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State Senate honors Wegmans

The New York State Senate today passed a resolution commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. Wegmans, based in Rochester, NY, is a longtime member of The Business Council of New York State, Inc.

The resolution, sponsored by Senator Richard Funke (R, Rochester) said, in part, “Since 1998, Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. has consistently been ranked on Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list, and was rated No. 9 on Forbes magazine’s 2015 list of America’s Best Employers. In addition, it was named the best for corporate reputation among the 100 most visible companies nationwide according to the 2014 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient study. Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. prides itself on raising the bar on the shopping experience by providing the best quality, a spectacular abundance of choice, restaurant-quality prepared foods, beautiful stores and displays, and an exceptional level of customer service.”

This is a tremendous achievement for the company and the entire Wegman family. We would like to offer a special note of congratulations to Paul Speranza, the Vice Chairman, General Counsel and Secretary of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., and the Vice Chair and Treasurer of The Business Council of New York State.

New video highlights benefits of New York’s Commercial Division

A new film about the Commercial Division of the New York State Supreme Court explains why the court has become the premier forum for business litigation.

In less than 15 minutes, the film describes the origins of the court and the reasons why it has transformed New York from a dreaded venue for the resolution of business disputes, to the preferred setting.

The professionally filmed video, produced by the Historical Society of New York State and the Commercial Division Advisory Council, comes on the heels of a special event last spring when the Business Council hosted a breakfast spotlighting the business benefits of the Commercial Division (see July/August issue of Connect). At the breakfast, Heather Briccetti recalled the “bad old days” when it would have been inconceivable that the New York courts could be viewed as an attraction for businesses seeking to relocate to New York.

Those days, as the new video makes clear, are gone.

Featured speakers include:

Gregory Palm (Goldman Sachs), Joseph Wayland (ACE Limited), Michael Fricklas (Viacom, Inc.), Michele Mayes (New York Public Library), Daniel Jonas (ConMed Corporation), Stephen Cutler (JPMorgan Chase & Co.), Elizabeth Moore (Consolidated Edison, Inc.), Richard Walker (Deutsche Bank AG), Douglas Lankler (Pfizer Inc.) and David Ellen (Cablevision Systems Corp.).

The video is available on several sites, including the court system’s YouTube channel. A full transcript is available on the court system’s website.

CEO survey shows confidence waning

The Siena Research Institute’s 9th Annual Upstate New York Business Leader Survey, sponsored by The Business Council of New York State, Inc., shows business leader confidence has dropped across upstate.

Following a record-breaking confidence level last year, business leaders are again worried that the tax and regulatory policies of New York State will have a negative effect on their businesses’ ability to grow. Combine that with the push for a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave, both which are nearly universally panned by the survey’s respondents, and there are some real headwinds for the upstate economy.

As sponsors of the survey, we were able to get an early look at the findings and we were pleased to see how well the results lined up with our own legislative agenda. For us, it was further proof that our members and our own policy priorities are well in-line with the broader business community.

To view the full survey results, click here.

And here are some links of coverage the poll’s release received around the state.

Albany Times Union: CEO poll: $15 minimum wage plan is wild card in New York

Buffalo News: Siena poll finds WNY business leaders less optimistic about economy

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: CEO confidence dips in Rochester, upstate

Rochester Business Journal: Optimism fades among area’s business leaders

As part of the rollout The Business Council and Siena are traveling the state to speak directly to each region’s business leaders. Our next presentation is this Wednesday, February 3 at the offices of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, register here.

Business Council members top list of top employers

Congratulations to our member companies who were recognized this week as among the best employer’s in the country for workers with disabilities.

The list is compiled by Careers & the disABLED magazine, the only national career recruitment publication for people with disabilities.

We are tremendously proud to have these companies as our members and congratulate them on this honor.

*Denotes that this company is a member of The Business Council of New York State, Inc.

TOP 50 EMPLOYERS
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY
2015 Readers’ Choice

  1. Verizon*
  2. GE*
  3. Google
  4. Amazon
  5. State Farm Insurance*
  6. Merck & Co., Inc.*
  7. Lockheed Martin
  8. American Express*
  9. Boston Scientific
  10. General Dynamics
  11. Oracle
  12. Boeing
  13. Kellogg Company
  14. Apple
  15. Intel
  16. KPMG*
  17. Honda
  18. Comcast NBCUniversal
  19. Gap
  20. Prudential*
  21. CSX
  22. Nike
  23. Hyatt
  24. Ford Motor Company
  25. AT&T*
  26. CVS Caremark*
  27. General Motors*
  28. Liberty Mutual*
  29. Johnson & Johnson*
  30. Genentech*
  31. Aetna*
  32. Philips
  33. Wells Fargo
  34. Northwest Mutual
  35. EY*
  36. Marriott
  37. Amgen
  38. USAA
  39. PSEG*
  40. Ball Aerospace & Technologies
  41. BASF*
  42. AstraZeneca
  43. CA Technologies
  44. CenturyLink
  45. Grant Thornton
  46. T. Rowe Price
  47. Reynolds America
  48. Life Technologies
  49. Owens & Minor
  50. Capital One

Report: State errors led to insurer’s collapse

Today the Empire Center released a report that concludes that the recent collapse of Health Republic (the health insurance co-op established under the ACA) which disrupted coverage for 215,000 New Yorkers, was a result, in large-part, to failures by the state and the Department of Financial Services (DFS). The report states that DFS took no obvious steps to address serious and glaring financial problems at Health Republic and instead used its regulatory power of prior-approval of health premiums to further lower Health Republic’s inadequate premiums.

Consistent with the position that The Business Council has often opined, the report concludes that DFS needs to concentrate more on plan solvency. We believe the goal of making health coverage more affordable is best achieved by the removal of high taxes and unfunded mandates, rather than the imposition of price controls through a politicized prior-approval regime. The Empire Center’s report can be found The Empire Center’s report can be found here.

Wage hike spurs fear, changes for restaurants

The Buffalo News has a terrific piece in today’s paper examining the ways restaurateurs are preparing for the significant worker wage increase coming into effect next year. Tipped worker wages are set to rise by 50 percent, from $5.00 an hour all the way to $7, come January 1st. That’s squeezing already tight profit margins and forcing management to cut hours, raise prices and consider more upcharges.

From The Buffalo News: “Betty’s is a long-established neighborhood favorite on Virginia Street in Buffalo. In anticipation of the new wage law, it has increased prices by between 50 cents and $1.50 per item, and will probably do it again in a few months. The strategy is to soften the blow with two smaller, separate increases, said Carole Simon, a Betty’s co-owner.

The price increase would have been steeper, but the restaurant tried to avoid that by cutting costs elsewhere. It has altered its hours to cut down on payroll costs, opening a half-hour later and closing a half-hour earlier. It has removed two popular but time-consuming dishes from the menu – the jibarito plantain sandwich and the spinach potato pancakes. And it has pared dishes down to their basic elements, listing them with upcharges for extras. That way, customers have the option of ordering the basic eggs, home fries and toast for $5.50, or they can upgrade to vegan sausage and gluten-free bread if they’re willing to pay more.”

Remember this when advocates for a $15 an hour minimum wage for all workers say The Business Council and other business groups are wrong when we predict wage increases will negatively impact the economy and cost jobs.

Learn more about our fight against a $15 an hour minimum wage by visiting www.minimumwagerealitycheck.com.

New York State gets healthier

In a fascinating and thorough state-by-state study of public health, conducted by UnitedHealth Foundation (a charitable foundation of The Business Council member UnitedHealth) and the American Public Health Association, New York State climbs in the rankings to #13.  According to the report, New York adults are becoming a bit more physically active and our state’s obesity figures have slightly decreased.

While there is certainly room for improvement, New York’s climbing in the ranks represents a move in the right direction for all New Yorkers, especially employers who are always looking to help better the health of their employees. The study can be found here.

Minimum wage reality check

Perhaps you saw the piece that ran in the Buffalo News over the weekend called “Raising the minimum wage is good economics” co-authored by an economics professor at SUNY Buffalo. Well, hopefully you don’t know anyone who is taking that professor’s class, because his reasoning is way off base.

Our Vice-President Ken Pokalsky decided to give a few of the more outlandish claims in the piece the Minimum Wage Reality Check treatment:

“In Seattle, the first city to adopt a $15 minimum wage, unemployment just hit an eight-year low of 3.6 percent.”

Reality Check: Seattle is not at a $15 an hour wage today, the city’s phased-in wage is currently at $11 an hour. Moreover, Seattle wages could be depressing jobs in low wage sectors, while others continue to grow. We need to wait and see. But job counts and unemployment rates with an $11 an hour wage isn’t evidence of what job counts and unemployment rates will be under a $15 an hour wage.

“In fact, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has said,”

Reality Check: The rest of the sentence doesn’t matter. Paul Krugman is a left of center political commentator now, regardless of his prior work. What he says is hardly evidence of anything, other than his blatant bias.

“The City of Buffalo defines a living wage as enough to keep a family of three out of poverty; in 2016 the rate will be $13.06 per hour.”

Reality Check: So what, this applies only to vendors who VOLUNTARILY choose to do business with the city, and only applies to contracts > $50,000.

“Inflation in this country over the last century has averaged over 3 percent.”

Reality Check: Again, what is the point? Over the last 10 years inflation has averaged a smidge over 2 percent. The last 5 years it’s been under 2 percent. So why use a figure 50% higher than recent trends? Unless of course you’re simply trying to deliberately mislead.

Facts not on union’s side

You know you’ve hit a nerve when the opposition resorts to misleading arguments.

Today’s Newsday features an article where the Long Island Labor Federation dismisses a new report by the Long Island Association projecting significant job losses resulting from a $15 an hour minimum wage. The Newsday story is here. (it is behind a paywall, sorry)

According to the Federation, the LIA’s report projecting job losses of up to 23,000 is “disproved” by “numerous” studies, and cites a letter from “600 economists” to President Obama arguing that a minimum wage increase won’t hurt jobs. The Long Island Federation of Labor is being completely disingenuous. Five seconds of searching on the web finds the letter being referred to here. While the federation is right, “600 economists” do support an increase in the federal minimum wage, the proposed increase is from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. That’s nowhere near $15 an hour, the target wage that was the focus of the LIA’s analysis and a recent Empire Center report. In fact, New York’s minimum wage is already set to go to $9 at the end of the year, a level close to the 600 economists’ target level. At $9, New York’s minimum wage will be one of the highest in the U.S.

We are unaware of “numerous” other studies that “disprove” the projections from the Empire Center and the Long Island Association on a $15/hour minimum wage. Most studies we have seen look at far lower target levels. For example, a CBO study issued in 2014 suggested that a $10.10/hr. minimum wage would reduce national employment by 500,000. That same study conceded that the actual job impact could be “very slight” or climb as high as 1 million. New York is talking about going well beyond $10.10 an hour and the only credible studies to date indicate significant job loss.

A numbers game

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner made news, and received plaudits from liberal activists like The Working Families Party, earlier this week when she announced she was increasing the minimum wage for all city employees to $15 an hour.

Miner estimates the move will affect 61 of the city’s 1700 employees and cost roughly $220,000 per year. It’s not an eye-popping number, and probably speaks more to the overall high wages of city of Syracuse employees than anything else, but it’s also not chump change. The increase is sure to have an impact, and becomes increasingly questionable when put into context with Miner’s own comments when she submitted her budget last April. From the Syracuse Post Standard (emphasis added):

“Her 2015-16 budget anticipates a $9.2 million deficit, which will have to be paid for out of cash reserves unless city officials can cut costs during the year. That’s the smallest deficit since Miner took office in 2010, but a sign that Syracuse continues to face a fiscal crisis, Miner said Tuesday.”

So, in April Mayor Miner was proposing a budget with a $9.2 million deficit that would be paid either out of a so-called “rainy day fund”, or by cutting costs. Now, just six months later, not only is Mayor Miner not cutting costs, she’s increasing them.

Rainy day funds are supposed to be used, like the name suggests, during dire financial times. Dipping into them to give artificially-inflated wage increases to dozens of city workers seems at best, misguided.

We can’t help but wonder how the people of Syracuse will feel when Miner’s next budget calls for tax increases in order to cover these increased costs.