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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.

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 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,, 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.