Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Business Council Insurance Fund Declares Premium Holiday

The Business Council Insurance Fund has announced a two-month premium holiday for members who have participated in the fund’s Group Life Insurance Trust prior to January 2013. Those members will receive a premium holiday on their life and accidental death and personal loss coverage benefits for the months of July and August 2014.

A Premium Holiday occurs when The Insurance Fund is able to reduce the premium due from its participating members — in this case for the months of July and August, 2014 — as the direct result of positive financial underwriting gains attributable to the program’s administration.

The Insurance Fund consistently offers competitive rates for life and accidental death and personal loss insurance. These products are underwritten by Aetna Life Insurance Company, an industry leader. “The large number of participants in the fund gives us leverage to keep prices down,” said Teri Wilson, senior director of the Business Council Insurance Fund. “Our long history of solid underwriting and positive loss experience also keeps rates down.”

Benefits to Council members include a single billing for multiple lines of coverage and less hassle when dealing with enrollments. The group life insurance benefits are tailored to meet the needs of all business, small to large, and offer customizable options through an easy-to-use, state-of-the art customer call center. The Fund provides service on all of its products with one of the most experienced staffs in the insurance industry.

Wilson said, “We choose to work with Aetna for one simple, yet powerful reason: the quality of their underwriting. This relationship reinforces the value in our membership and enables more New York State businesses to enjoy a cost-effective, no hassle business solution.”

The Council created its Insurance Fund in 1957 to offer low-cost group insurance as a membership benefit. The Fund’s programs have grown steadily; two-thirds of Council members currently are enrolled in the Fund’s group insurance programs insuring more than 180,000 workers across New York State. The Fund can insure employers with as few as two employees or more than 1,000, and can tailor products to meet employers’ needs.

For more information about the Premium Holiday or any of The Business Council’s insurance programs please e-mail our insurance department or call 800.692.5483.

New York City health regulators overstepped bounds with soda ban

New York state’s highest court—The Court of Appeals—has ruled that New York City’s Board of Heath overstepped its regulatory authority by imposing a 16-ounce limit on sugary beverages sold in restaurants, delis, movie theaters, stadiums and street carts.

In a 4-2 decision, the court ruled the appointed board tread on the policy-making turf of the elected City Council.

“By choosing among competing policy goals, without any legislative delegation or guidance, the board engaged in lawmaking,” the court wrote in a majority opinion. “… Its choices raise difficult, intricate and controversial issues of social policy.”

The Business Council of New York State has opposed the ban since it was first proposed by the former Bloomberg administration.

In the brief, The Business Council argued the ban is arbitrary, creates an unfair playing field among businesses and imposes new restrictions on businesses and consumers alike.

The American Beverage Association, which led the legal fight against the measure, welcomed Thursday’s ruling against a measure it said would have “limited New Yorkers’ freedom of choice.” Curbing obesity should start “with education — not laws and regulation,” spokesman Christopher Gindlesperger said.

The city hasn’t said whether it plans to try to appeal, but the case doesn’t raise federal issues that would make it a likely choice for the Supreme Court and it’s fate in the City Council is uncertain.

Leadership Forum on Energy Policy

The Business Council of New York State, Inc., Marist College, and the Hudson Renewable Energy Institute, cohosted the 2014 Renewable Energy Conference — A Leadership Forum on Energy Policy: Changing Federal and State Energy Markets and Impacts on Renewable Supply today at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

The conference examined the impacts of technology as well as federal and state policy changes on the competitive bulk electric market place, in addition to the deployment, and pricing of renewable supply sources.

The Dean of Marist’s School of Management, Lawrence Singleton, Ph.D, emceed the event and Allan Page, chair of The Hudson Renewable Energy Institute welcomed the crowd. Business Council President Heather C. Briccetti, Esq. spoke about the importance of energy and business.

Many leading energy experts spoke at the conference, including prominent energy policy expert and recently appointed Energy and Finance Chairman for New York State Richard Kauffman.  Other experts spoke from GE Power and Water, Renewable Energy; National Grid; Central Hudson Gas & Electric; Constellation Energy; EarthKind Solar Energy, IBM Corporation, Couch White, LLP; Winston & Strawn LLP; Dutchess County; in addition George M. Drosdowich, Esq.

Conference sponsors included BQ Energy, LLC; Taylor Biomass Energy; Advanced Control Systems.  Exhibitors included ACT BioEnergy; Courtney Strong; NYSERDA; National Grid; and Taylor Biomass Energy.

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Business Council interview on The Capitol Pressroom

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The Business Council’s Vice President of Government Affairs recapped the end of the legislative session in Albany earlier this week on WCNY’s Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter.

Among the many topics covered were how business fared this session, brownfield redevelopment, tax cuts, jobs, and the economy.

Listen to the interview on WCNY’s website (interview starts at the 37:44 mark).

Business Council HR expert legislative briefing on Long Island

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The Business Council will host an HR Legislative Briefing at member company Jackson Lewis LLP on Long Island on Tuesday, July 1 from 8:30 — 10:45 a.m.

Now that the 2014 legislative session in Albany has ended, The Business Council’s Director of Government Affairs Tom Minnick will recap the pressing HR-related legislative issues this session and cover areas moving forward.

Topics include repealing the annual employee notice requirement of the Wage Theft Prevention Act, the “bullying” bill, mandated time off proposals, proposed limits on background checks, pay equity, paid family leave, and more.

This briefing is approved for 2 Strategic Business credits from the HR Certification Institute. There is no charge for Business Council members attending this briefing.  Jackson Lewis will provide a complimentary light breakfast.

For more information or to register visit The Business Council website.

University of Rochester’s new VISTA lab

Business Council member the University of Rochester recently previewed its new data visualization lab.  The new Visualization-Innovation-Science-Technology-Application (VISTA) lab was created as part of the University’s Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation (HSCCI).

The lab creates the visual experience necessary to allow researchers to understand and manipulate large and complex sets of scientific information, and one of the centerpieces of its commitment is to apply high performance computing and data science approaches to solve scientific problems.

The HSCCI project was identified as a priority project in 2012 by the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council (FLREDC) and awarded $5 million from New York State.  It is part of a $30 million investment made by the University, New York State and Business Council member IBM in HSCCI. More than $50 million has been invested in recent years to expand the University’s high performance computational resources.

“We are deeply grateful for the critical investment provided by New York State for the HSCCI,” said Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester.  “This support, along with the commitments made by IBM, will enable us to create the state-of-the-art computational infrastructure and research resources necessary to make Rochester a national leader in the field of high performance computing and data sciences.”

Only a handful of other U.S. institutions – such as Stanford University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory – have developed similar capabilities.

The visualization lab will be the key to not only helping scientists understand data, but it will also enable them to develop new analytic tools, collaborate with colleagues from other institutions, and train new generations of researchers and engineers in the field of data science.  As a user facility available to industry, the lab is also expected to strengthen and expand existing research collaborations with companies like IBM, Xerox, and Wegmans, as well as attract new private sector partners.

From a research perspective, the large scale display helps scientists overcome a major hurdle: understanding and extracting meaningful observations from the large and complex data sets that are easier to obtain than process.  The size, orientation, and high resolution capabilities of the display create an experience that allows scientists to look at and compare large sets of data or observe fine details in the context of larger structures.

The University will soon break ground on a new 50,000-square-foot building which will house the IDS and bear the Wegmans name in recognition of the Wegman Family Charitable Foundation’s recent $10 million gift.

Business Council President and CEO: More work to do

In an Op-Ed published in the (Schenectady, N.Y.) Sunday Gazette, Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State said New York is making progress toward getting its fiscal affairs in order, but much more needs to be done.

Briccetti writes, “The upgrading of New York’s credit rating (by Moody’s and Fitch) is good news. It reflects a significant turnaround in the management of the state’s fiscal affairs.”

She cites four straight on-time budgets, sustainable spending growth (averaging under 2 percent), maintained levels of public service, increased infrastructure investments and much needed tax reform as important accomplishments.

The O-Ed continues, “Gov. Andrew Cuomo has led this turnaround and should be congratulated for this accomplishment, as should his partners in the state Senate and Assembly. This is important progress, but not the end of the story. The same bond rating announcement talked about future risks, as well, including structural budget deficits. The state also needs to address the pending expiration of more than $2 billion a year in temporary income tax revenue. In short, there is more work to do in maintaining our newfound fiscal discipline.”

To read the entire Op-Ed posted on The Business Council’s website, please click here.

Albany CPA F. Michael Zovistoski elected NYSSCPA secretary/treasurer

zovistoskiBusiness Council member The New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA) re-elected F. Michael Zovistoski, CPA, of Albany, as its secretary and treasurer at its recent 117th Annual Election Dinner and Meeting.

Zovistoski is a partner with UHY LLP in Albany, where he is an active member in the firm’s national manufacturing/distribution group and one of three national leaders in its wealth management practice.

Zovistoski joined the NYSSCPA in 1987. He is currently serving on the Society’s board of directors as secretary and treasurer, and on its executive committee.  He is also the treasurer of the Society’s Foundation for Accounting Education (FAE) board of trustees and the FAE investment committee.

He is also the current chair of the Society’s finance committee and is a member, and past chair, of its professional liability insurance committee.

“It is an exciting time to be a CPA in New York State.  There is no other organization in New York better equipped to help mold and shape legislative and regulatory changes than the NYSSCPA. I am proud to be a member and leader of the NYSSCPA and encourage others to participate as well.”

Zovistoski, who is a certified financial planner, is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and serves as chair of the College of St. Rose Planning Giving Advisory Board.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Siena College.

Business Council Statement on End of the 2014 State Legislative Session

ALBANY, N.Y.—We congratulate Governor Cuomo, Senate Leaders Skelos and Klein and Assembly Speaker Silver, as well as Minority Leaders Stewart-Cousins and Kolb, on a successful session that will promote economic growth and new job creation in New York State.

Both houses of the New York State legislature ended session by taking action on several Business Council priorities including:

– legislation that repeals the unnecessary and administratively burdensome annual notice requirement of the “Wage Theft Prevention Act,” showing a commitment to common-sense reductions in regulatory compliance burdens imposed on private sector employers.

– a fifteen-month extension of the state’s brownfield cleanup and redevelopment program, which will give developers confidence in the availability of state incentives as the administration and legislature continues to work on a long-term reform and extension bill.

– a two year extension of contract procurement and procurement lobbying regulation, and a commitment to work on broader reforms to the state’s contract procurement laws that will promote increased competition on state and municipal contracts, especially by small business and M/WBE contractors.

Importantly, the session ended without imposition of significant costly new compliance burdens on the private sector.

Earlier this year, the adoption of a fourth consecutive sustainable growth budget illustrated the state’s new sense of fiscal discipline, an important achievement recently recognized by an upgrading of the state’s credit rating to its highest level in 50 years.

The budget also included the most significant broad-based business tax reforms adopted in New York in the past twenty years. Structural tax reform that reduces compliance costs, and lower tax burdens on key sectors of the state’s economy, will improve our economic climate and foster growth upstate and downstate alike. The package will provide employers with approximately $560 million in tax relief that can be reinvested in the economy.

No doubt, we have more work to do to promote new jobs, new investments, and strong communities across New York. But the 2014 session continued to keep New York’s economy on a new, positive path forward.

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

Foreign trade and investment boost upstate economy

As the global economy expands and the upstate economy remains stagnant, expanding global trade and foreign investment is an important upstate growth strategy being employed by government, business and economic development leaders.

Both exporting finished good made upstate and attracting foreign capital investments into upstate business ventures are strategies being employed across the state. Details of the various strategies were discussed at a forum focused on upstate New York presented by The Public Policy Institute of New York State, Inc. and The Business Council of New York State, Inc.

“Consumers in emerging markets are a tremendous opportunity to boost the upstate economy and export markets for upstate goods are rising dramatically,” said Jose Rasco, managing director and head of investment strategy for HSBC Private Bank.

“There’s a compelling argument for global trade and foreign investment to boost the upstate economy,” Rasco said. “Export markets are rising dramatically. Foreign trade has doubled as a percent of economic output in ten years.”

Kenneth Adams, president and CEO of Empire State Development and commissioner of the New York State Department of Economic Development, outlined statewide strategies being used to attract investment including marketing the more than 100 tax-free zones linked to academic and research institutions around the state to foreign biotech and technology companies.

Adams also cited a foreign-domestic partnership between PepsiCo and Theo Muller Group of Germany to establish a yogurt manufacturing facility in Batavia, N.Y. “New York state has supportive platform for companies from emerging economies to use assets like skilled professional services, abundant water, and a skilled workforce,” Adams said.

Through the GlobalNY initiative each of the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC) have submitted at least one development strategy involving foreign trade or investment to the state for consideration in the next round of state funding.

The closest foreign economy to upstate is Canada and economic development groups across the state have strategies in place to promote cross border trade and investment.

Garry Douglas, president and CEO of the North County Chamber of Commerce in Plattsburgh says Canadian investment in his county totals $2 billion per year while 15 percent of workers in Clinton County work for Canadian employers in Clinton County.

Douglas says his group’s strategy is make Clinton County Montreal’s southern suburb.

Canadian firms can retain headquarters functions like finance and human resources while gaining the benefits of“Having operations in Clinton County is less disruptive and more familiar to Canadian businesses than setting up in states like North Carolina where they would need to find new vendors and services,” Douglas said. “This way their U.S. operation is just a few miles from headquarters.”

At the other end of the state, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership seeks to tap into growth in Ontario Province.

“While the upstate population shrinks, Ontario is growing, said Bryan Roth, business development manager for the organization.

“ Ontario’s population is now 16.5 million and will grow another 3.5 million over the next few years. For western New York that growth represents opportunity,” he said.

In the Capital Region, the growing technology economy fueled by Business Council members IBM, GE and GlobalFoundries is providing a market for many small and medium-sized manufacturing companies to provide components for the technology giants.

F. Michael Tucker, president and CEO of the Center for Economic Growth, says these small and medium sized manufacturers are also finding ways to grow their businesses by exporting the same products overseas.

To make the most of opportunities presented by a growing global economy, the experts agree that New York needs to do more to improve its business climate. The same roadblocks to domestic business, such as the Scaffold Law, affect foreign companies doing business in the state, and uncertainty over the future of the state’s Brownfields Redevelopment Program creates the same uncertainty for foreign developers as it does for domestic developers.

Opportunity Upstate is an initiative of The Public Policy Institute of New York State and The Business Council of New York State that focuses on the region’s most pressing issues that have impeded its economic growth along with some its most valuable assets that are or have the potential to be key economic drivers.

Through a series of forums and an examination of issues like taxes and excessive business regulation, and assets like manufacturing, innovation, global trade and foreign investment and education, PPI and The Business Council will prepare recommendations and propose changes needed to achieve the ideal upstate business climate.