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Aaron Woolf, Bill Owens chat up business owners in Potsdam

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POTSDAM — Democratic congressional candidate Aaron G. Woolf is being taught more about the district he hopes to represent by the man he hopes to replace, an experience he describes as a kind of apprenticeship.

Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, did a regionwide tour of factories and small businesses with Mr. Woolf Thursday, and began the tour with his official endorsement.

“I’m going around the district because I want people to know me,” Mr. Woolf said.

Mr. Owens said the two will continue to campaign together in the months to come. Mr. Owens will retire from Congress after this year.

He said his successor will learn how to help businesses at home as well as in Congress.

“A lot of that is not related to what you can do in Washington, but to what you can do in the district,” he said.

The two started their tour at Potsdam’s Agway, 14 Pine St., where they spoke to owner Daryl T. Kolanko about the various challenges his business faces.

Mr. Kolanko and Mr. Woolf spoke about how the shrinking number of small farms over the last few decades has dramatically changed the way Agway does business. Mr. Owens offered Mr. Kolanko some advice about how to ship products back and forth from Canada more easily.

Mr. Kolanko, a registered Republican, said he will need to learn more about Mr. Woolf and the other congressional candidates before making his decision, but he appreciated the gesture of visiting his store.

“I don’t have an answer yet,” Mr. Kolanko said when asked whether he plans to support Mr. Woolf in November. “I don’t know about him. It was gracious of him to come by.”

He said the best thing a congressman could do to help his business is simply to improve the regional economy, creating more jobs and more paying customers.

From Agway, Mr. Owens and Mr. Woolf headed to Northern Music and Video, 29 Market St.

Mr. Woolf spoke with owner Christopher J. Smutz about the competition retail outlets face from online stores.

He emphasized his own small-business experience. Mr. Woolf owns an organic food store in Brooklyn.

Mr. Smutz said he does not yet know whom he will vote for, but said Mr. Woolf is taking a step in the right direction by meeting with area businesses.

“I think it’s a great precedent that they’re out and about,” he said.

The best way a congressman can help local businesses, he said, is by “focusing on exactly what these guys are focusing on right now.”

He also said he would be in favor of an incentive to buy local, as well as a north country highway to bring more equipment and customers to the area.

Mr. Woolf said he wants to see the north country focus on coordinating road, rail, and water traffic to help boost the economy and wants to improve the transportation system here.

“If it moves, it improves, and I’m a big advocate of infrastructure in all forms,” he said.

Before running for Congress, Mr. Woolf was best-known as a documentary filmmaker. His most popular documentary, “King Corn,” examined the industrial farm industry and questioned the wisdom of government subsidies to large farms.

When asked his opinion on the farm bill Mr. Woolf equivocated, saying he supports a bill that would support large farmers and small farmers alike. He did not answer questions about what such a bill would look like or who should receive government subsidies.

Mr. Owens played a major role in crafting the most recent farm bill and said supporting U.S. farmers is a matter of national security, preventing the United States from having to import large quantities of food from abroad.

Mr. Owens and Mr. Woolf agreed that jobs and the economy are the region’s top priority, and will continue to be a focal point of Mr. Woolf’s campaign.

“Clearly, jobs and the economy have to be where people are focused,” Mr. Owens said.

After leaving Northern Music and Video, the tour continued across the street to Sergi’s Italian Restaurant, 10 Market St.

Later, the two traveled to Malone to tour Alice Hyde Medical Center.

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