Monthly Archives: May 2014

Lexington named top workplace in the Capital Region

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Business Council member company Lexington, more formally known as, “Fulton County Chapter, NYSARC, Inc.”, scored a No. 1 ranking this year among all Times Union’s Top Workplaces with 500 or more employees.

“It’s so important to me that our managers really listen and help employees be part of the solution for whatever challenge they’re facing,” said Shaloni Winston, Lexington’s Executive Director.  “Our rank as number one for 2014 Top Workplaces proves that what we’re doing is working.  And that means good things for everybody, most of all for the people we support.”

A non-profit organization for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Lexington has 1,650 staff, 80+ locations, and provides services for 1,000 children and adults.  Families are part of that equation, too, since Lexington’s Board of Directors has been made up of parents of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities since its founding in 1953.  That tradition continues today, and Lexington’s rich offering of supports for families has grown to include university-developed parent support groups, family movie nights, and programs like “Sib Street,” where children ages 8 – 14 meet to talk through the rewards and difficulties of having a brother or sister with a disability.

When asked for the secret of these successes, Winston brought it back to the employees.

“For starters, the work we do is important.  Not every job offers such a meaningful and rewarding purpose.  I think every employee here recognizes that,” Winston said.  “Plus, I truly believe that Lexington’s management team helps staff find a deep sense of ownership, trust and passion for the work and for the people we support.  That’s an amazing combination, and we’re all lucky to be part of it.”

 

High Achievement New York to launch campaign

HighAchieveHigh Achievement New York, a statewide educational organization that includes The Business Council of New York State, will launch an advertising campaign in the coming months to educate business leaders about the benefits of the Common Core Learning Standards.

Frank Thomas, High Achievement New York’s  executive director told reporter Jessica Bakeman of Capital New York, “We want every child to have a chance at a great education, and that is why community leaders, educators and businesses have joined together to ensure that the high standards and dedication to excellence that the Common Core promotes make it into every classroom.”

Businesses frequently cite the mismatch in skills between graduates and open positions highlighting the shortage of technical skills and other “workplace skills,” such as time management, problem solving or teamwork. Educational initiatives that prepare students for the workforce and address the “skills gap” are a priority for The Business Council.

Business Council President and CEO Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., also spoke with Bakeman. Highlighting why Common Core Learning Standards are important to The Business Council’s membership, she stressed that businesses are focused on students having the skills they need when they graduate college. She also added that business leaders should not be, “distracted by some of the arguments that are being raised in the pain of transition.”

The campaign announcement comes on the heels of Education Commissioner John King’s speech to the Association for a Better New York on Wednesday. King called on business leaders to support the Common Core Learning Standards saying, “Your leadership is essential to achieving this goal.”

Each year approximately 140,000 students graduate unprepared for college or the workforce. The Business Council believes that business has a a responsibility to help students achieve their best. The importance of fostering career and workforce readiness for students is crucial to New York’s economic competitiveness, which depends on its skilled workforce.

Explore New York with I Love NY

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I Love NY is reminding all New Yorkers of the great things to see and do in New York state this summer. In June alone, hundreds of events will take place statewide. Some highlights include:

Path Through History Events

More than 200 special events are planned for New York State’s Path Through History Weekends , June 7-8 and 14-15, at venues throughout the state. Path Through History Weekends are designed to make it easy to experience the Empire State’s rich heritage and diverse attractions. Attractions include the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum & Center for Comedy in Jamestown, the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House in Rochester, and State Parks. For more information, visit the Path Through History website.

Baseball Hall of Fame

In recognition of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s 75th anniversary, festivities are taking place in Cooperstown this summer. Highlights include an anniversary birthday and member celebration, June 12-14; the annual Hall Of Fame Weekend, July 25-28; and an anniversary concert on August 2 at the Clark Sports Center.  For more information, visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum website.

Americade Motorcycle Rally

Americade is the world’s largest multi-brand motorcycle touring rally, attracting over 100,000 annually. Come for the day or for the week to the “Best Riding Event in the U.S.” with the most factory demos, a massive motorcycle expo, lots of incredible motorcycle events and more amazing rides than any other event in the country! Visitors will also want to check out all that the Village and surrounding Warren County have to offer. For more information, visit the Americade website.

The Business Council supports New York’s broad tourism industry that includes culture, history, restaurants, entertainment, destinations, parks and more.

In 2013, New York hosted almost 9 million visitors that generated approximately $7.7 billion in state and local taxes while producing 24,800 jobs for New Yorkers.

For more information on these great New York events and more, visit the I Love NY website at www.iloveny.com.

Greater Rochester/Finger Lakes Region designated a Manufacturing Community

ROCToday, the Greater Rochester/Finger Lakes Region of New York was designated as one of the first 12 Manufacturing Communities by The U.S. Department of Commerce as part of its Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative. The U.S. Commerce Department-led program is designed to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing in communities nationwide by supporting the development of long-term economic development strategies that help communities attract and expand private investment in the manufacturing sector and increase international trade and exports.

“The 12 Manufacturing Communities announced today represent a diverse group of communities with the most comprehensive economic development plans to attract business investment that will increase their competitiveness,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “IMCP is a critical part of our ‘Open for Business Agenda’ to strengthen the American manufacturing sector and attract more investment to the United States. Innovative programs like IMCP encourage American communities to work together to craft  strong, clear, strategic plans to attract manufacturing investment and jobs to transform themselves into globally competitive commercial hubs.”

Selected based on the strength of its economic development plan, the New York Finger Lakes region, led by the City of Rochester was selected out of more than 70 applicants based on the strength of their economic development plan,the potential community impact, and the depth of their partnerships across the public and private sectors to carry the plan out.

As one of the 12 designated Manufacturing Communities, the area will receive coordinated support for their strategies from eleven federal agencies with $1.3 billion available in federal economic development assistance.

These communities will also receive a dedicated federal liaison at each agency that will help them navigate available federal resources. They will also be recognized on a government website, accessible to prospective private foreign and domestic investors, looking for information on communities’ competitive attributes.

In order to earn the designation, communities had to demonstrate the significance of manufacturing already present in their region and develop strategies to make investments in six areas: 1) workforce and training, 2) advanced research, 3) infrastructure and site development, 4) supply chain support, 5) trade and international investment, 6) operational improvement and capital access.

In September 2013, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration and other agencies awarded $7 million in IMCP grants to 44 communities to support the development of long-term economic development strategies to help them attract and expand private investment in the manufacturing sector and increase international trade and exports. The Obama Administration officially launched the national IMCP competition in December 2013. Later this year, the Administration plans to launch a second IMCP competition to designate additional communities, as well as convene the 70 communities that applied for designation to share best practices in economic development planning.

Business Council President appointed to Central Hudson Board

briccettiBusiness Council President and CEO Heather C. Briccetti, Esq. has been appointed to the Board of Directors of Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation, the combination electric and gas utility serving New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley that became the first American utility subsidiary of Canadian holding company Fortis Inc. in June 2013.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Heather to our board, and we are certain that her substantial business expertise and governmental affairs experience will benefit Central Hudson customers immensely,” said H. Stanley Marshall, Chairman of the Board. “We look forward to her involvement and her contributions to our deliberations.”

Briccetti is the third New York State resident appointed to the utility’s board in the last year. Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation is a regulated transmission and distribution utility serving approximately 378,000 customers in eight counties of New York State’s Mid-Hudson River Valley; it delivers natural gas and electricity in a 2,600-square-mile service territory that extends from the suburbs of metropolitan New York City north to the Capital District at Albany.

Its mission is to deliver electricity and natural gas to an expanding customer base in a safe, reliable, courteous and affordable manner; to produce growing financial returns for its owner; to foster a culture that encourages employees to reach their full potential; and to be a good corporate citizen.

Fortis Inc. is the largest investor-owned distribution utility in Canada, with total assets of approximately $18.6 billion and fiscal 2013 revenue exceeding $4 billion. Its regulated utilities account for approximately 90 percent of total assets and serve approximately 2.5 million gas and electricity customers across Canada and in New York State and the Caribbean.

In addition to Marshall and Briccetti, the following individuals now serve on the Central Hudson Board:

  • Margarita K. Dilley of Washington, D.C., former Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Astrolink International LLC, who joined the board in 2004;
  • Steven M. Fetter of Norland, Wash., the President of Regulation Unfettered and the former Chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission, who joined the board in 2002;
  • Mark Kastner, of Ulster County, NY, Principal of The Chazen Companies, who joined the board in 2013;
  • Steven V. Lant of Poughkeepsie, NY, Chief Executive Officer of Central Hudson and CH Energy Group, who joined the board in 2002;
  • Mary D. Madden of Ulster County, NY, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union, who joined the board in 2013;
  • Barry V. Perry of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer of Fortis Inc., who joined the board in 2013; and
  • Karl W. Smith of Alberta, Canada, President & Chief Executive Officer of FortisAlberta Inc., who joined the board in 2013.

P-TECH high schools plan to go statewide

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In the fall, eighteen new Pathways to Education in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) will open across New York state, meaning that ninth-graders starting in September will be able to pursue an educational path that lets them graduate in six years with an associate degree.

The sixteen P-TECH high schools will hold summer sessions in July, when students will be introduced to each other and gain a head start on project-based learning and other key elements of the P-TECH model.

Representatives of the schools met recently at a session in Albany to discuss program implementation. The event featured State Education Commissioner John King, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, IBM Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs Stanley S. Litow (pictured above) , and Business Council President and CEO Heather C. Briccetti, Esq. (pictured above).

Each school will have a curriculum based on workplace learning — designed to provide students with math, writing, collaboration and presentation skills — they’ll need to succeed in today’s business environment.

Each P-TECH school has a corporate partner and the students should graduate with skills that will qualify them to work at major companies like IBM, GlobalFoundries, Lockheed-Martin, GE Healthcare or Bombardier.

Graduating with the two-year college degrees will come at no cost to students in the program.

P-TECH schools were awarded shares of a $28 million state grant in a competition last year offered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

The schools are all modeled after Brooklyn’s P-TECH High School that formed as a partnership between the New York City School District and IBM.

IBM’s Litow said the model was conceived as way for IBM to fill the growing need for middle-skills jobs that require more education than a high school diploma but not a four-year college degree.

Speaking to teams of educators and business leaders who are organizing the new schools, Litow said recently that the challenge they face is to bring to scale the successful Brooklyn model.

“Bringing great initiatives to scale is always the greatest challenge,” he said.

Businesses in New York state are projected to create one million jobs that require more education than a high school diploma but not a four-year college degree between 2008 and 2018, according to data compiled by Jobs for the Future and The Business Council of New York State.

Referred by the Brookings Institute as “the hidden STEM economy,” middle-skill jobs will make up 39 percent — the largest portion — of all jobs in New York state by 2018. Jobs requiring a four-year college degree will comprise 34 percent of the workforce while low-skill jobs, those requiring a high school diploma or less, will make up the remaining 27 percent of the workforce.

“The business community recognizes the urgency in closing the middle-skills gap, and that jobs in the STEM field play a major role in driving the state’s economy,” said Business Council President Briccetti.

Ameritas of New York celebrates partnership with The Business Council

This year, Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. of New York and The Business Council of New York State, Inc. Insurance Fund celebrate 10 years of working together to serve the needs of New York businesses.

“The Business Council Insurance Fund helps its member companies cut costs while providing valued benefits to their employees. And we’re proud to help them do it,” said Ken VanCleave, LLIF, Ameritas of New York president and CEO. “We want to continue to serve this important organization and its members for years to come.”

The Business Council Insurance Fund said Ameritas of New York was chosen as the sole carrier for its dental and vision group insurance programs due to the company’s dental expertise, plan design experience and accurate pricing.

“The Business Council Insurance Fund only considers carriers that are known for competitive pricing and high-quality service,” said Teri Wilson, senior director of The Business Council Insurance Fund. “Our members employ more than 1.2 million New Yorkers, and they need good benefits to attract and keep good employees. We save our members money through group rates. The Business Council Insurance Fund makes sure any insurance programs available through us will deliver the benefits people want at an affordable price.”

About Ameritas of New York
Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. of New York has served customers since 1984 and today provides dental, vision, and hearing care products and services in New York state. Its dental network offers more than 13,000 provider access points in New York (the number exceeds 303,000 nationwide). Its contact center has earned BenchmarkPortal’s Center of Excellence certification every year since 2007. In 2014, it also achieved Top 100 status in BenchmarkPortal’s small centers category.

About The Business Council of New York State, Inc.
The Business Council of New York State is the primary statewide advocacy group for business in New York, supported by 2,300 member companies and Chambers of Commerce from around the state. The Council creates a voice for business and works to create economic growth, good jobs and strong communities across New York.

Ameritas

AARP Partnership with Cell Provider Raises Questions

An article in the trade publication Communications Daily revives the issue of organizations, in this case AARP, partnering with businesses to market products to members in areas in which they also engage in public policy advocacy.

In this instance, the issue is a proposed New Jersey law AB-2459, which would bar Verizon from being able to switch customers from costly-to-maintain landline to Voice Link wireless service, unless a customer requests the change unsolicited by the company.

According to the Communications Daily article, political watchdog groups say the dispute points to the potential appearance of impropriety that can arise from business partnerships that generate a significant portion of AARP’s revenue.

Verizon says AARP markets Consumer Cellular, which it says would benefit from the proposed legislation. Similar concerns have been raised in the past over AARP’s support of a Medicare prescription drug plan that the watchdogs said would benefit AARP’s insurance ventures.

The entire article is reproduced below by permission of Warren Communications News, Inc., 800-771-9202, www.warren-news.com<http://www.warren-news.com>
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Questions are being raised about AARP’s support for a New Jersey bill that, while consistent with other positions it has taken on the IP transition, would benefit a cellphone company that pays the organization royalties. Verizon, in a statement to us last week, singled out Consumer Cellular, “which is promoted by AARP to its members,” as a company that would receive “an unfair competitive advantage” from the passage of AB-2459 which the telco opposes (CD May 14 p8).

AARP acknowledged to us it receives royalties from Consumer Cellular to use AARP’s name and logo in marketing materials, a fact confirmed by the company. Consumer Cellular also offers AARP members a discount, and a link to sign up with the company is on the AARP website. AARP and Consumer Cellular denied AARP’s position on the bill is related to any benefit the company would gain. “AARP’s advocacy efforts are not related to the separate products arm of AARP,” the organization said.

To political watchdog groups, the dispute points to the potential appearance questions that can arise from the business partnerships that generate a significant portion of AARP’s revenue. “This isn’t the only issue where people have questioned whether their priority is to provide advocacy for senior citizens or to promote its business interests,” said Bill Allison, Sunlight Foundation editorial director. He cited a 2003 Public Citizen analysis (http://bit.ly/1n9xL0j) that said AARP had “strong financial in incentives” to support a Republican Medicare prescription bill proposal, because it would benefit a number of AARP’s insurance ventures. “They are invested with so many business interests the question is, ‘Are they representing the elderly or are they bending over backwards to promote the interests of their partners?'” Allison said.

At issue is New Jersey AB-2459, which stems from concerns Verizon is trying to push customers from costly-to-maintain landlines to its wireless Voice Link product. The measure would create a one-year moratorium barring Verizon from being able to switch customers from landline to Voice Link, unless a customer requests the change unsolicited by the company. “A potential customer could go to the AARP website, read about the AARP discount for Consumer Cellular and purchase that company’s” product, said Verizon. “However that same consumer would be effectively banned from purchasing a similar product from Verizon.”

AARP and Consumer Cellular wouldn’t say how much the company pays the AARP. The largest source of revenue for AARP is royalties, with $723.8 million in 2012 revenue, or just over half of AARP’s total $1.4 billion, show AARP financial statements for that year (http://bit.ly/1oJ6fpV), the latest posted on its website. Royalty income was more than twice the $281 million raised from membership dues, which accounted for a fifth of AARP 2012 revenue. The results exclude almost 1,500 local AARP chapters that are organized and operated as separate entities.

AARP and Consumer Cellular deny the organization’s legislative positions are based on business relationships. AARP selectively chooses who it partners with, AARP said. “By lending the AARP brand to high-quality, consumer friendly products and services, we seek to influence a variety of industries and thereby better serve the needs of our members and all older Americans,” said AARP. It said the group’s positions “to protect our members’ access to reliable, affordable phone service” are “driven not by a provider’s marketing efforts, but by our research that shows older Americans want the safety and security of knowing they have access to reliable home phone service.” In “replacing reliable, affordable landline service,” any “new technology must be as good or better than the current product, and it must include a robust set of consumer protections,” said AARP. “Wireless service as a replacement for landline service does not meet these needs” now, it said.

AARP’s position on the measure is consistent with its opposition to measures in other states against allowing companies to get out of carrier of last resort (COLR) obligations (CD March 19 p12)). AB-2459 sponsor Assemblyman Daniel Benson, a Democrat, called Verizon’s statements about Consumer Cellular “a misdirection by Verizon. … What our bill does and what AARP supports is preventing Verizon from removing wireline service as an option for customers and replacing it with an inferior fixed wireless service.”

AARP’s positions point to the dangers of non-profits partnering with businesses in areas in which they advocate, said Sunlight’s Allison. Public Citizen said it does not take corporate sponsorships, because that could pose conflicts. “Though it doesn’t explicitly violate any ethics, or laws, we don’t accept sponsorships from corporations because of the potential impacts on choices made based on donor relations,” said Susan Harley, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “We want to remain independent.”

Advancing manufacturing creates jobs

It’s an exciting time for manufacturing in New York state. With multiple programs and resources focused on revitalizing the manufacturing economy across the state, start-ups and stalwarts are collaborating with a rich network of resources to integrate innovative technology into their processes and products. This is an important development because manufacturing has such a significant positive impact on jobs and the economy.

Many members of The Business Council are leading this transformation in manufacturing.

Business Council member FuzeHub connects New York’s small and mid-sized manufacturers to resources, programs and expertise they need to commercialize technology, which is the first advanced manufacturing step. FuzeHub was created last year through a partnership between Empire State Development and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Companies can connect with FuzeHub solution experts online, and through one-on-one meetings, to access the broad range of resources available to help grow their businesses. If you would like to know more about FuzeHub, please go to www.fuzehub.com.

FIRST Robotics Competitions hit New York helping students, like those pictured here, prepare to become part of the skilled workforce of tomorrow.
FIRST Robotics Competitions hit New York helping students, like those pictured here, prepare to become part of the skilled workforce of tomorrow.

 

Another example involves one of the state’s iconic manufacturing companies, Business Council member General Electric (GE). GE and an innovative start-up, Quirky, have partnered to develop “the world’s smartest air conditioner.” It knows you’re on your way home through a smartphone application, saving you energy by turning itself on and cooling your house before you arrive. Another member of The Business Council, Con Edison, is looking to offer a rebate to New York City dwellers who use the product because of its energy-saving potential.

As Mark Little, GE global research director described it recently; GE is combining its “technical might and skill with a start-up company that has tremendous energy to innovate around the world. This is a combination that can’t be beat.”

Quirky gives anybody with an idea, the potential to be an inventor. As profiled in New York Magazine the company allows people to submit ideas that are votes on by the public, choices are narrowed down and voting continues until three final choices are put into development during a weekly Webcast each Thursday night. The idea for an air conditioner produced by GE and Quirky was one of those ideas.

Through these kinds of partnerships and innovative approaches, manufacturing is creating jobs for highly skilled, tech-savvy workers.

The Business Council is also helping in many ways: by winning significant tax reform for manufacturers and other businesses; by advocating for higher academic standards and workforce development programs to ensure a steady supply of skilled workers; and by spreading the word that today’s manufacturing jobs are not at all like your grandfather’s manufacturing job.

Verizon’s significant investment in New York City’s fiber-optic infrastructure

VerizonVerizon announced today that is has installed almost 89 million feet or nearly 17,000 miles of fiber optic infrastructure in New York City, enough to stretch over six trips between New York and Los Angeles.

The company’s fiber infrastructure in the city includes facilities for interoffice and backbone network equipment, specialized fiber for large enterprise customers, as well its revolutionary FiOS services serving consumers and small businesses.

Unlike cable, FiOS utilizes light to transfer video and data signals all the way to a home or business, making it the highest-performing communications technology available. FiOS currently delivers download speeds as high as 500 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of up to 100 Mbps.  These speeds give customers the ability to download a 2-hour HD video in just over a minute-and-a- half and upload the average PowerPoint presentation in less than a second.

Verizon is meeting its goal to run its all-fiber telecommunications network throughout all five boroughs. “This is the largest, most-ambitious fiber-optic deployment in any U.S. city. We have invested more than $3 billion in the city alone, making it one of the most ‘fiberized’ cities on the planet,” said Kevin Service, Verizon’s president for the company’s Northeast Area.  “Our 12,000 New York City employees are proud to bring this future-proof  technology to the people of New York City.”

Service also said that the company has worked with the city confirming each annual benchmark established for upgrading its network for video service availability in the five boroughs.  As of the end of 2013, the company had completed network upgrades passing premises in  90 percent of the Bronx, 89 percent of Brooklyn, 94 percent of Manhattan, 90 percent of Queens and virtually the entirety of Staten Island — all as called for under the Cable Franchise Agreement with the city.

In addition, the company has already made FiOS available to more than 60,000 New York City public housing units.

After Superstorm Sandy, the company accelerated its plans for installing fiber-optic technology to replace cables and other infrastructure elements that were destroyed by the unprecedented flooding. In the most dramatic example, the company installed fiber-optic cables and networking equipment throughout lower Manhattan and in some of the coastal neighborhoods in Brooklyn (such as Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay) and Queens (such as Belle Harbor and Breezy Point) giving all of those areas a robust and reliable all-fiber-optic telecommunications network for years to come.

Verizon reached an agreement with the City of New York to conduct a pilot program of  “microtrenching,” which enables fiber optic cables to be installed in a way that’s less disruptive to the city’s streets and sidewalks.

Installing underground wires – such as fiber – in New York can be time consuming and disruptive to the community. It involves large excavations, backhoes and dump trucks, air and noise pollution, and it has a significant impact on the carbon footprint. Not to mention the noise and disruption. Verizon’s new approach to trenching, which was approved by the city to go from pilot to standard practice, makes it easier and more efficient to lay fiber. It involves a much thinner wire and less equipment. And it takes a third of the time to install fiber, with less disruption to the environment.

Other innovations and techniques Verizon has developed and taken advantage of in its New York City fiber deployment include the so-called Magic Wire, which seamlessly and almost invisibly adheres to moldings in compact city apartments, and a desktop optical network terminal that takes up far less space, as opposed to a larger one that is affixed to the side of a house in more suburban settings.

Read more on Verizon’s website.