YORKTOWN, N.Y. - In Yorktown, all eyes are on Lowe’s and Shrub Oak International School, which are expected to bring nearly 1,000 jobs to the community. But, as statistics show, Westchester’s economy is also dependent on the “little guy” staying afloat.
There are more than 32,000 businesses in Westchester County, according to Wiley Harrison, president of Business of Your Business, a small business consulting and accounting firm. Of those, only 64 have 500 or more employees while 28,000 have 20 or fewer employees. Of those 28,000 businesses, 75 percent are single-person businesses, according to Harrison’s statistics.
Businesses with one to nine employees are defined by the Small Business Association as “microbusinesses.” They rent approximately 35 percent of all commercial space and create more than 60 percent of all new jobs, according to Harrison.
“Microbusiness owners are primarily interested in earning a living,” Harrison said. “They’re not really interested in being the next Apple or the next Microsoft.”
Harrison said it’s up to governments to recognize the importance of small businesses and put them in the best position to succeed. One way to do this, he said, is by offering training programs.
“Take, for example, a guy who can repair a car,” Harrison said. “He might be able to take your car apart and put it back together again, no questions asked. But, if he can’t relate to the old lady at the counter, he’s just not going to make it. If he can’t figure out how to buy parts and inventory management, he’s not going to make it. Government can help us by giving us these opportunities to learn about the business side of business.”
Harrison shared these statistics at a Yorktown Small Business Association symposium on Wednesday, May 23, at Mercy College. In attendance were dozens of small business owners and elected officials, including Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Yorktown Supervisor Ilan Gilbert.
Latimer said Westchester is at a “crossroads” in its economic development, citing the rise of online shopping and digital media consumption. He said more and more millennials are seeking residence outside of New York City, so long as they remain close to public transit. Latimer said municipalities can’t afford an “us vs. them” mentality and must work together and co-exist to make Westchester vibrant.
That goes for business owners, too.
Lowe’s and Shrub Oak International School
Though the symposium focused on small businesses, two of Yorktown’s newest tenants, Lowe’s and Shrub Oak International School, were invited to share their employment plans.
Megan Thomas, an area human resources manager who oversees 13 Lowe’s, said the company has 1,800 stores in North America, employing about 300,000 people. The company offers full-time, part-time and temporary positions in customer service, sales, support and management. The store also now has employees dedicated to handling online orders. She said jobs at the Yorktown location will be posted on lowes.com in September or October.
“If you enjoy helping people love where they live, then you would be a great fit to join our company,” Thomas said.
The 120,663-square-foot store, with a 25,448-square-foot garden center, is slated to open in December or January. There are also three outbuildings—a 7,600-square-foot restaurant, a 4,500-square-foot restaurant and a 4,000-square-foot bank. Tenants for those buildings have not been announced.
Lori Josephs, head of people and school, said Shrub Oak International School will open this September with a limited enrollment. A private day school and boarding program for people with autism, Shrub Oak International School eventually plans on having 600 employees and 390 students ranging from adolescents to their mid-20s. The 127-acre property is located at 3151 Stoney St., the site of the former Phoenix House Academy, a teen drug rehab center that closed in 2015.
It will take the school three to five years to reach full enrollment and employment, Josephs said. Jobs at the school are posted now at shruboak.org.
“When I take a look, and we’re working now to really bring in staff, we’re looking similar to the way we have with our students,” Josephs said. “What are their areas of specialty and what their passion is? What do they do? Yes, we’re hiring people who are gifted in their areas of expertise, but we’re hiring the totality of a person. So, what we’re really looking for at the end of the day are those people who want to use that totality with us and grow their career with us for the longer term.”
A revised site plan proposed to be carried out in phases was approved by the Planning Board on Monday, May 21.
Gerry Schwalbe, engineer for Shrub Oak International School, said the revisions to the plan were “not significant.” They include alterations to an access road to neighboring Granite Knolls Park. That road would be completed in phase two.
Phase one construction would include partial parking lot upgrades, additional evergreen trees planted on the north end of the property, a helistop built on the south end of the property, additional lighting installed along the entrance road, and construction of an animal barn and an equestrian arena on the south side, which is also new to the plan.
Phase two construction, expected to take place in 2019, includes the new access road, additional parking lot construction and the demolition, construction and renovation of outbuildings on the property.
Also being proposed as part of phase one is an 8-foot-high fence installed along Stoney Street. In phase two, the fence may be extended all the way around the property, Schwalbe said. Though Planning Board members said they had no issue with the fence, which is 2 feet higher than allowed by code, the school must receive a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals.