State Budget Is a Disappointment
Written by Todd J. Tranum, President & CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce & Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier
Generally speaking, the 2016 New York State budget is a disappointment. Even while we have found bits of good news in the spending plan, the overall package does not create an improved business climate in our state.
The wage increase is in addition to a series of increases that have occurred over the past few years. The wage increases are creating financial challenges for businesses, many of whom are currently struggling. Additionally wage increases lead to increases in prices paid by consumers for goods and services. Wage increases negatively impact job retention and job growth. Outpacing the federal minimum wage which is currently $7.25 places New York at a competitive disadvantage with other states when it comes to business retention and growth. We are somewhat relieved that at least the increase was tempered to a total of $12.50 an hour upstate instead of $15.00, to reflect the substantial differences in the economy between upstate and downstate. In addition, the increase will be phased in over a period of years which will help businesses adjust. Despite those changes, the fact remains that employers will have to pay more to maintain their workforce and for many that will be a business hardship.
Another substantial detriment to business is the Paid Family Leave Act. The program will begin with a $10-million raid on the Workers Compensation fund, which is already struggling. For small businesses, in particular, it can be very difficult or even impossible to hold a position open while an employee takes an extended leave of absence. For all businesses implementing the program will be challenging and costly. Holding a position open, identifying temporary support to fill the position, training the new employee and then ultimately transitioning the employee that is on leave back into the position are all costs to the employer. Just like the minimum wage there are federal guidelines for family leave programs and this is another instance of New York creating a competitive disadvantage with other states for business retention and growth. The minimum wage hike and the Paid Family Leave act will be a challenge to maintaining an environment in New York State to encourage both new business startups and investment in existing businesses. In addition to the minimum wage increase and the Paid Family Leave Act approval a proposal by the Governor for a small business tax cut was rejected.
One of our greatest disappointments with the new budget is the process under which budget bills were approved. We firmly believe that the process needs to be improved. The budgeting process should begin sooner in the fiscal year and there should be more time for the Assembly and Senate to deliberate and review proposals. Given the current process we would agree with former Assemblyman from Chautauqua County, Bill Parment, who used to say, “Getting a good budget is more important than getting an on-time budget.” New York’s lawmakers must find a better way to negotiate budget items ahead of the fiscal year deadline. We have serious concerns that not all of the details had been carefully articulated or even put into writing before the measures were approved. There is opportunity to get it right next year by improving committee discussion, allowing for adequate negotiation and conducting hearings to allow for an understanding of budget bills. The time has come for major overhauls in our state budget process in Albany in order to create a transparent system that truly allows our legislators to participate in discussions, ask important questions, and be able to review bills before they are asked to vote yes or no.
Despite our concerns about the business and political ramifications of this recent budget process, there were a several items in the spending plan that are very good news for Chautauqua County that Governor Cuomo, Senator Young and Assemblyman Goodell should be applauded for achieving. Most notably, there is a $200-million allocation for the new Athenex manufacturing facility in the Dunkirk area, funding to help offset the tax loss from the mothballed NRG plant, increased aid to local school districts, funding for transportation projects throughout Western New York and poverty reduction funding for the City of Jamestown. We are grateful for funds being allocated to priority projects in our region, yet remain deeply concerned about the process that resulted in a budget which will carry long term ramifications for the business community statewide.
Regional Solutions Commission is Just What the County Needs
County Executive Vince Horrigan is on the right path with a new Regional Solutions Commission empaneled and off to a swift start. Well over 60 people from all over Chautauqua County turned out for the initial meeting in March, representing towns, villages, cities, and emergency service providers. The first session was designed as both a learning and work session, with presentations from Mark Pattison, director of local government services for the Department of State; Richard Zink of Southern Tier West; and Joe Stefko of the Center for Governmental Research. Commission Chairman George Borrello led discussion groups in three key areas: Municipal Government, Infrastructure, and Public Safety.
The Commission is forming subcommittees to discuss potential projects in all three areas in order to create plans that can be implemented. The Chamber of Commerce is pleased to have been asked to participate in this important venture. We have long been a proponent of creating efficiencies in local government structures in order to better serve our population and to save taxpayer dollars. We look forward to working with County Legislator Borrello, County Executive Horrigan, and the rest of the Commission to make meaningful progress in all of these areas.
Join the Chamber Now to Improve Your Online Business Presence
Since the dawning of the Internet, most businesses have been looking for improved ways to be found online. In fact, one of the easiest ways for a business to be found in a contemporary online search is also one of the oldest ways for a business to gain new customers: by joining the Chamber of Commerce. Without getting into a detailed description of Search Engine Optimization, the reality is that Google is the most widely used search engine in the world. With a 52% market share worldwide, Google has become both a noun and a verb in our daily vocabulary.
One of our goals as a Chamber is to get our businesses found more easily online. Since the inception of our online Business Directory several years ago we have been building links with local businesses online. Google does not publicize its exact formula for optimization, but it is clear from a variety of tests and articles that Google “reads” the number of quality links leading to any business or site, and a larger number of links automatically means a higher ranking in a Google search. It also reads keywords associated with a site, and looks for its own social media links (Google+) to be embedded in a site.
Our Chamber staff will work with local member businesses to help them get found online. With the number of smartphones in the US set to top the 200-million mark this year, we strongly encourage all businesses to get or improve an online presence, and joining the Chamber helps you do just that. If you have no online presence now, the Chamber provides it. If you do have a presence online with a website or social media platforms, the Chamber’s additional page will elevate your listing in a Google search.
The Chamber has just launched its Spring Membership Drive, with some prize packages as an incentive to join, including a $300 value Stay & Golf Getaway package at Peek’n Peak Resort and a free second year membership. The drive ends with our Experience Chautauqua Networking Event Cruise Aboard the Summer Wind on May 19. To learn more about joining the Chamber, call us at 366-6200 or 484-1101.
Business Over Bagels: Human Resources and Social Media
Do you have questions about how to handle social media issues in your human resources department? Many employers do. To help answer those questions, instructor Lisa Powell Fortna will lead an interactive discussion covering key aspects of the evolving intersection of social media and human resource practices. This Business Over Bagels event will focus on understanding and managing benefits and risks associated with the use of social media in recruitment and employee engagement while promoting and protecting your brand reputation with employees and customers.
Lisa Powell Fortna is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources and is a member of the American Society of Training and Development. She has over 20 years of experience as a manager and human resources professional and holds a BS in Business Management from Cornell University, an MS in Organizational Dynamics from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MS in Adult Education from Buffalo State College.
This informative session will be held from 8:30-10am at the JCC North Training Center, Bennett Road, Dunkirk on Friday, April 27. The cost to attend is just $25 per person for Chamber members or $30 for non-members. To register, call JCC Continuing Ed at (716) 363-6500.
Get Ready Now to Get Into Summer!
Chautauqua County has an extraordinary opportunity this coming summer to show itself to the world in new ways! The return of a PGA golf tournament to Peek’n Peak Resort presents some opportunities for golfers and others in our county, including tourism related businesses and any organization holding an activity-based event.
The Lecom Health Challenge is an officially sanctioned event of the PGA Tour’s Web.com Tour, scheduled for July 4-10 at Peek’n Peak in Clymer. Rising stars in the world of professional golf will participate in the tournament, which is a four day event sponsored by LECOM (Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine) and hosted by the Chautauqua Region Economic Development Corporation. The event will be televised on the Golf Channel all four days in the US, plus international distribution.
Long known for an outstanding variety of golf courses that attract players at all levels, Chautauqua County is also the quintessential summer vacation destination. Now, to coincide with the PGA event and to highlight the broad range of healthy recreational options available here, the county invites visitors and guests to Get Into Summer, June 24-July 17. Get Into Summer is a three week celebration of events that will include the golf tournament while also promoting a host of other activities from fishing and swimming to cycling, boating, and more. Get Into Summer encourages one and all to Get Active, Get Healthy, and Get Going, by participating in races or just getting out to play! Bring the family or bring some friends, and you’re certain to find activities to suit you during Get Into Summer!
Get Into Summer is a promotional focus of the County Economic Development Corporation, the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, and the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce. Together, we are working to encourage families and groups to get out and play! For a growing list of activities and events included in Get Into Summer, see the CCVB website at www.tourchautauqua.com. You are certain to find something to pique a renewed interest in physical fitness as we kick off the summer season! If your business or organization is hosting a recreational event during that three week summer period, we encourage you to provide information to CCVB for inclusion on the Get Into Summer calendar of events. You can find them online or call CCVB at 866-908-4569. To stay up to date on events and activities year-round in Chautauqua County, download the Visit Chautauqua County NY app for your mobile device, available on the App Store or Google Play.
We also invite you to watch for additional opportunities to be announced for local business people and residents to participate in events around the LECOM Summer Challenge PGA event.
STEM Wars Hosted 700 Students
With its largest turnout every, STEM Wars hosted 700 students from regional high schools and middle schools on March 17th at the Jamestown Community College gymnasium. For several years now, Dream It Do It, Jamestown Community College, and NYSTEA have presented STEM Wars. The event is an educational and technology-based competition for middle and high school students with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The event also includes team building/leadership skills competitions and a business fair with local manufacturers.
One of the new and exciting events included this year was an industry design competition sponsored by Truck-Lite Company of Falconer, a global leader in the manufacturing and distribution of visibility systems for the heaving duty truck, trailer, and commercial industries. Using CAD (Computer Aided Design) student teams were asked to submit a design for a headlamp for a snowplow. Industry professionals from this region have provided feedback and the final student designs were judged prior to the event.
New to STEM Wars this year was a Girls and Young Women STEM career section, the STEM Career search event open to all SUNY JCC and Fredonia students seeking careers, and incorporation of additional art and design-related challenges including cardboard furniture creations and a video competition.
Student teams from a number of schools created projects to compete in technology testing events throughout the day including robotic soccer, bridge competition, mousetrap, short track CO2 car races, catapult design, egg crash cars, and Rube Goldberg Design. Nearly700 students from schools districts throughout Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties participated.
Fredonia Chamber Annual Meeting was March 10
The Fredonia community Chamber of Commerce held its Annual Awards Banquet and Board Election March 10 at Squire’s Table at the White Inn. Awards were given for: Business of the Year, Comerford’s Collision; Retailer of the Year, DFT Communications/The Netsync Store and Sears Hometown Store; Community Service Award to Mary Croxton; Service to Humanity Award to Ronald Sellers, former President and CEO of Hospice Chautauqua County; Taste of Fredonia Award to Squire’s Table at the White Inn and Domus Fare; and the Spirit of Fredonia Award to Margaret Valone.
2016 Business Builder Source Book Distributed
The Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce has distributed its 2016 Business Builder Source Book to all members by mail. The Business Builder Source Book includes our Chamber member handbook, outlining the many benefits of being a Chamber member. It also includes our membership directory white pages, an alphabetical listing of members; as well as our important yellow page buyer’s guide section that can be very helpful when you are looking to do business with other members. Data for the print directory was pulled at the beginning of January and it is possible that some of the businesses listed have seen changes since that time. Please rest assured that the most up to date information for all Chamber members is always available in the searchable Business Directory on our website. If you see something that you would like to have changed in your listing, please call or email the Chamber so we can update our database. Please support the businesses that helped to make the print directory possible. Limited additional copies of the Business Builder Source Book are available in our office or if you just need the 2016 Community Profile color pages section you may call us at 366-6200 or 484-1101.
CAP Diamond Dinner Auction April 30
Now in its sixth year, the Child Advocacy Program Diamond Diner Auction will be held at Chautauqua Suites, West Lake Road, Mayville, on Saturday, April 30. Social hour is at 6pm, with dinner at 7.
CAP’s mission is to end child abuse in Chautauqua County. In 2015, CAP provided services to over 350 children including 676 trauma therapy sessions and over 1,900 advocacy support services. In addition, more than 1,600 adults are now trained to prevent child sexual abuse in Chautauqua County.
You can help support CAP by attending the dinner. The cost is $75 per person or $125 for two. Seats may be reserved at capjustice.org or by calling (716) 269-7829. Each Diamond Dinner reservation is an entry for the drawing of a dazzling diamond.
The Taste of Home Cooking School Show Coming to JSBA April 28
The Taste of Home Cooking School Show presented by Kix Country and the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena is coming to the JSBA on Thursday, April 28 from 6:30-8:30pm. The event will feature Taste of Home Culinary Specialist, Amy Zarichnak, who will share her home cooking tips and tricks while demonstrating step-by-step recipes for the season’s best dishes.
Every ticket holder will receive a gift bag filled with the Taste of Home Cooking School magazine, coupons and other goodies from national and local sponsors, plus a subscription to a digital edition of Taste of Home magazine!
Food, fun, and delicious memories are waiting for you, so get your tickets today! Tickets are $11 for general admission and $20 at the door. Visit www.jamestownarena.com, call (716) 484-2624, or stop by the JSBA’s Landmark Chevrolet Box Office to get your tickets today.
Don’t forget to follow the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena on Facebook and Twitter for information on upcoming events.