Monthly Archives: October 2014

Commentary: Campaigns Confuse Equal Pay and Comparative Worth

Ken Pokalsky is vice president of government affairs for The Business Council of New York state, Inc.

The issue of “equal pay” keeps coming up in congressional and state legislative races. Recently “Vote Cope,” the political arm of New York State United Teachers, began running ads saying George Amedore voted against “equal pay” during his two Assembly terms. But “equal pay” has been a matter of federal and New York State law for fifty years.

So what gives? What some candidates and advocates are really talking about is “comparative worth,” not pay equity. There is a big difference. This is not equal pay for the same job, but equal pay for jobs determined to be of comparable skill or value. Determined by who? Not the employer, or labor markets.

Under legislation currently before the New York State legislature (S.1491/A.5958), wages would be set based on criteria and methodologies adopted and imposed by the state Department of Labor.

Here’s an example. Based on state labor data, an experienced truck driver (an occupation that is more than 90 percent male) is paid on average $2,500 per year more than an experienced licensed practical nurses (an occupation that is more than 90 percent female.) But both jobs are classified as requiring the same level of training (i.e., a “post-secondary, non-degree award.”)

Comparable worth” legislation would demand these jobs to receive the same pay, regardless of real world factors such as labor markets and the availability and demand for specific skills. According to national surveys, truck driver jobs are consistently one of the hardest five jobs to fill in the U.S. But under “comparable worth” legislation, labor market factors wouldn’t matter. Moreover, under this bill, pay levels can only be increased to address any calculated “inequities.” Under a “comparative worth” standard, employers would be subject to constant litigation, challenging whether they applied the correct “worth” calculation to disparate positions.

Importantly, even though comparative worth bills have been around for decades, no state in the U.S. has yet adopted a comparable worth standard for the private sector workforce. In New York, the Assembly passed at least one version of comparative worth legislation each year from 2007 through 2013 (but not in 2014), but it has never come up for a floor vote in the Senate – not even in 2009 and 2010 with a democrat Senate majority.

The Business Council has strongly opposed these bills as unnecessary and unworkable, and we agree with legislators who have voted no.

Seminars engage business leaders on education

The Public Policy Institute (PPI), the research arm of The Business Council, is cosponsoring a series of seminars with the Committee for Economic Development to help employers better understand the importance of business engagement in education. The seminars discuss why the new college- and career-ready standards will help further strengthen the state’s workforce and economy and how the employer community can support the standards’ implementation to help cultivate a globally competitive workforce.

The most recent seminar was conducted in Rochester in cooperation with the Rochester Business Alliance. To watch the Rochester Business Alliance video news story about the seminar, please click here.

PPI consultant Allison Armour-Garb called the Common Core standards good for businesses in New York. Armour-Garb said, “The standards were designed with the needs of business and higher education in mind. A great thing that businesses can do is to advocate and when you meet with your public policy makers, express your support for education in general and higher standards in particular.”

Business Council President and CEO Heather Briccetti said, “We need to support higher standards for our K-12 students in order to ensure that they’re better prepared for the work force and college. Businesses across the state rely on the education system to prepare students for careers in the 2st century economy, but there is a disconnect between what students are learning in school and what they need to know to succeed in the work world.”

Rochester Business Alliance President and CEO Sandy Parker agreed. Parker said, “The importance of the Common Core is it raises the standard. I think one of the things we’re looking at is how when kids finish high school, are they really ready to go into the working world? And clearly, now, not just in the Rochester City School District but throughout the United States, in many cases they’re not. So, by raising the standard we’re hopefully preparing better workers for tomorrow.”

Briccetti said it’s also important to separate Common Core myth from fact. Briccetti added, “We’re trying to make sure that businesses understand that the need for higher standards is something that is separate and apart from the controversy surrounding teacher evaluations and testing. But rather, we need to support higher standards so the kids are prepared for the work force.”

For more on how business can engage in Common Core education standards, visit

NY STEAM Girls Collaborative to join the National Girls Collaborative Project

The NY STEAM (New York Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Girls Collaborative will host a Kick-Off conference, officially launching the statewide collaborative. The event will bring together representatives from organizations across New York State to discuss exemplary practices, develop new collaborations and share resources for connecting girls with programs in STEM.

Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., president and CEO of The Business Council, will take part in the event on Saturday October 25, 2014 from 9:30am to 5:00pm at the Hudson Valley Community College’s TEC-SMART 345 Hermes Road Malta, New York.

The NY STEAM Kick-off Conference is open to all individuals and organizations, including, but not limited to: after school providers, school administrators, engineers, technical professionals, business partners, members of professional organizations, K-12 educators, and university staff.

This one day conference will feature keynote and panel presentations by New York STEM practitioners, girls sharing their own experiences and thoughts on STEM, and a hands-on professional development training led by PBS Emmy Award winning SciGirls.

“The New York STEAM Girls Collaborative will serve as a clearinghouse for gathering educational resources, eliminating duplication of efforts and identifying gaps in education in these crucial areas,” said Jennifer Goodall, PhD Director, College of Computing and Information Women in Technology (CCIWIT) Program at the University at Albany and co-lead for the NY STEAM Girls Collaborative.

The purpose of the conference is to create a strong network of leading organizations and influential individuals that supports girls to succeed in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities across the state and to foster collaboration among those organizations.

Conference fee is $25 and includes lunch and parking. To register for the conference visit:

NY STEAM Girls Collaborative is part of the National Girls Collaborative Project, which helps coordinate organizations that encourage girls to pursue STEM careers and studies. The vision of the NGCP is to bring together organizations throughout the United States that are committed to informing and encouraging girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Too often programs that serve girls in STEM are limited in service and impact due to size, location, funding, expertise and equipment. In other cases, projects compete with each other, duplicating services and seeking the same resources. The National Girls Collaborative Project provides the opportunity for programs to increase their organizational capacity to maintain interest and participation of girls in STEM through collaboration.

NY STEAM Girls Collaborative Project is made possible by a grant from the National Girls Collaborative Project, a National Science Foundation funded project (HRD 0631789), in addition to contributions and collaboration from partners. NY STEAM is one of 30 collaborative groups serving 38 states; working to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers and studies.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES to Acquire IBM’s Microelectronics Business

Two Business Council members, IBM and GLOBALFOUNDRIES, today announced that they have signed a Definitive Agreement under which GLOBALFOUNDRIES plans to acquire IBM’s global commercial semiconductor technology business, including intellectual property, world-class technologists and technologies related to IBM Microelectronics, subject to completion of applicable regulatory reviews.

The Agreement, once closed, enables IBM to further focus on fundamental semiconductor research and the development of future cloud, mobile, big data analytics, and secure transaction-optimized systems.

IBM continues its previously announced $3 billion investment over five years for semiconductor technology research to lead in the next generation of computing. GLOBALFOUNDRIES will have primary access to the research that results from this investment through joint collaboration at the Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE), SUNY Polytechnic Institute, in Albany, N.Y.

Please click here to read IBM’s news release announcing the agreement.

Union Graduate College President Laura Schweitzer to retire

Laura Schweitzer, the founding president of Business Council member Union Graduate College, has announced plans to retire. Schweitzer plans to stay on as president while a national serach for her successor is completed.

The graduate college was established as an independent college in 2003 by the state Board of Regents and adopted its name three years later to reflect its Union College heritage.

A new president is expected to take her place before next September.

The graduate college recently completed a strategic plan that emphasizes collaboration with businesses to develop programs.

The graduate college recently introduced collaborative programs with two other Business Council members—a business of energy certificate program for National Grid employees to get business and management training and to understand the financing of the energy industry and a master’s in healthcare data analytics in partnership with MVP Health Care, which pays for its employees to take courses.

Schweitzer also serves on the board of the Capital Region Regional Economic Development Council, sits on the executive committee of the Center for Economic Growth and is secretary of the board of trustees at Ellis Medicine.

She plans to stay at those posts following her retirement from the college.

Destiny USA opened 24 years ago this week

Central New York landmark, and Business Council member Destiny USA, celebrated its grand opening 24 years ago this week as Carousel Center. The facility, opened on October 15, 1990 with approximately 1.1 million square feet of retail space. It has more than doubled in size since then.

With the addition of the expansion in 2011, Destiny USA is now 2.4 million square feet. It is home to more than 160 retail stores, over 40 outlets, 33 restaurants and 17 entertainment venues, making it a destination for couples, friends and families across the region and the world.

Carousel Center has a fascinating history. It was named after the iconic Carousel that sits inside the Food Court on the second level. Carousel No. 18 was manufactured by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1909 and had quite a journey as it moved around the country for 81 years – including several homes in the Syracuse area. The Pyramid Companies purchased the Carousel for $397,500 in 1985 when its then-current home at Roseland Park closed. The company restored it and placed it in Carousel Center in 1990.

“The Carousel continues to run each day and puts smiles on the faces of everyone, kids and adults alike,” Sara Wallace, Director of Marketing, said. “Destiny USA will be offering free carousel rides to everyone on October 15 as part of the anniversary celebration.”

The facility has always been much more than just a shopping center. Even from its early years, it has been a driver of economic development, including jobs, sales tax revenues, and tourism to the area. Carousel Center, and now Destiny USA, also has an active history focused on environmental protection since Robert Congel, founder of The Pyramid Companies, purchased the land the facility stands on in 1983.

Now, in its industry-leading role, Destiny USA implements a model of advanced and innovative sustainability initiatives as a LEED Gold® certified building, including rainwater harvesting, a solar reflective “cool” roof, purchasing Green Power for the facility, using recycled products used in construction throughout the expansion, and many more.
Carousel Center opening
“We’re proud of our LEED Gold® status and strive to expand all of our sustainability measures throughout the facility,” Rob Schoeneck, General Manager, said. “Destiny USA has grown its recycling program in recent years and created a composting program. Since July 2012, we’ve composted more than 1.1 million pounds from 25 restaurants.”

Business Council makes endorsements

The Political Action Committee of The Business Council of New York State, Inc. has endorsed Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s re-election,  John Cahill’s bid for New York State Attorney General and the re-election of several members of the New York State Senate and State Assembly.

Cuomo best choice
“Looking at the state’s next set of challenges, and what we were able to accomplish over the past four years, The Business Council believes that Governor Cuomo is the best choice to lead the effort,” said Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., president and CEO of The Business Council. “The Business Council and its members have a good working relationship with the Governor and his administration.

The Business Council cited the following accomplishments of the Cuomo administration:

• Spending control through four consecutive low-growth budgets,

• Discipline on the spending side of the budget allowed for a $600 million per year business tax reform package that supports key components of the state’s economy, upstate and downstate,

• Major estate tax reform, which will eliminate the death tax as a factor for many small business owners and retirees looking to remain in New York,

• A real property tax cap that has been effective in limiting costs at the local level,

• A significant new, statewide economic development power program, RechargeNY, with nearly 700 business participants and more than 350,000 jobs,

• Education reforms including adoption of Common Core standards, and initiatives such as P-TECH schools that will help match skills development with real world job demands,

• Cost-savings reforms in the state’s unemployment insurance system, a program that touches every employer in the state, among others.

John Cahill for Attorney General
“The office of Attorney General, through the Department of Law, has enforcement, regulatory and policy-making functions that can have significant impact on individual businesses and on industry sectors. Therefore, this election matters to business, and we are pleased to be making our first ever endorsement for the office of Attorney General,” said Briccetti.
In making the endorsement, The Business Council cited Cahill’s past record, and the issues he has highlighted in his campaign, including moving forward with natural gas exploration, scaffold law and tort reform, and reasonable state-level oversight of the state’s crucial financial services industry.

State Legislative endorsements
The Political Action Committee of The Business Council of New York State has endorsed 29 members of the State Assembly and 27 members of the State Senate. The endorsements are based largely on how these incumbent lawmakers ranked on The Business Council’s Legislative Scorecard of priority issues for the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions. Additional endorsements of challengers and for open seats will be released shortly.

Please click here for a full list of Senate and Assembly endorsements.

AT&T sponsors Western New York Civic App Challenge

Business Council member AT&T, along with University at Buffalo, State University of New York at Fredonia, Z80 Labs, InfoTech Niagara, Launch NY, United Way of Buffalo and Erie County and Hack Upstate have announced the “AT&T Western New York Civic App Challenge,” a “virtual hackathon” in which developers are encouraged to “solve local” by building smartphone apps that serve Western New Yorkers. Winners will receive cash prizes totaling $18,000.

The challenge will run until Nov. 10. Coders, designers and technologists can register for the challenge and get more information at atat

The “AT&T Western New York Civic App Challenge” encourages innovative thinkers, designers, artists, developers and entrepreneurs to create intuitive and novel mobile apps that address and provide solutions for social and civic issues in the Western New York region.  AT&T is also sponsoring a Civic App Challenge in Central New York.

Marissa Shorenstein, New York president, AT&T. announced the CNY Civic App Challenge at d!g Buffalo, the newly opened co-work space on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Marissa Shorenstein, New York president, AT&T. announced the CNY Civic App Challenge at d!g Buffalo, the newly opened co-work space on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.


ReEnergy Black River Awarded Contract to Provide Power to Fort Drum

The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency has awarded a 20-year contract to Business Council member ReEnergy Black River. Under the terms of this renewable energy supply agreement, ReEnergy Black River will provide secure, renewable electricity to Fort Drum in Northern New York.

“This is good news not only for ReEnergy, but for Fort Drum and the North Country region. This will enhance energy security and position Fort Drum as a leader in meeting the military’s ambitious renewable energy goals,” said Larry D. Richardson, the chief executive officer of ReEnergy Holdings. “The ReEnergy team is proud to assist the U.S. Army in meeting its renewable energy goals, and looks forward to enhancing the North Country’s green energy economy. “

The Defense Logistics Agency, the entity that awarded the contract, provides the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, other federal agencies, and combined and allied forces with logistics, acquisition and technical services.

ReEnergy Black River submitted a proposal in Spring 2013 to the Defense Logistics Agency as part of a competitive procurement process to provide renewable power to Fort Drum, a U.S. Army installation that is home to 37,000 soldiers and family members and employs almost 4,000 civilians.

The federal government is increasing its demand for long-term renewable energy as a result of renewable goals established in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Executive Order 13423, and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. In addition, the Army has established a goal to achieve 1 gigawatt of renewable energy by 2025.

This contract is the largest renewable energy project in the history of the U.S. Army.

Schenectady declares Manufacturing Week

One Upstate city, where manufacturing is still an important part of the economy, has proclaimed next week, Manufacturing Week and several Business Council are involved.

Manufacturing Week is an extension of National Manufacturing Day and will run through Thursday, October 9, 2014. Manufacturing Week – Schenectady is designed to expand knowledge about and improve general public perception of manufacturing, careers in manufacturing and the value of manufacturing on our local economy.

Events include; student and general public factory tours and open houses at several manufacturers, presentations on the future Center for Advanced Technology at Mohonasen (a partnership between the Mohonasen Central School District, Capital Region BOCES and Schenectady County Community College) hosted by miSci – Museum of Innovation and Science, and a free screening of the American Made Movie at Schenectady County Community College.

Manufacturing Week – Schenectady is the outcome of the American Made Committee which is hosted by the City of Schenectady and is comprised of representatives from government, local manufacturers, small business owners, educational institutions, economic development organizations and technology centers.

List of Events – Manufacturing Week – Schenectady

-October 4 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm: Open house and factory tour at Tough Traveler. 1012 State Street, Schenectady

-October 5 at 2:00 pm: Facility tour and presentation at the Edison Tech Center. 136 N. Broadway, Schenectady

-October 8 at 6 & 7:00 pm: Showcase of modern manufacturing educational programs from Capital Region BOCES and the Mohonasen Central School District (6 p.m.), followed by a presentation and panel discussion (7 p.m.) on the new Center for Advanced Technology @ Mohonasen– a partnership between Mohonasen Central School District, Capital Region BOCES & Schenectady County Community College. This event will take place at MiSci (the Museum of Innovation and Science). 15 Nott Terrace Heights, Schenectady

-Oct. 9 at 1 pm: An open house at Mohonasen High School, during which community members, elected leaders, local school leaders, teachers and students are invited to learn more about Mohonasen’s Mo-Tech programs and the Capital Region BOCES advanced machining and manufacturing program

-October 9 at 6:30 pm: Free Screening of the American Made Movie (documentary on manufacturing in the U.S.) with panel discussion to follow at Schenectady County Community College. 78 Washington Avenue, Schenectady.