Monthly Archives: May 2015

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.

Networking opportunity and IT panel discussion

Deloitte, a member company, is hosting a strategic state-focused IT panel discussion for Minority-owned and Women-owned Businesses (MWBEs) this coming Monday, June 1 at the beautiful Wolferts Roost Country Club in Albany, NY.

Registration is free, but space is limited.

The event will begin with a networking reception at 4:30PM, followed by the panel discussion titled, “How to position yourself as a strategic” at 5:00PM. Panelists include:

  • Srini Subramanian, Principal and Risk Advisory Practice Leader for State Government, Deloitte & Touche LLP
  • Kishor Bagul, Consultant and former Chief Technology Officer, New York State Office of Information Technology Services
  • Donna O’Leary, Consultant and former Chief Information Officer, New York State Office of the Attorney General

Like we said before, the event is free, but space is limited, to register or for more information, contact Tracy Oneal via email at toneal@deloitte.com or call .518.763.4046.

New home for The Business Council of Westchester

Congratulations to The Business Council of Westchester on the grand opening of their new offices at 800 Westchester Ave. in Rye Brook.

The move is part of full overhaul of The Council’s logo, branding and strategic initiatives. Here’s what Marsha Gordon, the group’s president and CEO, said in The Council’s release announcing the move, “At The Business Council of Westchester, we are committed to helping our members build their businesses and connect with likeminded leaders – all with an eye for growing the regional economy. Our new look and new location, coupled with enhanced programming and impressive speakers does just that. We’re incredibly pleased to be moving ahead on so many exciting fronts.”

Howard Becker, our vice president of membership, was one of the more than 250 people who came out to celebrate the move. He sent along the following photo.

From left to right: Tony Justic, Chairman of the Board; Marsha Gordon, president and CEO; Howard Becker, vice president of membership for The Business Council of New York State; John Ravitz, executive vice president and COO.
From left to right: Tony Justic, Chairman of the Board; Marsha Gordon, president and CEO; Howard Becker, vice president of membership for The Business Council of New York State; John Ravitz, executive vice president and COO.

Here’s more from their release: The new look Business Council was developed in response to a detailed survey completed by its membership in early 2015. As a result, The BCW will continue to serve members in its traditionally successful ways through its signature events such as networking, Hall of Fame, Rising Stars and the Annual Dinner, yet expand with a laser-like focus in areas that members identified as integral to businesses, including business and corporate leadership; government and advocacy; and creating a sustainable and economically strong future in Westchester County.

To help support these efforts, The Business Council will be rolling out its new website, www.thebcw.org, in the coming months.

AT&T announces app challenge winners

Our members are constantly doing amazing things. And from time to time we try and highlight them. Last week AT&T, in partnership with the University at Albany, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, TechConnex (an affiliate for Center for Economic Growth), Tech Valley Center of Gravity, Saratoga TechOUT, Hudson Valley Tech Meetup, New York BizLab, Beahive, Tech Valley Mobile Developers Network, Accelerate 518 and Hack Upstate, announced the winners of their two-month “virtual hackathon”.

The winners, selected among more than 120 participants, were announced during a ceremony at the University at Albany. All together the winners received cash prizes totaling more than $18,000.

Marissa Shorenstein, New York President for AT&T and board member of The Business Council of New York State Inc.
Marissa Shorenstein, New York President for AT&T and board member of The Business Council of New York State Inc.

According to AT&T’s release, the six winning apps addressed the challenge to solve local problems, resulting in globally applicable solutions that will provide lasting benefits for the Tech Valley. Challenge organizers were thrilled with the participation and submissions. Winners were chosen by a panel of judges made up of local tech experts, community stakeholders and elected officials, who based their decisions upon the apps’ potential impact on Tech Valley, execution and creativity or novelty.

A full list of winners can be found here.

The Business Council continues fight against governor’s Wage Board move

Earlier this week, Heather C. Briccetti Esq., our president and CEO, was on Capital Tonight with host Liz Benjamin to discuss the growing opposition to Governor Cuomo’s plan to increase the wage of workers in the fast-food industry by convening a Wage Board.

It is our contention that the move, which may technically be legal, is unprecedented, and would usurp the Legislature’s statutory authority to set wage policy in New York State.

Heather Briccetti on Capital Tonight with Liz Benjamin
Credit: Time Warner Cable News, Capital Tonight

When asked by Liz Benjamin if our organization, or others, would look for legal remedies  should the governor go ahead with his plan, Ms. Briccetti had this to say, “I certainly think it’s open to challenge. It appears to be something that should be, rightly, within the realm of the Legislature. Currently the minimum wage is in statute, so you would think to alter it you would need a statutory change.”

We find this latest push to increase the minimum wage especially shortsighted because we are still in the final stages of a three-step wage increase which will see the minimum wage rise to $9 an hour by the end of this year.

If you’re a Time Warner Cable subscriber you can view the full interview here. If not, TWC does allow non-subscribers a limited number of views each month.

A grid that talks back

Would you like to save money while saving the planet? That’s possible with a relatively new ‘smart meter’ that can tell your utility provider how much energy you need, and if you need service after an outage.

At the Renewable Energy Conference, held last week in the Hudson Valley, Jim Laurito, a member of The Business Council’s board of directors and President and CEO of Central Hudson Gas and Electric, touched on this possibility as technology transforms the energy industry. He explained how smart meters can “fine tune” load delivery, saving you money and conserving electricity because less energy is wasted and less goes unused. This could help bring down peak load, effectively shaving “3% off the top”, which also translates into money saved.

Solar installations have grown tremendously within the Hudson Valley. In fact, they now number around 3,000, with those installations producing a total of 36 megawatts of electricity. The number of solar installations is expected to increase, however the implementation of smart meters will take nearly a decade.

Dario Gil, a vice president of IBM, also illustrated how data collection, analysis, and application will help streamline the energy industry. He gave an example of how weather prediction systems can optimize positioning of repair crews, which means those crews operate more efficiently and customers spend less time without power.

As Laurito puts it, “we want to get closer to our customers”, and a smart grid would absolutely do that. Everybody wins: the consumer, the provider, the economy, and the environment.

The Renewable Energy conference took place on April 29-30 at Marist College, and was sponsored by The Business Council, Marist College, and the Hudson Renewable Energy Institute.

Jim Laurito, president and CEO of Central Hudson Gas and Electric
Jim Laurito, president and CEO of Central Hudson Gas and Electric

State Department of Health to ignore FTC

Late last month the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), prompted by a letter from The Business Council, several member companies, and other business groups, warned the New York State Department of Health (DOH) that the state’s Medicaid reform efforts may allow for anticompetitive behavior. But, according to a report in the National Law Review, it looks DOH is ready to ignore that warning.

Forgive us for going into the weeds a bit here: The crux of the issue is that the FTC believes a DOH-backed program called the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payments (DSRIP) in fact violates federal antitrust laws. We feel the same way, and said so in this letter. What we find most concerning is that despite objections from the business community and the federal government, the DOH is ready to ignore these concerns and move forward. Ultimately, we feel this will result in increased costs for the consumer which will in turn negatively impact the state’s economy.

The National Law Review has an excellent article on this issue, we encourage you to read it here.

Avenue Magazine enters the fold

Howard Becker, our Vice President of Membership, recently visited New York City for an event hosted by Avenue Magazine, one of our newest members.

According to its website, Avenue is Manhattan’s oldest society magazine with exclusive access to the elite and affluent. Howard attended the event to celebrate their April issue, featuring Sam Fox on the cover. Sam’s father, Michael J. Fox, was also in attendance. Check out the great photo below of Howard meeting the Back to the Future star.

Avenue is in its fourth decade of publication. Its stated purpose is to celebrate the accomplishments and intelligence of the successful by covering them with passionate elegance. The event highlighted Sam’s feature about the Michael J. Fox foundation, and work with his own startup, www.onefinestay.com, an upscale home accommodation service.

Avenue-Magazine-5-15

Business Council Responds to Times Union Editorial

Note: The following ran in the May 1, 2015 edition of The Albany Times Union. We wanted to post it here for readers who are unable to access it behind the Times Union’s paywall.

We read with interest your recent editorial, “Board of Elections Shame” (April 19, 2015) regarding contributions by limited liability companies. Unfortunately, you misstated our position and ignored the much broader issue of securing a level playing field for political advocacy.

Contrary to your comments, The Business Council was not providing cover for the Board of Elections, or anyone else. A careful reading of our letter would show that we advocated neither for nor against the so-called LLC loophole. We merely stated that redefining limited liability companies as corporations under state election law is beyond the regulatory authority of the board of elections.

We believe that donations by businesses, whether as corporations or LLCs, are a form of speech protected by the First Amendment. As an organization, the bigger issue here is whether state laws pertaining to campaign fundraising and contributions are skewed to favor one set of interests over another. We would argue they are, and that unions are coming out on top. The LLC issue has gained focus as part of a broader effort by special interests and “good government” groups seeking to further restrict political spending by business. They do this while ignoring other provisions of the election law that give inherent advantages to employee unions and other special interests. These advantages include the lack of aggregate spending limits, the use of payroll withholding to fund union PACs, and the ability to make non-monetary contributions in terms of volunteers and other campaign apparatus to political causes they support.

A review of campaign filings in New York shows significant contributions by labor unions and notable left of center advocates that rival those by LLCs. Yet for some reason, those high contributions never seem to draw the ire of the aforementioned “good government” groups.

It is The Business Council’s contention that any election law reform should be broad-based, and provide a level playing field for divergent political viewpoints.

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