Neil A. Carousso produces and co-hosts WCBS Newsradio 880’s Small Business Spotlight series with Joe Connolly. Click here to watch the weekly video segments featuring advice for business owners on survival, recovery and growth opportunities.

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  • Electric vehicles are coming soon. Here’s what it means for the future of driving.

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    DEEP RIVER, C.T. (WCBS 880) — The Biden Administration has set an aggressive target of 50% electric vehicle sales by 2030. That has car companies scrambling to meet demand and build the charging infrastructure necessary to handle this rapid adoption.

    Viking Equipment of Deep River, C.T. primarily serves car dealerships and repair shops. When it became clear EVs were the future of his industry, owner and president Joe Shomberg shifted his team’s focus to where business is heading.

    “Keep up or get out of business,” Shomberg said of his business philosophy on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    “The same way it’s going to affect my customers’ business and that they’re not going to do oil changes anymore, I can’t sell them the equipment to do oil changes anymore. So, I need to grow where they’re going to grow and that’s my plan.”

    He estimates over 100 electric car models on the market by 2025.

    Viking Equipment is now installing three levels of EV chargers for homes, dealerships and gas stations across the country. Level one chargers, Shomberg explained, are 10 volt chargers for the home that are adequate for slow charging and local driving, but it could take days to fully charge an EV. Level two chargers are 220 volts and provide a full charge within hours. Level three chargers are D.C. power units for gas stations and rest stops where drivers can get a recharge within 10-20 minutes.

    “The vast majority of the charging is going to be at your house,” said Shomberg. “You’re going to come home at the end of the day, you’re going to plug your car in, and in the morning, it’s fully charged and ready to go.”

    He said level two chargers cost $400 to $500, but it will cost extra for an electrician to install the unit.

    “Depending on what state you live in, there are incentives both from the federal government and from your electric company to put these chargers in that can cover the cost either all of or part of the cost to purchase the charger, and all of or part of the cost to install the charger.”

    Shomberg said his company is also redesigning dealerships with new car lifts to accommodate EV chargers.

    He even purchased an electric vehicle for himself so he can experience the issues and limitations of EVs first-hand.

    “For the month of August, I drove it exclusively,” Shomberg told WCBS 880. “I had exactly one time that I visited a fast charger, a level three charger. Other than that, all of my charging was either at home or I have a charger at work and I charge it at work.”

    One week in September, he switched back to his gas-powered car and found himself at a gas station three times within the week.

    “A battery electric vehicle actually got (sic) a lot of advantages to your lifestyle,” said Shomberg.

    He believes EVs will likely replace hybrid cars in the future.

    “The biggest issue is this range anxiety that people need to overcome,” Shomberg said, affirming that a fully charged EV can travel from the New York Metropolitan Area to Maine without needing a boost.

    There are also mobile applications such as PlugShare, which has a map of more than 610,000 EV charging stations where you can plug-in. Other apps calculate the distance one can travel before needing a recharge.

    See more on the rapid adoption of electric vehicles, EV charging, and how life and business will change on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Businesses Flock to Downtown Brooklyn as Growth Shifts from Manhattan to Outer Boroughs

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a seismic shift in how businesses operate and where they are located with the larger adoption of remote and hybrid work. One of the biggest economic shifts that has developed is the new growth of business in the boroughs outside of Manhattan.

    The decentralizing of Manhattan is a topic the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank, has been following closely over the past two and a half years. The Partnership for New York City tells WCBS 880 that Brooklyn is now the fastest growing borough driven by new technology startups.

    “People really want to be in the center of things, but they also want the amenities of living in Brooklyn, which means access to the great residential communities,” said Regina Myer, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

    Myer noted Downtown Brooklyn is booming because after enjoying the convenience of remote work, people prefer to work in the same neighborhoods where they live. That has lifted local businesses.

    “It used to be dominated by the courts, the Board of Education and shopping on Fulton Street,” she said. “And now, It’s still shopping on Fulton Street, but it’s also shopping at City Point, it’s also a lot of residential and a lot of people are coming to Downtown Brooklyn to live because it’s so easy to get around.”

    Architectural and design firm FXCollaborative is erecting mixed-use buildings throughout Downtown Brooklyn that serve businesses and residents. It decided to move its own headquarters from Manhattan to One Willoughby Square, a mixed-use building FXCollaborative designed on Duffield Street.

    “We became one of the first tenants in the building and took three floors,” said FXCollaborative senior partner Dan Kaplan. “So many of our architects and professional staff and overall staff live very close to Downtown Brooklyn.”

    The architect’s philosophy for the post-pandemic city can be boiled down to what he calls a “15-minute community.”

    “That means anything that you care about whether it’s working, living, playing, learning, culture, civic infrastructure, green space, recreation is all within 15 convenient minutes – healthcare – 15 convenient minutes from where you live,” said Kaplan.

    FXCollaborative has designed office spaces that are open and airy.

    FXCollaborative is erecting mixed-use buildings throughout downtown Brooklyn that serve businesses and residents. Photo credit FXCollaborative

    “Everybody thirsts for and loves a connection to nature, to daylight, to greenery, to the changing of the sky, to the changing of the seasons, and this notion of a building that feels like it’s connected to its greater environment is really what drives us and drives our design.”

    Despite the growth in downtown Brooklyn as employees seek a hybrid work utopia, both Kaplan and Myer believe its proximity to Manhattan via the subway is beneficial because the island is still the engine that drives New York’s economy.

    “The reports of the death of the office buildings are greatly exaggerated,” said Kaplan.

    The FXCollaborative senior partner noted on the Small Business Spotlight that satellite offices were not widely utilized as predicted after 9/11.

    “What happened was that was great, except for people started saying, ‘Well that’s good, but I’m going to be in the center, right? I’m not going to be in one of those satellites.’ So, there is this idea of enterprises needing to be close to each other and have an established culture, themselves.”

    “That’s pretty obvious when people come here, they feel like it’s urban and it’s connected, but it’s also different from Midtown Manhattan and Lower Manhattan. And I think that’s really to our advantage,” said Myer.

    The fastest growing industries in the business district, according to the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership leader, are technology and media.

    “We have companies like Gimlet Media, which are now part of the Spotify umbrella at 41 Flatbush,” Myer said. “Podcasting and a lot of tech and media is really comfortable not being in the center of things and being in Brooklyn. And that’s really been terrific to have companies with that kind of energy who are that forward thinking.”

    See more about the growth of downtown Brooklyn and the beautiful new mixed-use buildings on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Amid worsening supply chain issues, NJ uniform maker moves manufacturing in-house

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    ELMWOOD PARK, NJ (WCBS 880) — The supply chain woes appear to be getting worse.

    Bergen County-based Turn 2 Sports, LLC makes sports equipment and uniforms for schools. Their production times have dramatically increased during the pandemic, and now, major brands such as Adidas and Nike are already placing orders for next year.

    “In the old days, you could be able to order for next week and be readily available. Now, it’s order four to six months in advance and hope that you get it,” said Turn 2 Sports founder James T. Gregory on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    “We had orders that we placed in November that are due to ship in June and we’re being told that they’re going to be delayed until September/October,” he said. “So, the supply chain issues are 100 percent getting worse.”

    Gregory said he has had to tell school officials to track down foul balls at baseball games because they do not have enough inventory to replace sports equipment.

    “We’re trying to change our approach to if we see something available, you got to go out and get it. You can’t just hope that it’s going to be there in six months or even a month from now because somebody already went and picked it up,” he said.

    The Turn 2 Sports owner told WCBS 880 he blames the supply crunch on steep competition against larger companies, labor shortages, and COVID-19 lockdowns in China that have crippled global supply chains.

    “You have a lot of manufacturers who are trying to keep up with the demand just like every other manufacturer out there, but it’s just this domino effect. If you don’t have truck drivers to get product into warehouses, if you don’t have warehouse labor to unload those trucks, you can’t keep up with everything that’s going on,” said Gregory.

    In an effort to cut out the middle man, Turn 2 Sports brought its manufacturing home.

    “We brought in our own manufacturing to cut out the contracting that we were giving out,” he said.

    Doing all embroidery and shirt printing in their Elmwood Park, NJ headquarters has streamlined their production process.

    “It’s an investment into the business but I think for us to be able to continue to sustain our business and our growth, we had to bring in our own manufacturing and our own supply chain management.”

    Gregory believes the short-term costs to produce clothing in-house will pay off long-term.

    See the full story on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Top Business Leader Says Crime is Slowing NYC’s Recovery

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — New York City’s crime surge is threatening the economic recovery as many workers resist the return to offices.

    “This is a setback,” said Partnership for New York City president and chief executive officer Kathryn S. Wylde on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    Office occupancy in the city is just 37.1 percent, according to security firm Kastle Systems which tracks building access activity among its partners in the top 10 U.S. markets.

    “I think that for the time being, particularly with the subway shooting that was such a shock to New York City and to commuters but everybody, I do think that we’re going to see actually a slowdown in the return to office temporarily,” Wylde said.

    “What we’ve got to think about is how we rebuild and restore confidence so that we can have a very robust return in the fall of 2022.”

    A recent Morning Consult poll on behalf of the Partnership for New York City found concerns about public safety is the biggest deterrent for commuters. Ninety-four percent of those surveyed said not enough is being done to address homelessness and mental illness in the city, followed by gun violence, namely in the subway system. The poll was conducted online about a month before the April 12 shooting on the N-train in Sunset Park, Brooklyn that left 29 people injured.

    But, Wylde notes most New Yorkers do want to participate in the city’s ongoing pandemic recovery, 70 percent, in fact, according to the group’s survey.

    “New Yorkers are very resilient and very special,” she said. “Living in our city is not easy as you know, but for those who find it the best city in the world, they want to stay here, they want to help rebuild, and I’m confident we’re going to do that.”

    The business leader predicts there will be fewer employees in Manhattan offices going forward, but not that many fewer because younger employees will realize the benefits of in-person work to advance their careers.

    “We have about 60 percent of the office workers are young people who, you know, have gotten used to working from home and don’t appreciate the office culture, and how much you learn, and how you gain mentors, and how you advance is also through personal interactions in the office,” said Wylde.

    Earlier this month, the city broke ground on a new office building in East New York, Brooklyn. It’s phase one of Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to open office buildings in residential neighborhoods outside Manhattan, which have been more populated since COVID hit.

    “As people have worked from home, they’ve really partnered with their local restaurants and merchants and service providers to make sure that they survive. We want to see that in every neighborhood of the city, because we’ve got an infrastructure, we’ve got over 200,000 small businesses and they’re looking for foot traffic,” Wylde, who advises political leaders on business policies, said.

    She told WCBS 880 it would only make sense if the city creates affordable housing in these neighborhoods and if the state, which operates the MTA, rethinks the transportation system to offer direct routes to the outer boroughs.

    “The governor has proposed a Brooklyn to Queens express rail operation, which makes a lot of sense because (of) the people who were going to work both in the city buildings and the other activities that are going on,” said Wylde, adding, “We’re going to have to have a much more flexible and integrated transportation system. And that’s something we ought to be thinking about right now. We shouldn’t just continue with our current plans.”

    The influential Partnership for New York City head said small businesses are the key to the Big Apple’s economic recovery and she confirmed talks with both Mayor Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul about ways to incentivize business development in the city.

    “The first incentive is, do not continue to raise taxes and figure out how we can reduce taxes,” she said, mentioning the cap on state and local tax deductions as part of the 2017 tax reform law that was passed under former President Donald J. Trump.

    “We had a big tax increase on high-earners two years ago that has really created migration out of New York City.”

    Wylde also wants to streamline the city’s regulatory process to make it easier for businesses to open and grow in New York.

    “I talk to small businesses all the time where it takes them three years from the time they find a space to the time they can open their doors. We can’t allow that to continue particularly since small businesses have lost over 200,000 jobs. We still have a restaurant industry that’s down 30 percent of its workers. We have a retail industry that’s down 15 percent of its workers. So, we’ve got a lot to make up for small business,” said Wylde.

    See what it will take to get New York back on its feet on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Ex-NYPD Commissioner Bratton on what businesses can do about NYC crime surge

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — New York City’s crime wave is slowing the economic recovery and hurting local businesses.

    Shoplifting is one of many so-called quality-of-life crimes that have been rising during the pandemic. There has been an increase in retail theft complaints since the initial COVID-19 lockdowns, according to the NYPD, with 24,198 petit larceny crimes already this year compared to 17,599 arrests in all of 2021. (Petit larceny is generally theft of property worth under $1,000.)

    “This is one of the crimes in which the (state) legislature is going to have to get its act together and understand this is not a minor crime, a quality-of-life type of crime,” said former New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton in a WCBS Small Business Spotlight interview, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    “In many instances, it leads to stores closing because they can’t afford to stay open. They can’t afford security officers,” he said.

    Bratton, who served two stints as the city’s top cop under former mayors Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, from 1994-1996, and Democrat Bill de Blasio from 2014-2016, said many large corporations and retail chains like Duane Reade and CVS are hiring off-duty police officers for security. For small and mid-size businesses that cannot afford the protection, he noted visible cameras have been a good deterrent and helps police track down brazen suspects.

    “We’re seeing countless videos of even police officers being assaulted by so-called shoplifters,” he said.

    Bill Bratton, Bill de Blasio
    FILE — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio attends his first news conference with police commissioner William Bratton at One Police Plaza on January 2, 2014 in New York City. New York City, and much of New England is preparing for a major winter snowstorm. Photo credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    In his most recent term as NYPD commissioner, Bratton implemented the team known as neighborhood coordination officers or NCOs who work as liaisons between the police and the community. He said business owners should contact their local precincts to work hand-in-hand with NCOs to prevent crimes at their doorstep.

    “Every precinct now has four or five sectors and each of those sectors are several neighborhood coordinating officers whose role is effectively to be full-time in that sector, in that precinct, networking (with) the business community,” he said. “It is incumbent on business owners to effectively, through their precinct, find out who those officers are.”

    Bratton also suggests business owners follow their NCOs on social media for important community alerts, be active on the Citizen app and post videos to bring awareness to crimes in their communities.

    “Awareness leads to prevention and prevention leads to increased public safety,” he said.

    Bill Bratton
    FILE — NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton attends a press conference after witnessing police being retrained with new guidelines at the Police Academy on December 4, 2014 in the College Point neighborhood of Queens. Photo credit Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    Bratton is now executive chairman of risk advisory at Teneo, a firm based on Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. He blames current bail reform laws for allowing what reform advocates have called “victimless crimes” such as graffiti, aggressive begging, drug dealing and public defecation to go unaddressed and unpunished.

    “Well, there is a victim and that’s the neighborhood. And shop owners certainly understand how their neighborhood deteriorates,” said Bratton.

    The former NYPD commissioner told WCBS 880 business owners should be politically engaged and reach out to their representatives in city and state government.

    “They need to hear what business communities in New York are going through and how they’re suffering. They need to hear that message,” he said.

    Watch Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso’s conversation with former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton above.

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