rents and home prices in New York City and the greater metropolitan area and found cheaper and greener options in the Hudson Valley. In towns like Saugerties, New Paltz, Wallkill, Phoenicia, Woodstock, and Kingston, city folk have found more affordable living (median home price is $220,000) and work-life balance only two hours from midtown Manhattan with nearby Amtrak, MetroNorth and direct buses.
Niche manufacturing and craft food and beverages have attracted many urbanites to the valley, a magnet for tech companies like Markertek (audio visual suppliers) and Exago (software) as well as start-up incubators, meetups, and a 3D printing center on the campus of SUNY New Paltz.
Many entrepreneurs have gained valuable assistance from the UCOED. They helped Courtis quite a bit, pointing her in the right direction to speak with people who could assist with getting office space, for example. “They made introductions to people in our field, so that we could see what their experiences were, how to hire, who to hire,” said Courtis. “Every step of the way they helped us. If there was a question about who to talk to, I would email them and I would get a useful, functional response that I could take action on.”
They also helped Courtis hire interns and they connected her to the Startup New York program, which offers a tax incentive for small businesses — after six months of employment, employees don’t pay state taxes for a period of time. “And that’s pretty big for a little company like ours,” she said, “because we’ve got some pretty big competition who can pay their employees big money, so if we want to compete in Ulster County, the program really does help. And it did help. And we’ve got great talent here.”
And there’s also no shortage of entertainment and culture. “There’s always something to do,” said Courtis. “And we have a community now, where before [in metropolitan New York] it was very hard to do because everybody was so stressed and busy. People here are volunteering at the farm sanctuaries and the Human Rights Commission, and they’re coming over to each other’s houses with some food.”
In Kingston, Courtis says, she feels like a participant in the renaissance of a city. “I think it’s very exciting to be part of that,” she said. “I think we can really contribute to that as we grow. And I think that we can do it in a way that is going to fit all the values that we have — we care about the environment, we care about health care being affordable. And it’s a nice way to hire people locally, build a company and just live our values and make our living. You really can’t ask for a whole lot more.”
Are you upstate curious? Call the Ulster County Office of Economic Development and ask about the basics — where to live, sites and funding incentives for your business, finding a new job or school or employees, the best daycare and more.
They’ve also got all the intel on where to enjoy your favorite activities — hiking, the best sushi, nightclubs/concert venues, organic produce, bike trails — and where to go to meet new friends and colleagues.
Live the good life in the Hudson Valley! Go here for more details.
[Photos courtesy of Ulster County Office of Economic Development unless noted otherwise]