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Panel discusses higher standards

The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce last week hosted a panel discussion on higher education standards, the value of assessments and business engagement in education at the Microsoft Technology Center in New York City. The event—sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of New York State (PPI) and the Committee for Economic Development—featured a panel of local stakeholders: Cass Conrad, executive director of School Support and Development at CUNY; Tenicka Boyd, director of organizing at StudentsFirstNY; Neal Gorka a teacher at Democracy Prep Charter Middle School; and Robert Patterson, business development manager at Progressive Computing Inc.

Since its adoption by the New York State Board of Regents in January 2011, the Common Core has been conflated with a host of unrelated issues, namely teacher evaluations, which include a student-growth component centered on state and local assessments.

Higher Education Standards panel
Courtesy: Manhattan Chamber of Commerce

Boyd, who is a strong supporter of both the standards and Common Core aligned-assessments, told the audience about her background growing up in a low-income neighborhood in Milwaukee. There, Ms. Boyd told how she was inspired by her third-grade teacher, Mr. Smith, who made a huge impact on her life and the lives of her classmates. She also noted that the opt-out movement—which has been wrought with misinformation— was not prevalent in lower-income and minority communities.

In regard to the current workforce’s preparation for 21st century careers, Patterson noted that job applicants often lacked “soft skills,” including working in groups and critical thinking.

Event attendees all received copies of PPI’s Common Core Standards: What Every New Yorker Needs to Know and Partnering with Schools for College and Career Readiness: Resources for the New York State Business Community.

We would like to thanks the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce for partnering with us on this great event.

Con Ed report highlights emissions cut

This is truly incredible news. Con Edison recently released their 2014 Sustainability Report 2014 Sustainability Report (read it here) and they are touting some eye-popping numbers. Since 2005, Con Ed has cut greenhouse gas emission by 45 percent. That’s the same as removing 500 thousand cars from the road.

Other highlights taken directly from the report include:

  • As one of the largest consumers of municipal water in New York City, we purchased over 3.6 billion gallons of water, approximately 100 million of which was used for basic water and sewage services at our facilities while the rest was used to generate steam.
  • The wise and effective use of natural resources is one of Con Edison’s five key EH&S objectives. We continue to focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling to minimize consumption. This applies to our use of materials as well as our use of energy and water and we were proud in 2014 to again have a recycling rate of 90% for our non-hazardous waste.
  • Our primary impact on habitat and biodiversity is on our overhead transmission rights-of-way (ROW) and in 2014, we continued to enact our Land and Vegetation Management program which was developed, in part, to encourage biological diversity along these passageways. We’ve also undertaken an initiative in partnership with the New York DEC to reduce the spread of invasive species in ROW.
  • Our seven climate change principles help guide our work, and in 2014 we reached the halfway mark in our four-year, $1 billion plan for storm hardening investments to adapt our system after two of our most significant storms within two years (Hurricane Irene in 2011 with over 200,000 outages and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 with over 1 million outages) and improve our resiliency.

(source: Con Edison’s 2014 Sustainability Report)

We are proud to have Con Ed as a member and congratulate them on making and keeping their commitment to improving corporate sustainability.

Soccer club shutout by comp costs

It’s one thing to say Worker’s Comp costs are out of control, they are. But what are the practical implications? Well, for one Central New York soccer club, the sky-high costs mean they simply cannot survive.

The Syracuse Post Standard has a fascinating, and disheartening story about how the Rochester Lancers, a professional indoor soccer club, will no longer be able to field a team after their Worker’s Comp costs ballooned from 20k per year to more than a quarter of a million dollars.

From the article: “Lancers owner Salvatore “Soccer Sam” Fantauzzo has posted a letter on his team’s website that explains his team is ceasing operations because of a hefty worker’s compensation bill.

Fantauzzo said the team’s premium rose from $20,000 to $277,000, an increase way beyond the team’s means.

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that Fantauzzo wrote a letter to the Professional Arena Soccer League that said “we allowed players to milk the system.” He told the paper that disability payments were paid to players who in some cases were still actively competing. The state neither informed the Lancers of those claims nor fought the awards, he said.”

The Business Council of New York State has repeatedly called for reform of our bloated Worker’s Comp system. You can read more about our proposed reforms and cost-saving measures by reading Fix New York: The 2015 Legislative and Regulatory Agenda.

USA Today says yes to fracking

Less than two weeks ago New York State officially banned fracking. The decision was not unexpected. In fact, we’ve known it was coming since last December. We remain dismayed that state officials chose to ignore the evidence that fracking can be done safely, including a detailed report from the EPA.

A holiday weekend editorial in the USA Today says it best: “Any debate about banning it should take a hard look at what that would cost the nation and at facts that aren’t always part of the discussion.

Those facts are spelled out in a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency on fracking and groundwater. One of the harshest charges against fracking, often leveled with apocalyptic intensity by its foes, is that it indiscriminately contaminates vital drinking water supplies.

The EPA’s timely report essentially said that’s overblown.”

The Business Council remains hopeful that as more and more reports come out that fracking can be done safely the state of New York will reverse its misguided ban. The residents of the Southern Tier deserve the chance to join in on the economic opportunities hydraulic fracturing has created in many communities around the country.

It’s time to make way for a sharing economy

It is rare that New York State moves to pass legislation that would have an immediate and positive impact on the Hudson Valley economy. It is even rarer that the bill would not cost taxpayers a penny and has bipartisan support in both houses. Fortunately, such a piece of legislation (A.6090/S.4280) exists and is supported by a number of organizations, including The Business Council of New York State. This particular piece of legislation, which would help regulate the growing “sharing economy,” specifically as it pertains to automobiles and insurance companies, should be passed before the end of the year.

The “sharing economy” is perhaps best exemplified by companies like Lyft and Uber, but there are a whole host of businesses just waiting for New York State to give them the regulatory tools necessary to open up shop. Passing this legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Cahill, would give New Yorkers the services they want while at the same time giving insurance companies the assurances they need.

Anyone who has lived and traveled in cities like Poughkeepsie, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo knows that the current transit options are woefully inadequate. The lack of consistently reliable public transportation stifles economic development and leaves visitors with a negative impression of our communities and our state.

Ride sharing and other “collaborative consumption” innovations have several benefits to consumers and the economy as a whole. The utilization of underused assets allows ride-sharers to spend less money and moves more people with fewer vehicles. Ride-sharing saves resources, energy and physical space.

The growth of the “sharing economy” is indisputable. A recent report in Forbes Magazine estimated that the revenue flowing through the “sharing economy” surpassed $3.5 billion, with growth expectations that exceeded 25 percent. New York should be at the forefront in encouraging new economic models in a safe and responsible manner. By requiring that group policy insurance be in place for vehicles taking part in ride sharing, the Cahill bill provides a balanced approach to the necessary protections for consumers, insurers and the public at large.

New York has a history of leading the nation when it comes to adopting legislative policies that affect real change in the way we all live and work. Unfortunately, when it comes to the so-called “new economy”, New York’s policies are falling woefully behind. It is time for the Empire State to show true leadership and allow its citizens to take advantage of the benefits technology is affording us all.

Heather C. Briccetti Esq.
President and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc.

*a version of this OpEd ran in the Poughkeepsie Journal on 6/17/15

Assembly clarifies SLA authority

Earlier today, the New York State Assembly passed A.5920. The legislation, supported by The Business Council, clarifies the State Liquor Authority’s (SLA) ability to penalize licensees in certain situations.

The bill, born out of dispute between a Capital Region retailer and the SLA, would clarify the SLA’s legal authority in enforcing the laws of another state. More specifically, it would remove the ambiguity that exists in current law and end the perception of selective enforcement.

The alcohol industry remains a vital and growing part of the New York State economy, providing tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity. A predictable regulatory environment will help ensure this important industry remains strong and continues to experience the growth we have seen in recent years.

We applaud the state Assembly for passing this legislation and encourage the state Senate to do the same.

Rochester tops summer jobs list

How about this for some great news? Forbes magazine is out with an article today highlighting a recent survey by the ManpowerGroup that finds that Rochester, NY has the best job outlook of any U.S. city this summer.

Overall, the study found that employment opportunities are improving nationwide. According to the Manpower Group survey and Forbes, the net employment outlook is 16%, which is an improvement of 2 percentage points from the same point last year.

Getting to Rochester specifically, the state’s third largest city has a net employment outlook of 35%. Forbes spoke directly with Bob Duffy, the former Lieutenant Governor and current CEO of the Rochester Business Alliance, to find out why things are looking up in Rochester.

“According to Duffy, the precision manufacturing industry in Rochester is particularly strong at the moment with companies like Gleason, a machine tool builder, adding employees. Kodak is also on the upswing. Plus Rochester has its share of growing startups. One, data backup and recovery outfit Datto, has plans to have 100 Rochester-based employees by October. The call center company Sutherland is also expanding—so quickly, in fact, that it cannot build new buildings fast enough to house all the new workers that it wants to hire, Duffy says. “We have the highest per capita concentration of patents in the United States and 19 colleges and universities that contribute tremendous brainpower,” he says.”

Rounding out the rest of the list are: Nashville, TN; Provo, UT; and Tucson, AZ.

New study touts benefit of Indian Point

The National Energy Institute (NEI) is out with a new study, released today, that highlights the financial impact of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County.

According to the NEI’s study, which can be downloaded here, Indian Point pumps $1.6 billion into the state’s economy each year. The same study says the plant contributes an additional $900 million to the nation’s economy.

From the study:

“Indian Point’s annual spending creates a huge ripple effect in the state and nationwide: The facility’s operation generates $1.3 billion of annual economic output in the local counties, $1.6 billion statewide and $2.5 billion across the United States. The study finds that for every dollar of output from Indian Point, the local economy produces $1.27, the state economy produces $1.55 and the U.S. economy produces $2.48.

Entergy provides higher-than-average wages at Indian Point: Entergy directly employs approximately 1,000 people at Indian Point. Because they are technical in nature, these jobs typically are higher-paying. This direct employment leads to another 2,800 indirect jobs in surrounding counties and 1,600 in other industries in New York for a total 5,400 jobs in-state. There are an additional 5,300 indirect jobs outside the state for a total of 10,700 jobs throughout the United States.”

The Business Council of New York State, Inc., supports the continued operations of Indian Point, which is essential to the New York State economy. This electrical generation facility provides 2,069 megawatts of baseload power to New York’s electrical grid every single day. Indian Point accounts for up to 11 percent of the power used statewide and 25 percent of the power in both Westchester County and New York City.

Major milestone for P-TECH

The Business Council has been a huge supporter of specialized schools under the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program. Our work with the program began back in December 2012 when we, along with IBM and the State Education Department, co-hosted a meeting for potential partners. These innovative grade 9-14 schools combine academics, workplace learning and mentoring, and have been championed by everyone from Governor Cuomo to President Obama. In fact, President Obama even mentioned Brooklyn P-TECH in his 2013 State of the Union address. And now, six students who completed the program in only four years, are on the cusp of graduating.

P-TECH Brooklyn is the flagship school that spurred the state’s P-TECH program. A partnership between IBM (a Business Council member), the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York and City Tech, the school allows students to graduate with a high school diploma and associate degree in applied science in computer systems technology or electromechanical engineering technology. Students are then given an opportunity to be first in line for jobs at IBM.

The NY Daily News wrote a great article about this year’s first crop of graduates. We were particularly struck by this passage: The students are the first group to graduate from P-TECH with a high school degree and an associate’s degree. That includes Gabriel Rosa, who applied to P-TECH on a whim. “Being able to handle a lot of work is definitely a skill I’ve gained,” Rosa said. “If I wasn’t in P-TECH, I’m not sure where I’d be.”

Read more about the students here and here.

Daily News gets it right

Since bursting on to the scene several years ago, Uber and Lyft have upended, or disrupted, the traditional taxi system. If you’re unfamiliar with how these services work, basically you download the company’s app on your smartphone and when you’re looking for a ride you open up the app, make sure it has you in the correct location and then ask for a pickup. The app then alerts the nearest driver that you’re ready to be picked up and in a few minutes you’re on your way. The convenience of both pickup and payment, along with the clean cars and friendly drivers, has made Uber and Lyft very popular.

But, like most emerging technologies, the country’s regulatory agencies have been slow to keep up. There are some legitimate concerns about insurance and licensing and the companies are working to address them. In New York City, the traditional taxi companies have been lobbying hard to have the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) step in and provide stricter regulations of For Hire Vehicle (FHV) apps like Uber and Lyft.

The regulations that have been proposed (read them here) have been met with considerable pushback, not only by the industry, but by business groups like us. The New York City media has been following the story closely and today the Daily News weighed in with an editorial siding with Uber and Lyft. We encourage you to read the whole piece, it’s not too long. But we did want to single out a key section:

“The TLC must recognize that it has no hope of ruling a dynamic and fast-changing market. One telling confirmation:

Consistent with its obligation to know who’s doing what on the streets, the commission demanded to know how many rides Uber’s 17,745 cars provide daily and where they are picking up passengers. Uber provided the data on April 1. The TLC has yet to produce even the most basic analysis of the numbers.”

For now, Uber and Lyft are only allowed to operate in New York City; they are prohibited in the rest of the state. We are working to enact legislation that would make Uber and Lyft available statewide. There’s been a huge push in our home base of the Capital Region. Several well-known restaurateurs have been leading the charge. We believe that Uber and Lyft would be key sources of economic development throughout upstate and remain hopeful we can get this legislation passed.