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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.

Where are the missing jobs?

We all know small businesses are integral to the economy. However, Goldman Sachs reports that small businesses have been struggling to grow and to provide the jobs important to middle class America.

The report, entitled “The two-speed economy” submits there are “an estimated 600,000 ‘missing’ small firms, and six million (missing) jobs associated with these firms, as of 2012.” This is compared to the amount of small firms and jobs created during past economic rebounds.

The report also comes to the troubling conclusion that willingness to start a business as the sole-proprietor has been particularly weak. Starting one’s own business is the typical direction the talented take after they are laid off, or if their current job does not meet their needs.

The U.S. Chamber says there is no “definitive reason” to explain this trend, but they assert that it can be attributed to the “avalanche of regulations imposed on our nation’s small businesses.” They explain that small businesses are least able to cope with the immense burdens of government regulations, and the “resulting burdens of compliance and implementation.”

The original article by the U.S. Chamber can be found here. The sobering report from Goldman Sachs can be found here.

Wegmans goes green

Most people know that today, April 22nd, is Earth Day, but did you know that April is also Earth Month? Wegmans, who already consistently ranks in the top 10 of Fortune magazine’s best places to work, is making news again for their latest go green initiative.

Earlier this month Wegmans announced that it was teaming up with the Nature Conservancy to encourage its customers to use reusable bags. As part of the push, Wegmans will donate $.25 for every pound of paper and plastic bags saved, with a minimum donation of $10,000.

What makes the plan even better for New Yorkers is that all those funds will stay here at home.

For more details on the effort, and to find out how you can participate, click here.

Xerox awarded major contract

Congratulations to Xerox, a member company, on being selected by New York to update the state’s Medicaid claims processing system to a new technology platform that will put the Empire State on the cutting edge.

According to a report in Business Wire, the five-year contract totals just under $565 million. The article quotes New York State’s Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson as saying, ““Xerox is giving New York the flexibility to customize our Medicaid program so we can best serve both the people who rely on this system and the healthcare providers who are on the front lines of caring for them every day. We’ll rely on Xerox to offer a simple and straightforward experience for our service providers and our Medicaid population.”

The story goes on to add that the new system, dubbed Health Enterprise, will allow for:

  • Quicker updates
  • Modularity and interoperability
  • Mobile access
  • Population health management

For more information on the contract, and to read the whole story, please click here.

Obama Cabinet official to speak at WISE symposium

Are you ready to get WISE? The 13th annual Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (WISE) Symposium kicks off in Syracuse, NY tomorrow. Among the exciting list of featured speakers is Maria Contreras-Sweet, the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

According to WISE’s own website, the organization is: “An initiative to train and inspire women interested in launching or growing a business venture. The objectives of all training and events are to provide information, resources, and support for women entrepreneurs, enabling each to successfully advance their businesses to the next stage of profitability and success. Our goal is to create a thriving community of women entrepreneurs through two initiatives: the one-day WISE Symposium and the year-round WISE Women’s Business Center.”

Aside from Ms. Contreras-Sweet, attendees will be treated to innovative networking opportunities, specialized breakout sessions and a buy local expo.

Registration is still open, and incredibly affordable. Click here to sign up now!

Natural gas pipelines are good for business

Darren Suarez, our director of government affairs and an energy policy expert, sat down with Liz Benjamin of Capital Tonight, on Wednesday night to talk about several natural gas pipelines proposed throughout the state.

“When we have additional natural gas supply it helps to bring down overall electricity costs, and that helps all companies. That helps with all jobs, and that’s why we’re supportive,” Suarez explained.

The discussion focused on the Northeast Energy Direct Project, led by one of our members, Kinder Morgan. The project would connect parts of the existing Tennessee Gas pipeline system in New York and other states. Suarez also discussed the roughly 20 additional pipeline projects that are in varying stages of development around New York.

“We’re really going through a revolution in terms of our energy production and in terms of people’s choices for energy,” said Suarez.

The full interview is linked below. Please note, a TWC ID may be required to view the clip.

Natural gas pipelines are good for business

Verizon named best for vets

Fantastic news for one of our member companies! Verizon just took the top spot in the Military Times’ Best for Vets: Employers 2015 rankings.

The top five are:

  1. Verizon
  2. USAA
  3. Lockheed Martin
  4. BAE Systems
  5. Charles Schwab Corp.

According to USA Today: “More companies than ever before responded to this year’s survey, which explored each employer’s recruiting, culture and policies.”

“Service members have an accelerated learning curve,” said Evan Guzman, Verizon’s head of military programs, and he explained the goal isn’t only to bring in talent, but also, “to make sure we at least give them some guidance and support”.

We want to congratulate Verizon, and thank them for their dedication to our military. The USA Today article referenced above can be found here.