6 Hudson Valley Business Updates You Need to Know This Spring

Bard’s Fisher Center | Wikimedia Commons, Photo by Daniel Case

Bard College receives a historic endowment, the Art Effect expands, and the region says goodbye to two legends of the beverage industry.

President Container Group
Photo by Chrissy J Torres

President Container Group Breaks Ground in Wallkill

The manufacturer of corrugated containers and point of purchase displays broke ground on its 100,000-square-foot expansion in Ulster County. President Container Group’s second site will dramatically increase the company’s production capacity. Furthermore, this expansion will create at least 50 local jobs in the process. The space will also house a state-of-the-art corrugator.

Soon, construction efforts wrap on Wallkill’s 622,000 sq ft facility. With this expansion, it becomes one of the largest corrugated manufacturing plants on the continent. The Department of Homeland Security declared this Hudson Valley supercenter an essential manufacturer. During the pandemic, President Container Group worked 24 hours a day to ensure people had access to the goods they needed.

President Container Group Facility
Photo by Chrissy J Torres

“We should all be very proud that one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of the packaging we see and use every day is operating and expanding in Orange County,” Senator Charles Schumer said at a press conference. “Their work is so important to ensuring that people everywhere have access to the goods needed during the pandemic that President Container Group has been identified as an essential manufacturer by the federal Department of Homeland Security. Its high-tech expansion is great news for our state.”

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President Container makes sustainability one of its top priorities, taking initiatives to preserve natural resources. It makes products upon which some of the nation’s most well-known brands and corporations depend.


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The Art Effect Expands With an Endowment in Poughkeepsie

Formerly Spark Media Project and Mill Street Loft, The Art Effect guides young creatives in Dutchess County. This Poughkeepsie program helps more than 2,000 students gain experience and expertise in the visual arts and media. For instance, it established online exhibitions, public installations, and a slew of interactive events. The Art Effect reaches far and wide into the art community of the Hudson Valley.

The National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town Program has endowed this local organization with a $100,000 endowment. At the new Trolley Barn in the Queen City, The Art Effect builds an anchor arts institution downtown and develops major programming like festivals. Larger events serve as an excellent networking resource for young aspiring professionals. Similarly, creators get the helpful feedback they need to begin a career. The two-year festival program will kick off in 2022, and expand beyond traditional exhibitions and installations.

The Art Effect Sculpture
Photo by The Art Effect

”The Art Effect looks forward to collaborating with community and national partners such as the City of Poughkeepsie, Hudson River Housing, MASS Design, and others to execute an inclusive community engagement strategy that will work with local youth to plan, design, and implement art festivals that we know will bring excitement, inspiration, and community cohesion to the area,” says Executive Director at The Art Effect Nicole Fenichel-Hewitt in a press release. “This two-year project will initiate an annual series of festivals at the Trolley Barn. It will serve as the first step in establishing the Youth Arts Empowerment Zone, revitalizing downtown Poughkeepsie through creativity.”

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With additional funding, The Art Effect engages with the greater Poughkeepsie community toward social and economic goods.

Corcoran Group Launches Affiliate in Nyack 

Rockland County’s hottest waterfront village now hosts Corcoran Baer & McIntosh. The new division of The Corcoran Group, a real estate behemoth for more than half a century, focuses on properties across Rockland and Orange. 

“Joining Corcoran was a no-brainer for us, because we always knew that we wanted to grow our business with truly exceptional people who possess integrity, intelligence, and a strong work ethic,” said Debbie Blankfort, broker-owner for Corcoran Baer & McIntosh, in a recent press release. “Over the years, we’ve discussed how much we admired Corcoran and how we felt that our cultures were tightly aligned, so to be here today is a thrilling, full-circle moment. I have no doubt that our wonderful people, who are now part of the wider Corcoran community, will maintain this outlook as we continue to grow.”

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Specializing in unique upscale residences, Corcoran Baer & McIntosh closed the two highest real estate sales transactions in Nyack in 2020. The combination of world-class marketing and local expertise enable Corcoran’s latest affiliate to be a major force in the Hudson Valley. More than 50 agents focus on vintage treasures like historic buildings and rustic equine barns throughout the lower Hudson Valley. Corcoran Baer & McIntosh has a deep connection to the region, representing communities west of the Hudson since 1979. This announcement follows the launch of Corcoran Country Living last year.

Hudson River Foundation Appoints New Executive Director

The Hudson River Foundation names Dr. Jonathan Kramer as its first new executive director in 35 years. Kramer succeeds Clay Hiles, who will remain a special advisor and focus on HRF’s 40th anniversary in 2021. Kramer is nationally recognized for his environmental research, outreach programs, and support of natural and social scientists.

This organization has been a major advocate for protection of the Hudson River and its watershed since its inception. Its work includes a wide variety of research initiatives on the Hudson, educating the public, and providing policy makers with unparalleled analysis. Major goals of HRF are to improve water and sediment quality, address climate change, and support public access to the river. Likewise, it works to restore the natural habitats of aquatic life. Atlantic sturgeon, American eel, and striped bass are among Hudson River species that experienced population declines. HRF combats to restore those numbers through public information. In addition, it has supported important efforts like the Billion Oyster Project.

Billion Oyster Project
Billion Oyster Project | Photo by Katie Mosher

“My involvement with the Foundation has been a central part of my professional life over two decades,” Kramer said in a recent release. “The opportunity to build on Clay’s exceptional accomplishments and to work with the Foundation’s remarkable staff is both exciting and deeply humbling.”

Without the work of HRF, the communal understanding of migratory patterns of important fish species, the impact of contaminants, the flow of water, and much more would not be possible. Hundreds of local stewardships grants alongside HRF’s outreach and analysis have strengthened the connection between the region’s most integral natural resource and the people who live here.


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Bard College Receives $500 Million Endowment

Prominent philanthropist George Soros granted Bard College with the largest endowment in the college’s history. In a press release, Bard president Leon Botstein cited this development as the institution’s “most historic moment since [its] founding in 1860.”

Soros supports Bard’s role as a founding partner of global education union, Open Society University Network. The international organization connects diverse institutions of higher learning across the globe, and tackles large challenges collaboratively. In addition to the co-founding Central European University in Vienna, schools from over a dozen countries comprise OSUN. Under the leadership of Botstein, OSUN develops courses that span campuses and continents. It also provides research opportunities across international borders.

Bard's Fisher Center | Wikimedia Commons, Photo by Daniel Case
Bard’s Fisher Center | Wikimedia Commons, Photo by Daniel Case

The endowment also enables Bard College to strengthen and expand its educational and social initiatives at home in Dutchess County. Furthermore, Bard raised an additional $250 million in funds in response to Soros’ notable grant, and plans to double that amount over the next five years. To ensure the college’s pioneering mission and support future initiatives, its goal is to reach $1 billion in endowment funds.

These funds will endow educational programs, international profile, student financial aid, faculty, and more. When completed, this will be one of the largest endowments to an educational institution in the nation’s history.

In Memorium: Tommy Keegan and Gable Erenzo

The Hudson Valley mourns the loss of two icons and pioneers in the local beverage scene.

Tommy Keegan, founder of Kingston landmark Keegan Ales, passed away from a heart attack at the age of 50. Originally from Patchogue, Long Island, Keegan quickly became a fixture of the Ulster County community.

He invested in the city of Kingston when he converted an empty building into one of the region’s most recognizable breweries in 2003. Keegan introduced his award-winning brand to locals by first giving away free beer, and then by hosting local artists and musicians.


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“He just realized that being a part of the community is also being a steward of the community,” Lisa Hantes, Keegan’s wife of 14 years, says. “He wanted to build a place where people would feel comfortable coming in at the end of the day…. Watching their shoulders relax and a smile start to form on their faces after a long day was one of his favorite things.”

Keegan put in picnic tables for communal seating and never brought in televisions. He wanted his customers to feel like old friends, and to make new ones while enjoying the atmosphere. Similarly, his running club, Keegan Army, typically gathers 75-plus people. He loved when people brought their children and dogs inside. His sons Tom and Jack celebrated milestones like christenings there with the larger Keegan family.

His motto “Have fun, play nice,” lives on through the many Kingstonians that call Keegan Ales home, and is immortalized on the FUN IPA. Members of the Hudson Valley beverage community from Captain Lawrence and Coppersea Distilling to Sloop Brewing and Arrowood Farms have expressed the impact of Tommy Keegan’s loss, and the significance of his legacy.

“Justin and I will always have fond memories of Tommy Keegan. Not only was he a great brewer & mentor, but his commitment to the industry and community very much defined who he was. Tommy was one of the guys I would call when starting Sloop for help when we were in over our head. He would always happily answer all my questions and give us good advice,” Adam Watson, co-founder of Sloop Brewing Co. says.

“Tommy embodied the collaborative nature of the early days of craft brewing in the Hudson Valley. From our start, he was always willing to share advice, lend a helping hand, or just some words of encouragement. He was also the consummate host at his brewery- whether it was at his Hudson Valley Beer and Cheese Festival situated amongst the fermenters, or the annual Too Many Cooks collaborative brew, or the Third Tuesday Hudson Valley Brewers and Distillers social, he’d be behind the bar, pouring beers and telling stories. His go big approach and big personality were matched on by his big heart. His loss leaves a big hole,” Tom Crowell, owner of Chatham Brewing says.

“Tommy pioneered the craft beer scene in our region, paving the way for other local breweries like us. The team at Arrowood Farms shares our heartfelt condolences to Tommy’s family and friends and to the crew at Keegan Ales,” the team at Arrowood Farms says.

“Tommy Keegan truly was a one-of-a-kind human who cared deeply about showing everyone around him a great time, making everyone feel as though they were a part of Keegan Ales.  When Keegan Ales started in 2003, there were only 34 breweries in New York State, they were few and far between. When more breweries began to pop up in the Hudson Valley, Tommy’s first instinct wasn’t to view them as competitors or foes, he saw them as family, as part of the same team. He knew we craft brewers had to work together to find a truly sustainable space in the beer market for long term growth and shared success. I’m sure every brewer or brewery owner will tell you the same story about Tommy, they’ll probably tell you about how when they first opened, he popped by to shake their hand, trade some beer, and offer help if they ever needed it,” Geoff Wenzel, research and development brewer at Industrial Arts, says.

“I think it’s worth mentioning that after Tommy’s funeral, a bunch of brewers who at one point or another brewed for Keegan Ales fired up the brew house and brewed a beer very much inspired by him. I just want to include a list of participants so you can see how much he really has impacted and continues to impact the community in the Hudson Valley and beyond,” Wenzel says.

  1. Brett Brandt- Keegan Ales, Kingston, NY
  2. Josh Young- Keegan Ales, Kingston NY
  3. Kevin Davis_ Red Rocks Brewing Co., Salt Lake City, UT
  4. Patrick Sylsvester- Crossroads Brewing Co., Catskill, NY
  5. Kevin VanBlarcum- West Kill Brewing Co., West Kill, NY
  6. Ryan Gillette- Hyde Park Brewing Co., Hyde Park, NY
  7. Geoff Wenzel- Industrial Arts Brewing Co., Garnerville&Beacon, NY
  8. Rob Horton- Artist/Sculptor, Stone Ridge, NY
  9. Dan Smith- Energy Manager & Special Projects, Bard College, Tivoli, NY

Gable Erenzo, owner of Gardiner Liquid Mercantile and former chief distiller at Tuthilltown Spirits, passed away at the age of 41. 

Erenzo was at his father Ralph’s side when he started Tuthilltown Spirits/Hudson Whiskey and changed the beverage game in the region forever. The Erenzos were some of the first to bring distilling back to New York State — and the Hudson Valley —  since the era of Prohibition. 

“Whiskey as bold as New York,” Tuthilltown’s Hudson Whiskey has evolved and elevated local ingredients since its inception in 2003. Later, Erenzo traveled the world as a brand ambassador, elevating the reputation of distilling in the Hudson Valley.

Tuthilltown Spirits. Photo by Fine Young Man Creative
Tuthilltown Spirits. Photo by Fine Young Man Creative

In partnering with a heritage farm from Ulster County, Erenzo established Gardiner Liquid Mercantile. His vision was a hub for farm-to-bottle beverages and regional specialties. The atmospheric farm bar celebrates not just craft spirits, but also Hudson Valley beer, wine, cider, and even coffee.

Onsite, Erenzo distilled brandies with fruit grown at Dressel’s Farm, along with other libations. The Farm Bar crafts cocktails that showcase local spirits and demonstrates what is truly special about Hudson Valley terroir. His contributions to local distilling and support of small businesses across the region will not be forgotten.

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