BUSINESS October-November 2020
Covering Oswego, Onondaga counties
City of Oswego Sees Unprecedented Construction Boom
CNY’s Business Magazine
Inside: Meet 6 Members of CNY’s Next Generation of Business Owners
Had a Stroke. Back on Stage.
Musician Todd Hobin KNOW THE SIGNS • CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY
Central New York music legend Todd Hobin knew nothing about stroke — but he does now. That’s why he’s raising awareness about stroke risk factors and its signs and symptoms.
A. S. T.
Fact: Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the U.S. Important to know: Stroke can happen to both men and women — at any age. Good news: Stroke is preventable by managing medical risk factors and healthy lifestyle choices. What to do: Time lost is brain lost. So it’s vital to know the signs of a stroke — F.A.S.T. Four words to live by: Call 911 and say, “Take me to Crouse.“ When it comes to stroke, every moment matters. As one of just 10 hospitals in New York State tohave earned Comprehensive Stroke Center status, and with the region’s newest ER and hybrid ORs, Crouse offers the most advanced technology for rapid stroke diagnosis and treatment
Read Todd’s story and learn more: crouse.org/toddhobin.
TIME TO CALL 911
“We bank with Pathfinder because it’s easy. The bottom line is, it’s a totally different bank. It seems like we can get things done quicker through Pathfinder. They’re always receptive to our ideas and working with us on new ventures. They prioritize listening and working alongside us, and for that, we commend them.” Our priority is understanding our customer’s financial needs and being available to them when they need us. We offer solutions to help businesses and individuals easily manage their finances and make sound financial decisions to achieve their short and long term goals. When our customers succeed, we all benefit.
Lance Pezzlo and Jake Mulcahey, Co-Owners of Gateway Liquor & Wine, Fulton, New York
315.343.0057 pathfinderbank.com Oswego • Fulton • Mexico • Central Square Lacona • Cicero • Clay • Syracuse • Utica OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Y O SW EG O C O U N T
Covering Oswego, Onondag
ented City of Oswego Sees Unpreced Boom Construction
PROFILE MICHAEL C. BACKUS CNY’s ss Busine ne Magazi
Next Inside: Meet 6 Members of CNY’s rs Generation of Business Owne
Rebirth — City of Oswego undergoes massive transformation as commercial projects flourish. Interview with Mayor Barlow and a summary of the projects
• Where have all the coins gone? • Banks embrace face masks as safety measure despite challenges • Banks, clients learn to be more flexible
With a strong background in publishing, government and healthcare, he has become the second in comand at Oswego Health. The 36-year-old Mexico resident talks about his new job, career and how growing up in his family publishing business has influenced his life................................................16
SPECIAL FEATURES On the Job How are you celebrating the holidays this year?.........11 Q&A with Juhanna Rogers CenterState CEO first VP of racial equality and social impact discusses her new role.................................30 Pets in the Workplace More business owners bring their pets to work — find out why they say it’s good for business..........................37 Left at Altar CNY wedding industry trying to make up for canceled, postponed 2020 weddings.......................................................42 Legacy Joe Castaldo leaves a lasting legacy in Oswego...................56 Poverty COVID-19 brings poverty to the forefront as county continues to rank among state’s poorest area..............................................66
• Recovery in manufacturing • Fulton Companies: Adjustments in the midst of pandemic storm • Exelon’s county-based nuclear power facilities prove pandemic proof
Success Story: Page Trucking. P. 90
Meet the New Generation. P. 74
DEPARTMENTS How I Got Started Gail Jones, owner of DeVine Designs by Gail .........14 Where is Sandra Scott Greece........................ ............................................20
Newsmakers / Business Updates..............................................................22, 32 My Turn Media: Where this appetite for scandals comes from...........34 Economic Trends Growth happening across Oswego County..............54
Sea food platter plus a variety of food found at Skip’s Fish Fry in Oswego. 4
Tim's Corners Bringing play back to Children’s Museum......................64 Guest Columnist Family business succession — where to start............86 Last Page
Brandon Schwerdt, county airport manager......................98
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Your Health is as Important as Ever!
60 dedicated physicians and healthcare providers across our network.
Meet Our Fulton and Oswego Providers
Beverly Aubin, FNP Family Nurse Practitioner Oswego
Anne Filipski, MD Family Practice Physician Fulton
Michael Miller, MD Family Practice Physician Fulton
Katie Beebe, FNP Family Nurse Practitioner Oswego
Patricia Bendura, DH Dental Hygienist Fulton
Rosanne Foster, ANP
Ashley Gilbert, LCSW
Diane Plumadore, NPP
Anthony Rotella, DO
Adult Nurse Practitioner Oswego
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Fulton, Pulaski
Clinical Social Worker Fulton, Pulaski
Family Practice Physician Fulton, Phoenix
Farzana Chaudhary, MD
Marie Desravines, MD
Shannon Dwyer, FNP
Alex Filipski, DO
Anna Gofman, DDS
Julie Hogle, LCSW-R Clinical Social Worker Oswego, Mexico, Pulaski
Joy Dolorico Magsino, MD
Lori Marshall, FNP
Faith Slade, FNP
Linda Troia, PA-C, LCSW-R
Scott VanGorder, DO
Gerald Simmons, MD Family Practice Physician Oswego
Family Practice Physician Fulton
Family Nurse Practitioner Fulton
Family Nurse Practitioner Oswego
Internal Medicine Physician Oswego
Physician Assistant, Psychiatry Phoenix, Fulton, Pulaski
Family Practice Physician Oswego, Fulton
Family Nurse Practitioner Fulton
Family Practice Physician Oswego
ConnextCare is still here for you! Offering highly qualified and accessible providers at several locations nearby. Services available include family and internal medicine, pediatrics, dental, psychiatry and behavioral health. Keep yourself and your family healthy, safe, and happy! Learn more at connextcare.org.
ConnextCare Oswego 10 George Street Oswego, NY 13126 (315) 342-0880 ConnextCare Fulton 510 S. 4th Street, suite 600 Fulton, NY 13069 (315) 598-4790
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
MADE The loan specialists at Fulton Savings Bank have built a reputation providing personal services to growing small businesses in our area. If you need a mortgage loan or financial help to Interest fund growth business, can help. • Second/Seasonal Home Loans • Low Ratesof your small • Purchase or Reﬁwe nance • Local Credit Decisions • Local Servicing
• Remodeling Loans • Vacant Land Purchases • Home Equity Lines of Credit • New Construction
Two Ways to Start the Mortgage Loan Process
(1) Just call one of our Mortgage Loan Originators today:
For answers to all your questions call or email: Tom Greco Tom Greco
315-592-3158 315-592-3158 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org NMLS NMLS #449773 #449773
Greg Rodgers Greg Rodgers
315-515-6784 315-515-6784 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org NMLS #58588 NMLS #58588
Rita Loperfido Rita Loperfido
315-295-5291 315-295-5291 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org NMLS #17079 #17079 NMLS
(2) Start the application process online at www.fultonsavings.com
• Canal Landing, Fulton - (315) 592-4201 • Village Green, Baldwinsville - (315) 638-0293 • Three Rivers Shopping Plaza, Phoenix - (315) 695-7214 • Route 49 & Green Acres Drive, Central Square - (315) 676-2065 • Brewerton Centre, Brewerton - (315) 668-7903 • Redfield St., Constania - (315) 623-9447
www.fultonsavings.com Loan Operations Office 41 So. First Street Fulton, N.Y. 13069
AHR Planning.......................23 Allanson-Glanville-Tappan Funeral Home...................35 ALPS Professional Services.26 Ameriprise Financial............18 BarclayDamon.......................36 Bond, Schoeneck & King, Attorneys at Law..............19 Buckingham Brothers...........17 Builder’s FirstSource............23 Burke’s Home Center...........23 C & S Companies..................53 CAC — Child Advocacy Center..............88 Camillus Kayak Shop.............9 Canale’s Italian Cuisine........27 Canale’s Insurance & Accounting .......................31 Canalview Travel..................43 Century 21 Galloway Realty...............25 Century 21 Leah Signature..10 C.J Demars..............................51 CNY Community 6
Member FDIC FSB 5/19
Foundation........................57 Compass Credit Union.........13 ConnextCare............................5 Crouse Hospital.......................2 Dusting Divas........................10 Ellen Ladd Tax.......................13 Empower FCU.......................10 Exelon Generation ................99 Financial Partners of Upstate............................9 Fitzgibbons Agency..............57 Foster Funeral Home............89 Fulton Savings Bank...............6 Fulton Taxi..............................17 Fulton Tool Co.......................71 Gartner Equipment.................9 Halsey Machinery.................26 Harbor Lights Chem Dependency......................88 Hematology-Oncology Associates of CNY............88 Johnston Gas..........................26 JTS Remodeling.....................26 Lakeshore Hardwoods.........17
Laser Transit...........................71 Local 43 (NECA EBEW).......52 MACNY..................................69 Menter Ambulance...............87 Mimi’s Drive Inn...................27 Mitchell Speedway Printing..............................36 Mr. Sub ...................................27 NBT Bank...............................63 NET Die Inc............................19 Northern Ace Home Center.....................25 Novelis..................................100 NYS Parks................................8 Ol’ Factory Soups & Scents................43 Operation Oswego Co..........99 Oswego County Federal Credit Union.....................61 Oswego County Mutual Insurance...........................31 Oswego County Opportunities OCO...................................12 Pathfinder Bank.......................3
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Port of Oswego Authority....17 RanMar Tractor......................26 RiverHouse Restaurant........27 Riverside Artisans.................43 Scriba Electric.........................25 Sweet-Woods Memorial.......35 Tavern on the Lock................27 Technology Development Organization (TDO).........71 The Gardens at Morningstar .......................7 The Medicine Place...............87 United Wire Technology......73 Universal Metal Works.........71 Vashaw’s Collision................13 Watertown Industrial Center of Local Development.....73 WD Malone............................26 Whelan & Curry Construction.....................53 White’s Lumber & Building Supply...............25 Wiltsie Construction.............52 WRVO.....................................93
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
WE CARE LIKE FAMILY
We are growing and have exciting career opportunities in the health care industry. To join our talented, professional team, please visit one of our care facilities career pages for available positions.
Become a part of Our Family!
Life in balance.
A company philosophy that speaks to a continual process of individual and collective development to improve our well-being, quality of life and personal relationships.
17 Sunrise Drive Oswego, NY 13126 315-342-4790 | www.MorningstarCares.com
To provide people in our community with healthcare, customer services, support & employment to achieve their individual best quality of life.
RESIDENTIAL CARE CENTER
To redefine skilled nursing care through successful team development, use of technology, progressive service and being a strong community partner.
Registered Nurses Licensed Nurses Certified Nursing Assistants Physical Therapists Occupational Therapists Speech Therapists Social Workers Recreational Therapists Dietitians OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Nurse Aides Housekeeping Laundry Finance Maintenance Medical Records
220 Tower Street, Waterville, NY 13480 315-841-4156 | www.WatervilleCares.com
Assisted Living Community
132 Ellen Street, Oswego, NY 13126 315-343-0880 | www.TheGardensByMorningstar.com
Rehabilitation and Nursing Center
100 St. Camillus Way, Fairport, NY 14450 585-377-4000 | www.AaronManor.com
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
CNY’S BUSINESS MAGAZINE OswegoCountyBusiness.com Editor and Publisher Wagner Dotto
Associate Editor Lou Sorendo
L. Michael Treadwell Bruce Frassinelli, Sandra Scott Tim Nekritz, Richard Weber, Esq. Steven Abraham
Deborah Jeanne Sergeant Christopher Malone Payne Horning, Ken Sturtz Mary Beth Roach
Peggy Kain Richard Annal
Office Manager Nancy Nitz
Layout and Design Dylon Clew-Thomas
chuck Wainwright Oswego County Business is published by Local News, Inc., which also publishes CNY Summer Guide, Business Guide, CNY Winter Guide, College Life, In Good Health– The Healthcare Newspaper (four editions), CNY Healthcare Guide and 55PLUS, a Magazine for Active Adults (two editions) Published bimonthly (6 issues a year) at 185 E. Seneca Street PO Box 276 Oswego, NY 13126. Subscription: $21.50 a year; $35 for two years © 2020 by Oswego County Business. All rights reserved. PRSRT STD US Postage PAID Buffalo, NY Permit No. 4725
How to Reach Us
P.O. Box 276 Oswego, NY 13126 Phone: 315-342-8020 Fax: 315-342-7776 Email: Editor@OswegoCountyBusiness.com 8
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
We’ll help you get there.® Because your goals matter. You have goals. Ours is helping you achieve them. To learn more, contact:
David D. Mirabito
CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®, MSFS, RICP Senior Financial Services Executive Investment Advisor Representative
2809 State Route 3 Fulton, NY 13069 (315) 592-3145 email@example.com www.financialpartnersustateny.com
BUSINESS FOR SALE
For 22 years the Camillus Kayak Shop has served the paddlesports community, growing stronger every season! High quality touring kayak and paddleboard shops are now few and far between. Camillus Kayak draws customers from all over the country and Canada. The industry has taken off immensely due to the pandemic and we expect it to continue for many years to come. Car-topping equipment as well as accessories have been big sellers consistently. Building and business are both for sale for turnkey operation. Camillus Kayak has an excellent reputation, with 5-star ratings on both Google and Facebook.
LIFE INSURANCE + RETIREMENT/401K PLAN SERVICES + DISABILITY INCOME INSURANCE + LONG TERM CARE INSURANCE + ANNUITIES
www.camilluskayak.com www.facebook.com/camilluskayak Kathy Kitt: 315-247-5992 or firstname.lastname@example.org
SERVING THE MUNICIPAL AND INDUSTRIAL MARKETS FOR 60 YEARS
WWW.GARTNEREQUIPMENT.COM DESIGN - SALES - SERVICES / REPAIR - PARTS
Oil Free Centrifugal Air Compressors OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
• Pumps & Pumping Systems • Water/Waste Equipment • Finishing Equipment • Air Compressors • Vacuum Pumps • Fans & Blowers • Accessories, Parts, and Service • Technical Assistance • Turnkey Systems • Equipment Sales OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Reciprocating and QPRotary Series QP Pro 5-15 | QP Max 5-15 Screw Air Compressors
For All Your Real Estate Needs Contact Our Professionals at
Leah’s Signature FULTON OFFICE
566 S. 4th Street, Rt. 481 8563 Oswego Road, Rt. 57 Baldwinsville, NY 13027 Fulton, NY 13069
A full service real estate company serving all of Oswego, Onondaga and Cayuga Counties Residential - Commercial – Land – New Builds - Relocations
www.C21Leahs.com Each office is independently owned and operated.
Here for All Your Financial Needs
We Put our Members First - Savings Accounts - Auto & Home Loans - Checking Accounts - Credit & Debit Cards
- Student Loans - Mobile Banking
- Online Banking - Overdraft Protection
Contact us today! 800.462.5000 • empowerfcu.com
Insured by NCUA
NMLS: 412348 Membership eligibility required. Loan approval based on creditworthiness.
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
ON THE JOB What Are You Planning to Do to Celebrate the Holidays? Interviews by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
ith less than a few weeks until the holiday season kicks off with Thanksgiving, many are considering now what they plan to do to celebrate with customers and employees and to promote their organizations. To an extent, the pandemic has affected plans for some. “We are having a virtual year-end event that will connect the entire C&S team to celebrate project excellence recognition and awards we received throughout the year and honor significant employee achievements and career milestones. We will also be making our annual holiday Food Bank donations to our communities where we have offices across the country. This is consistent with what we have done in previous years with the exception of eliminating year-end event office gatherings due to COVID-19.” John D. Trimble President & CEO, C&S Companies, Syracuse
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
“We plan a holiday party just after the new year to not interfere with the busy lives we all lead. It gives time to relax and enjoy the time. We are not changing plans so far and hope the next few months find us back to a more normal situation.” Tony Pauldine Owner, Anthony M. Pauldine General Contractors Inc., Oswego “We haven’t decided yet. We normally have a little cocktail hour for employees and clients. At this point, I doubt we’ll do it. We’ll probably do Christmas cards.” Brenda Weissenberg Owner, Affordable Business Solutions, Central Square “I don’t have anything planned and I’m a little leery as I don’t know what the holiday will be like. A lot of people can’t go anywhere, so if it’s like in May for Mother’s Day — they might order flowers for delivery as a gift. This last
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Mother’s Day was my best ever. I’ve been in business since 2009.” Gail Jones, Owner Devine Designs by Gail, Fulton “We usually do a luncheon for our staff. They prefer something during the day, so that’s our Christmas party. We do a secret Santa every year. For clients, we send out a holiday card. It won’t be anything more than we normally do.” Lesley Wilcox A La Carte Business Service and Arete HCM Solutions, Syracuse “At this point, I don’t see any changes other than the Fort Brewerton Greater Oneida Lake Chamber of Commerce might not have their normal Christmas function. I’m a board member. For the dental office, we’ll probably do something for Christmas here. We’re all tested and checked and at this point, we’re healthy. We also have to abide by the guidelines.” Daniel Walsh Dentist, Central Square Family Chiropractic, Central Square “In normal times, we do a mailing in early January to let customers know what’s available. We’ve also developed email lists that we email to. This year, I have it penciled in for January. We’ll see how it pans out. We really don’t know this time what we’ll be doing. It’s difficult to say.” Richard ONeil Owner, Travel Choice, Syracuse
Still here for you.
Do we even have to say it? A lot has changed! But at OCO, our mission remains the same: To provide services that empower people, support communities and change lives.
“We do gift card sales for every $25, get $5 free. We launch that on Black Friday and just before Christmas. We have a pretty crazy holiday rush for haircuts.” Anthony Nappa Owner, Saving Face Barbershop, Syracuse, Manlius and Saratoga Springs “I’m not doing a lot of promotion as I’ve got more work than I can handle. I’m blessed that I have a lot of business. Anyone in the construction industry is doing well. Bob Flemming Owner, Bob Flemming Windows and Doors, Brewerton “As we are a promotional products supplier, we sell and use many items, like pens, pads, pizza cutters, USB readers, and mugs throughout the year. We cut back but now are doing the same as normal.” John M. Henry Owner, Speedway Press, Mitchell Printing & Mailing Inc. and The Phoenix Press, Oswego
That means more cleaning and disinfecting, extra precautions to protect clients and employees, and new technologies to connect online. We’re proud of the ways our communities have pulled together. We’re very proud of our employees who come to work every day because many of our services never close. For now we may all have to be a bit more distant, but we’re never far away!
Transportation. Addiction recovery. Job readiness. Sexual health. Cancer Screenings.Homes for the developmentally disabled. Head Start. WIC. Meals on Wheels. Housing for homeless youth, adults and families. Mental health services. Reproductive health. Outreach. Crisis Hotlines. After-School programs. Literacy.
Help OCO Stay Strong! Donate. Volunteer. Call 315.598.4717 ext. 1082 315.598.4717 | www.oco.org | 1.877.342.7618 crisis hotline 12
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
“We know some customers are still concerned about getting out and about so we want to make this holiday season as easy as possible to shop for the special kids in your life. We will be adding this option to our website to create a custom Santa Sack that can be customized for any child at any price point, that can be delivered to their doorstep or available for pick up in the shop. Orders for custom Santa Sacks — purchased toys packaged in a holiday gift bag — can be made on our website or by calling the shop. We have been working hard to get all of our toys added online and also have expanded our online gift registry to include all toys, games and activities.” Lisa Emmons Owner, Mother Earth Baby and Curious Kidz, Oswego “Eastern Shore Associates will be having an employee luncheon this year in lieu of the Christmas dinner as years past just to change events up a bit. We had our annual event with guests this past summer. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to attend due to the COVID-19 situation; however, for those who were able to attend it was enjoyable. We are ramping up now different events to raise money for charities for the Christmas and OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Thanksgiving holidays. We usually provide Thanksgiving dinner to a family and also the same at Christmas time. We have charity baskets for sale at the ESA offices. The raffle will be held November 17. Tickets are available to the public and may be purchased through an ESA employee.” Regina Lunkenheimer Chief operations officer, Eastern Shore Associates, Fulton “The COVID-19 pandemic presented Oswego County Opportunities with many unprecedented challenges. One of the most difficult of these has been the high costs associated with coronavirus, tapping our resources at the very time when we cannot hold our major fundraising events. And yet, never has it been more important to provide our wide array of human services to help the most vulnerable and needy among us bridge the gaps and overcome the barriers they face on the path to self-sufficiency. “The upcoming Giving Thanks event is being held on Friday, Nov. 6, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. streamed live on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ ocoevents1/. There are many exciting activities happening during the event, including an art auction, entertainment, and food and beverage pairings.” Bridget Dolbear Development coordinator, Oswego County Opportunities, Oswego “I have in the past taken party trays from Price Chopper to my customers and I imagine I’ll do the same. I usually do that the week before Christmas to let them know I appreciate their business. I sell heating and plumbing equipment, which serves an essential service. My business has not diminished. COVID hasn’t changed my approach to the holidays at all.” John Zanewych, owner Big John Sales, Oswego “There’s only four of us here. We work a half-day just before Christmas and have lunch for everyone. We’ve done it for 30 years. It would be different if we had something like 50 employees. We’re trying some direct mailing and things like that to promote sales. We usually do school sports, so that’s been not happening for the year.” Tom Brady, owner Fulton Screen Printing, Fulton
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
State-of-the-art Repair Facility
Return to pre-accident condition Dent and scratch removal
269 West 2nd Street Oswego, NY 13126 Phone (315) 343-7406 Fax (315) 343-0820 www.vashaws.com
Glass replacement Free estimates Enterprise rental vehicles
John A. Vashaw • John M. Vashaw
Tax & Financial Services Inc
Tax & F Tax & Financial Service Services Inc 25 Canalview Mall PO Box 56 Fulton, NY 13069 Ph. 315-598-1616 Ellen@LaddTax.com Fax. 315-593-1105 EllenLadd.com 25 Canalview Mall PO PO Box 56 Fulton, NY 13069 •Tax Preparation & Tax Planning •Investment & Financial Planning Ellen@LaddTax.com Ph. 315-598-1616 Ellen@LaddTax.com •Retirement Planning •Wealth ManagementEllenLadd.com •Insurance Services Fax. 315-593-1105 EllenLadd.com
Ellen Ladd, EA Ellen Ladd, EA
•Tax&Preparation & Tax Planning •In CA Insurance 0H11508 •Tax Preparation & Tax PlanningLicense: •Investment Financial Planning •Retirement Planning SM •Retirement Planning •Wealth Management Services•Wealth Mana *Securities oﬀered through Avantax Investment Services•Insurance , Member FINRA,SIPC. SM
Advisory services oﬀered through Avantax Investment Advisory Services . SM Insurance services oﬀered through Avantax Insurance Agency . CA Insurance Licens CA Insurance License: Ladd Tax & Financial Services Inc is not a0H11508 registered broker/dealer SM or registered investment advisory ﬁrm. oﬀered through Avantax Investm *Securities oﬀered through Avantax Investment Services ,*Securities Member FINRA,SIPC. SM oﬀered through Avanta Advisory services Advisory services oﬀered through Avantax Investment Advisory Services . SM Insurance services oﬀered through A Insurance services oﬀered through Avantax Insurance Agency . Ladd Tax & Financial Services Inc is n Ladd Tax & Financial Services Inc is not a registered broker/dealer or registered investmen or registered investment advisory ﬁrm.
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Started How I Got By Lou Sorendo
Making the jump from being an employee to a business owner: Fulton florist and owner of DeVine Designs by Gail parlays experience, knowledge into gratifying career Q.: When did you launch your business and what steps did you take to become an independent owner? A.: I opened the business in April of 2009. I worked at Tops Markets in the floral department for 18 years until they closed. After that, I went and worked for several area florists, some of them that aren’t here anymore. My last opportunity was at Dowd’s House of Flowers, which my girlfriend owned. She eventually sold it and I did not connect well with the new owner. I said, “You know what? Dowd’s is not going to be Dowd’s any more. It was my main competitor, so I believed that was the time to open. That’s what I did. “Fly or die” is what they say. Q.: You were an employee at that time. Where did you learn the basics to open the business? A.: One of the best steps I took was taking a class through the U.S. Small Business Administration in Oswego. I give them credit for taking me step by step through the process of writing a business plan. I then got a $10,000 loan from a bank and cashed in my 401(k) that I had from Tops, which wasn’t huge. That’s pretty much how I got started. I started in 1986, so had 23 years of experience before opening my own business. I worked in six or seven shops, and I found niches in each shop that I liked and incorporated them into what I like now. Q.: What were some of the foremost challenges when launching the business? A.: Being the new kid on the block is the biggest challenge. People don’t know you and people don’t
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
trust you, even though I was born and raised here. I did have a lot of friends, but still everyone was saying, “I don’t know if I want to call that new florist. They don’t have any background.” Q.: How was the competition at the time? A.: When I started, there were four shops in town and now there are only two. To tell you the truth, this isn’t a challenge because I am blessed to be located at one of the busiest intersections in Oswego County [Broadway and South Second Street], so I am very fortunate to have this. I get a lot of drive-by traffic. Q.: Did you have any strategy to be more competitive? A.: I visited a lot of businesses, and did things like place flowers in the lobby of Fulton Savings Bank and on tables at Mimi’s Restaurant. I would drop in on businesses with a little arrangement and tell them if they need anything to let me know. I also did a lot of personal deliveries to businesses. That’s really how the word got out. I felt I needed to get out and personally go meet people. We created a Facebook page and developed a website right away. Other than that, it was just meeting and greeting people and getting out there, which is important especially in a small town. Let them put a face with your logo. I also did a lot of things in schools in Oswego County, like meeting with teachers for proms and giving kids discount coupons for prom wear. Q. Were you solo when you first launched the business? A.: Yes. When I first started out, it was a very lonely, long day because it was not busy. That can really wear on you, and you wonder about not having a paycheck or money coming in. It is very scary to open your own business. I thought, “oh, if I can just make it to five years.” When five years came I said, “oh, if I can just make it to 10 years.” Things do get better and I don’t worry about it as much as I used to, but it is still scary. It’s just the kind of environment that we live in around here. We live in a depressed area and flowers are not milk and bread. Q.: What were some of the significant lessons you had to learn early going of running the OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Yes. When I first started out, it was a very lonely, long day because it was not busy. That can really wear on you, and you wonder about not having a paycheck or money coming in. It is very scary to open your own business. I thought, “oh, if I can just make it to five years.” business? A.: Other vital steps I took when I first launched the business included getting to know wholesalers as well as your products, knowing how much product to have on hand and not over-order fresh products, and knowing what is trending. Customers want something that is going to last and they want value. Those are my two key things when handling orders for flowers. When customers spend $40 or $50, they want it to look like they spent $40 or $50. The shop features fresh flowers, a large variety of containers and plush. I am just bringing back tuxedos after a two-year hiatus, and also do events that include weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations of life and holidays. Q.: How did you initially develop a passion for flowers and plants? A.: Believe it or not, I used to tear up my mother’s flower garden and rearrange everything. I just always have had a love for working with plants and flowers. When I was in high school, I went to BOCES for horticulture. I enjoyed it so much that I went on to college for horticulture. I went to SUNY Morrisville and loved it. It was the best two years of my life. It was just a great program and I really got a lot out of it. It definitely gave me a little bit of a backbone and something to fall back on. With OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
the degree, you can work as a state inspector, florist, or landscaper and go in any direction you like. I still do a little landscaping at home but that is not as interesting to me as flowers. Q.: Do you enjoy being a business owner? A.: Everyone thinks running your own business is fun, but the work doesn’t stop at 5 o’clock. I like all aspects of it, except holidays are a little bit nuts because there is not much family time. We are here until 1 or 2 in the morning, and your family time suffers a little bit. I like to think I make it up after the holidays. That’s just the way it is. Q.: Does running a business too tough on your family life? A.: I recently got remarried to Rick Jones, who has two adult children. It took him awhile to try to determine what time I was coming home on holidays, because I really don’t know at times. It could be 10, 2 or all night. I get extra help during the holidays for deliveries, and my husband fills in as well. Q.: What have been the keys to your success and longevity? A.: The keys to my success involve the ability to move quality product and not feature the same things all the time while keeping it fresh. I think sometimes more people come in to see my dogs than anything else. I am a dog lover, and try to carry things for dog owners. I also let customers control how much they would like to spend. Q.: How do you keep a competitive edge over other businesses that are doing the same thing? A.: My only business is customer service. Everything is easy past that. People who deliver excellent customer service are a dying breed. There is a little bit of a drawback because everyone who calls wants to talk to me. I do have an office manager and part-time worker who designs, but everyone expects to see and talk to me here. Even if you don’t talk to me, I’m still going to attend to your order. I am the main designer and I do almost everything myself. In terms of grocery stores, there is just no customer service there and no delivery. I don’t feel they are on a competitive level with me. 15
PROFILE By Lou Sorendo
Michael C. Backus Son of successful publisher, former county clerk makes transition into private sector as second in command at Oswego Health
t 29, Michael C. Backus was elected to the post of Oswego County clerk in 2012, the youngest to ever hold that position in New York state. Now at the age of 36, he was recently named executive vice president and chief operations officer at Oswego Health. The Mexico resident has hit the high note at a relatively young age and the future looks promising for a man whose roots are firmly entrenched in the community. He is ready to parlay his family background in community journalism as well as his experience in government administration and healthcare into a positive career as a respected leader. He recently resigned as clerk, leaving the post to take over as Oswego Health’s second in command. The health system is the third largest private employer in Oswego County with more than 1,000 employees, according to the 2020 Business Guide. Backus has the challenging role of stepping into a high-level leadership spot in the midst of a global pandemic. “When I first started discussing this opportunity with my family, the pandemic was certainly a topic of discussion,” he said. “As an eternal optimist, I will always try to find positivity in a situation.” Backus said as an independent health care system, Oswego Health is positioned to provide quality, safe health care throughout the pandemic and will have the ability to attract providers who may be looking to get away from high-density population centers. “That’s an advantage for us and through some strategic partnerships, I believe we’ll be able to maintain that independence and grow the organization,” he said. His father, Mark H. Backus, was a third-generation owner of the Mexico Independent and published several weekly newspapers throughout Oswego County. 16
“Watching my father from an early age lead a business that my grandfather and great-grandfather built only to have social media transform the entire industry was hard,” he said. Backus loved working in the shop and hearing the printing press roar and shake the entire building. “There was tremendous pride when I told my father that a group of friends and I started a school newspaper,” he said. “I loved writing and selling advertising for the weeklies for a few years after college. It was and is in my blood so to speak.” The experience shaped Backus as a professional because it instilled a sense of responsibility. “We had a responsibility to provide community journalism, refrigerator journalism, to Oswego County that mattered to our neighbors,” he said. “We didn’t print the police blotter or gossip columns. We shared the triumphs of the local high school sports team or what’s happening this week at the VFW.” He said this helped spread good cheer and build community. “That’s so important in my mind in today’s world when we truly need each other more than ever,” he said. Backus said COVID-19 will present a number of behavioral health challenges as the history on this time period is written and some of the lessons he learned working for the weeklies will help Oswego Health and himself provide those services to the community in a meaningful way. “We will emerge from this pandemic in a variety of ways and as we rebuild our lives, we’ll OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
need each other to do so,” he said. Backus said his educational experience at Le Moyne College in Syracuse helped shape him into the person and professional that he is today. That was a primary reason he agreed to join the Board of Regents at Le Moyne College. “There is something uniquely special about the Heights and being a Dolphin,” he said as he referred to Le Moyne’s mascot. Backus became committed to the college’s
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mantra of “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” “It truly is emblazoned upon my soul and now stepping into this role in health care, I very much want to live it and better the health care outcomes in Oswego County.” Backus said being a native of Mexico helps in terms of understanding the health care needs of county residents LAKESHORE HARDWOODS and the need for access to quality PULASKI & VICTOR, NY health care. When he was on the board at Oswww.lakeshorehardwoods.com 315-298-6407 wego Health, he and Bernhards Bay resident Ellen Holst www.lakeshorehardwoods. would regularly com 315-298-6407 remind fellow members — most of whom live in or around Oswego — that the board’s primary service area and opportunities to grow go well beyond the city. “Certainly access to care is a concern and eliminating as many of those barriers is going to be a focus of mine both as an employee now of Oswego Your Transportation Connection! Health, but also in partnership with www.lakeshorehardwoods.com 315-298-6407 ConnextCare and other primary care Oswego: providers,” he said. To/From Syracuse Bus, Train Center In 2007, former U.S. Congressand Airport man and former Army Secretary John Fulton: Local and Out-of-Town Runs McHugh hired Backus to serve as a Hours: Sun. to Thurs.: 5 AM to 2:30 AM field representative. He was promoted Friday & Saturday: 24 Hours in March of 2009 to field director. McHugh served the constituents of the 23rd Congressional District, which spanned from Lake Champlain to Lake THE PLACE TO SHOP AT ONEIDA LAKE SHORESS Ontario.
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continued on page 94
Birth date: Dec. 7, 1983 Birthplace: Syracuse Current residence: Mexico Education: Mexico Academy & Central School; Le Moyne College, Syracuse; Norwich Military University, Northfield, Vermont Affiliations: Member, National Association of Community Health Centers (serves on the legislative and credentials committee; chairman of the board, ConnextCare Personal: Wife, Andrea L. Backus; daughter, Madelynne K. Backus; son, Joseph A. Backus Hobbies: Golf, Syracuse sports, cooking, travel OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
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By Wagner Dotto
e’re excited to work on the 2021 Business Guide, listing the largest companies in the region. We’re in the process of mailing letters to more than 500 companies, asking a for variety of figures and information. That kicks off the 27th edition of the Business Guide. It’s an ambitious project, which involves a great deal of research, phone calls, checking and double-checking information, writing and design work. The Business Guide carries detailed descriptions of local businesses, including latest developments, employment information and background. It also carries profiles of business owners and CEOs and their comments on the local economy and their industries. It focuses on four counties: Oswego, Onondaga, Cayuga and Jefferson. A series of graphics shows the largest employers by region, top public employers, manufacturers, auto dealers, home improvement, healthcare and others. The Business Guide has become
provides a great snapshot of companies located in the region and what they do and who is in charge. The guide will be published in mid-November. Paid subscribers to Oswego County Business will receive the publication as soon as it’s published. We will also make some free copies available throughout the region. We welcome companies to place advertisements in the publication. Cost to advertise is fairly low and advertising in the guide is a great way to showcase their products, services and their presence in the region.
Last year’s cover. reference material for many people and organizations and we’re glad that Operation Oswego County, the county’s economic development agency, uses it extensively as part of its marketing strategies to attract new businesses to the region. For companies, it’s a chance to highlight their growth, expansion, new products, whatever new they have to share. For readers, the guide
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Where in the World is Sandra Scott? By Sandra Scott
Greece: All Visits Start in its Capital, Athens
iscover the roots of Western Civilization, relax on one of the many sun-soaked beaches or island hop in the Aegean and Ionian Seas. Explore Greece, the land of the gods, home to Mount Olympus and 6,000 islands, of which only 227 are inhabited. All travel starts in the capital, Athens, one of first cities in Europe dating back to the 5th century BC — yes, 5th century before Christ. While in Athens watch the changing of the colorful guards at the Presidential Palace and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma (Constitution) Square. From Syntagma Square it is walking distance to many of the touristic places plus a shuttle bus to the beach. The National Gardens is a great place to refresh and pet one of the
many cats. The Plaka is a colorful hillside village with cobblestone streets, sidewalk cafes — and great shopping. It is in the shadow of the Acropolis. A hop-on, hop-off bus tour stops at all the must-see places, including the Acropolis, the No. 1 archeological site in Athens. The hardy can climb the many steps up to the hilltop Acropolis; others can take a bus to the Acropolis Museum and then walk up a few steps. There is a chair elevator for the handicapped. There is a fee to visit but some days are free. The Acropolis is home to several archeological sites but the Parthenon is considered one of the most perfect buildings. It is even more amazing considering it was built in the 5th century BCE (before the Common Era). There are many ways to explore
Greece: by tour, by ship or sailboat, or by car. From Athens there are several day tours to the nearby islands of Hydra, Poros and Egina. Exploring the island of Aegina by car will give visitors a look at the tranquil countryside dotted with olive gardens. It is also home to the Oracle of Delphi, a religious sanctuary sacred to the god Apollo. It is where the oracle of Apollo gave cryptic messages to leaders and near the Gulf of Corinth with easy access to Peloponnese, home of Marathon, Sparta and many beaches. Marathon is where in 490 BCE the outnumbered Athenian army defeated the Persians after which the messenger, Pheidippides, ran 25 miles to Athens announcing that they had won. Marathons are now celebrated in the Olympics and throughout the
The Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens, also known as the Olympieion, was built over several centuries starting in 174 BCE and only finally completed by Roman emperor Hadrian in 131 CE. 20
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
world. The present city of Sparta is built on the ruins of the ancient city but there are ruins outside of the city. Unique to the time, the ancient city had no protective walls but instead relied on the people to defend the city. Today the word “Spartan” refers to people who exhibit great courage and self-discipline. There are ferries connecting many of the islands. While it would be nearly impossible to visit them all, Santorini, Mykonos and Crete are the most famous. The island of Santorini is considered one of the most interesting and beautiful. In the 16th century BCE a massive volcanic eruption followed by others left a crescent shaped island where today towns cling to the cliff above what was once the crater. The white-washed buildings have become the iconic images of Greece. There are amazing views from the village of Oia, located high on a cliff referred to as the “Caldera’s Eyebrow.” It is still possible to see people farming the traditional way with horse-drawn plows. Local farmers raise grapes to make Santorini’s world famous wine. There are several wineries offering tours and tastings. No visit to Greece would be complete without trying stuffed grape leaves, moussaka, Santorini tomato fritters, Greek salad, gyros and other Greek culinary delights. Not to miss is the baklava. If it is a party that one is looking for, then Mykonos, an island in the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea, is the place. Summer is the party time where there are large dance clubs that stay open into the morning. Take a break from partying to check out the picturesque row of 16th-century windmills on the hill above the town of Mykonos. There are places to dine, gleaming white villages, plenty of shops and art galleries featuring local artwork, including mosaics and icons from “The Saint of Mykonos,” the Sandra Scott, a retired history teacher and the co-author of two local history books, has been traveling worldwide with her husband, John, since the 1980s. The Scotts live in the village of Mexico. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
The white-washed buildings on the island of Santorini have become the iconic images of Greece.
Dining on the island of Santorini, considered one of the most interesting and beautiful islands in Greece. local icon painter gilding his work with 22k gold leaf. Crete is one of the largest of the Greek islands. At one time it was the center of Minoan civilization that flourished between 3000 BCE and 1450 BCE. It is credited as the first civilization on European soil. The Minoans were famous for their magnificent palaces, specifically the Palace of Knossos outside of the island’s main city, Heraklion. There is shuttle connection between Heraklion and the archeological site. The site is renowned for its colorful frescos depicting life of the Minoans the most famous of which is the restored Charging Bull. Crete may be best known for the Minoan civilization remnants but there are sand beaches and the Ideon Cave in the mountains is considered to be the birthplace of Zeus. Greece is an affordable place to visit for those who love history and beaches. The locals do not expect OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
visitors to know Greek — English is the most common second language. However, when visiting a foreign country it is good to learn how to say a few words such as “hello,” “please,” and “thank you,” in the local language. Most phones have a translation app. Generally, the people are easy going so keep in mind some rules are merely suggestions. Do not assume that cars will stop at a designated crosswalk to allow walkers to proceed. Driving is a good way to explore outside of Athens. Most cars are stick shift and an international driver’s license is a good idea. Americans tourists do not need a visa. The euro is the currency and, as always, the best rate is given at a bank’s ATM and the worst is usually at the departure airport. While credit cards use is common, some small shops and restaurants may not accept them. Visa and MasterCard are the easiest to use.
NEWSMAKERS NEWS BRIEFS ON LOCAL BUSINESSES & BUSINESS PEOPLE Former FBI Agent Joins Thompson Consulting Group Mark Park, recently retired as FBI supervisory special agent at the FBI Academy, has joined Oswego-based Thompson Consulting Group, LLC (TCG). TCG specializes in consultative training services for financial instiPark tutions seeking experts with actual industry experience. “We are honored to have Mark join our team,” said Barry Thompson, TCG managing partner. “His abundant experience in investigating white-collar crime and public corruption will be a tremendous asset to our clients,” Thompson said. “There’s no substitute for his professionalism and the many real-life cases he has been deeply involved with during his career.” Park has been a certified police instructor for more than 20 years. He served as the principal crisis management coordinator at the FBI Norfolk, Virginia, field division, as well as a member of the human intelligence program there. He began his FBI career at the Syracuse Resident Agency, Albany Division, and served there for 23 years where he primarily focused on white-collar investigations and public corruption. Park has provided continuing professional education for certified fraud examiners in Central New York and Norfolk. He has also provided continuing professional education to banking, insurance and accounting associations, as well as local, state, and federal law enforcement. Park has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Central Connecticut State University and worked for two regional accounting firms performing 22
audits, financial statements and tax returns for corporate clients in Connecticut for five years before joining the FBI in 1991. TCG, celebrating 20 years in 2020, provides training, risk management
advisory service, banking expos, community programs, and physical risk assessments for financial institutions and associations. TCG has trained more than 50,000 professionals in 49 states, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe and
SUNY Oswego Has its First Executive Director of Enrollment Management
bony Dixon has been appointed as SUNY Oswego’s first executive director of enrollment management, college President Deborah F. Stanley announced recently. Dixon joined the college Sept. 14. As the college’s chief enrollment officer, Dixon will serve as a member of the president’s council; oversee the admissions operations of the college; and provide leadership to strategically plan, develop, coordinate and implement SUNY Oswego’s comprehensive enrollment management and retention efforts. “Ebony has an outstanding record of leadership and effective collaboration in enrollment management at the collegiate level, and is passionately committed to the recruitment and retention of students,” Stanley said. “Her nearly two decades of experience as an admissions counselor, new student orientation assistant director and senior enrollment officer have prepared her well, and position her to make immediate contributions as SUNY Oswego’s first executive director of enrollment management.” Dixon comes to SUNY Oswego from Southern Methodist University (SMU), based in Texas, where she most recently served as the director of recruitment and retention for the Lyle School of Engineering. In that leadership position, she was responsible for developing and managing recruitment, marketing strategies and plans for all undergraduate and graduate programs. Prior to her time at SMU, Dixon was employed at her alma mater, Wayne State University in Detroit, for 15 years. Initially hired as an OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
admissions counselor, she advanced to senior manager in the enrollment service center and eventually assumed a leadership role as associate director of enrollment management for Wayne State’s School of Medicine. “I am absolutely delighted to join the Oswego team and campus community during this remarkable time of change,” Dixon said. “I look forward to engaging and implementing together as we move forward in welcoming, retaining, graduating and celebrating the achievements of our academically talented students.” Dixon is actively involved in a number of professional admissions-based organizations. She is a member of the Texas Association for College Admission Counseling (TACAC), National Association of International Educators (NAFSA), National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP), and the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). She earned her Master of Science in criminal justice and Master of Library and Information Science from Wayne State University. Ebony also earned her bachelor’s degree in business logistics from Wayne State University. She is currently working toward earning her Doctor of Liberal Studies from SMU. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Asia. Training for financial institutions includes bank robbery, check fraud, cybercrime, ethics, identity theft, internal embezzlement, security regulations and social engineering programs.
Tryniski Named AVP, Credit Manager at Pathfinder Nick Tryniski has recently been named assistant vice president credit manager at Pathfinder Bank. “ We a r e pleased to recognize Nick with this promotion,” said Ronald Tascarella, executive vice president, chief Tryniski banking officer. “With his experience and product knowledge, Nick has been a beneficial asset to our organization, and we look forward to watching him progress in this new role.” As credit manager for Pathfinder Bank, Tryniski will manage the residential and commercial underwriting for the bank and will bring his personal experience as a credit analyst, knowledge of lending to the bank’s customers. He will be part of a team of three analysts and a residential underwriter. Prior to joining Pathfinder Bank as a credit analyst in 2016, Tryniski was employed at M&T Bank. He earned a degree in finance from LeMoyne College and is a resident of Baldwinsville. In his spare time, he enjoys golf, home improvement projects and bowling.
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research and benchmarking firm. This list honors the fastest growing firms in the AEC industry. Firms are ranked based on three-year growth in revenue, by both percentage and dollar growth. This recognition comes on the heels of also being recognized as one of the “Best Firms to Work For” in the AEC industry for the third year in a row. “Being recognized as one of the fastest growing firms in the industry is
a reflection of the continued hard work and dedication by our employees, said B&L President and CEO John F. Brusa, Jr. “Given the current economic climate, we understand the importance of growing revenue, creating jobs and providing opportunity while continually striving to remain an employer of choice.” Winners were honored at the 2020 Elevate AEC Conference in September.
Professionals at Oswego Health Care Management working with an iPad donated by Exelon Generation of Lycoming.
Exelon Donates 30 iPads to Oswego Health to Assist Patients with Access to Care
xelon Generation, which operates Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station and James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Lycoming, has recently donated 30 iPads to Oswego Health Care Management, part of Oswego Health. The iPads will help hospital workers facility access to health care to many of the 20,000 individuals who are enrolled in Medicare and need medical assistance in Oswego County. Professionals from Oswego Health Care Management meet the clients regularly to help manage their medical needs, social needs and behavioral needs. Some examples of the assistance include coordinating care with providers, therapists, educational needs, housing solutions, transportation, along with offering additional support so individuals can
live a healthy life. With the current state of the pandemic, Care Management was finding it more difficult to assist clients with coordinating care as there is a limit in technology access for many of its clientele. “Exelon is happy to provide Oswego Health Care Management with 30 iPads to assist their clients in the community with access to care through Telemed,” said Nick Millard, Exelon’s corporate maintenance instructor. “In addition, the iPads can be used for families that have multiple children that may be limited in devices to access their educational needs to complete schoolwork as we know these care managers are offering support however their clients need it. We’re just ecstatic these iPads can be put to good use.” OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Brad Sprague Joins Davis-Standard’s Aftermarket Group Davis-Standard, a global leader in the design, development and distribution of extrusion and converting technology based in Connecticut and with a plant in Fulton, announced that Brad Sprague has joined the company as reSprague gional sales manager aftermarket – Midwest region. In this capacity he will be responsible for all large aftermarket sales, including feedscrews, barrels, feed sections, gearboxes, conversion packages, control upgrades and extruder and equipment rebuilds for customers throughout the midwestern United States. He will support all Davis-Standard product groups in this role. Sprague brings more than 27 years of experience to his position, most recently with Graham Engineering as a regional sales manager. He has previous experience with Davis-Standard as a regional manager for the pipe and profile and elastomer product groups, also serving the Midwest region. Sprague is an active SPE (Society of Plastics Engineers) member.
Naber Joins Beardsley Architects + Engineers Beardsley Architects + Engineers based in Auburn announced that Michael S. Naber has joined the firm as structural engineer. Naber is a 2016 graduate of Clarkson University with a degree in civil engineering. He comes to Beardsley by way of Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he served as department manager and staff engineer with a focus on construction materials testing, special inspecNaber OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
tion, and small-scale engineering design for commercial and residential projects. With five years of experience, Naber brings to Beardsley his diverse experience in both design and management. At Beardsley, Naber will be working on commercial and parks and recreation projects.
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Pathfinder Enhances Online, Mobile Banking Pathfinder Bank recently upgraded its online and mobile banking platform. The upgrade comes with a fresh look, intuitive design and additional features like Personal Finance by MX — a money management tool that helps customers more easily and conveniently achieve their financial goals. This new online and mobile banking platform makes it easier for customers to take even more control over their finances — especially during challenging times, according to a new release. “Our online banking upgrade is helping us elevate our customer’s experience by being an important digital resource we can provide to them during this unusual time,” said Pathfinder Bank Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President Daniel Phillips. “Our new personal finance tool provides our customers with a better understanding of their personal situation, while making it easier for them to manage their finances and make more conscious financial decisions.” With the new personal finance tool, customers have the following benefits: account aggregation in one place. Customers can easily add external accounts from other institutions and view them together with their Pathfinder Bank accounts on their online banking or mobile app; automatic categorization. Customers can create simple transaction descriptions and categorize them automatically across their internal and external accounts; and interactive data visualization. Customers can view their net worth, set budgets, track and identify trends, view debts, set goals, and more in easy to read visual representations. “Our goal is to make a positive difference in people’s lives. We want to empower our customers and community to improve their financial wellbeing by offering solutions to help meet their unique financial needs,” says Phillips. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
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Empower Federal Rated 5-Star Empower Federal Credit Union has once again been awarded its highest (five-star) rating for financial strength and stability, according to Coral Gables, Florida, BauerFinancial, Inc., the nation’s premier credit union and bank rating. According to a company press release, earning a five-star rating indicates this credit union excels in areas of capital adequacy, profitability, asset quality and much more. Earning and maintaining this top rating for 31 consecutive quarters, especially in this environment, makes its accomplishment even more impressive. “That’s a noteworthy accomplishment in the best of times,” said Karen Dorway, president of the research firm. “Today, it speaks volumes. How do they do it? A solid sense of community, working one on one and providing solutions to members who need it — that is the true mark of a credit union and Empower Federal Credit Union does it very well. Its team members have been right there on the front lines doing whatever they could to help their membership throughout the pandemic. And, they’ve done it all without compromising the strength of the credit union itself. That’s doing well while doing good.” Established in 1939, Empower Federal Credit Union has been dedicated to its field of membership for 81 years. Today, its guiding principles and cando attitude are more important than ever as Empower Federal Credit Union continues to be there for them. Whether from a branch, over the phone or via its website, empowerfcu.com, you can trust Empower Federal Credit Union to be there for you.
Oswego County Business reaches more than 2,000 people earning more than $100K in Oswego Countuy Another reason to advertise OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
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DiningOut By Christopher Malone
Sea food platter plus a variety of food found at Skip’s Fish Fry in Oswego.
Not Skipping on Tradition S
kip’s Fish Fry, located at 42 W. 2nd St. in Oswego, seems to be on an island of its own. When looking at the aptly named “The Port City” of Oswego, it’s a given that minds should think of water and fish. It’s almost Pavlovian. There is no shortage of dishes that will fill you, well, to the gills. After spending a week up at camp and fishing the Salmon River Reservoir, eating fresh perch and pumpkinseeds daily, my cravings for fish went from necessary to insatiable. Luckily, a small fish fry was ready for my pangs. For a couple years, Skip’s Fish Fry has called Oswego home. It’s settled in quite nicely. The small-ish restaurant offers a small yet robust menu. Aside from sides, the non-fish items are hamburgers with or without cheese, hotdogs, coneys, and chicken fingers.
Oswego fish fry sizzles There’s also a kids’ menu, in case the little ones don’t enjoy seafood. Skip’s has a smaller dining area, complete with nautical décor and a mural of the West Pierhead Lighthouse, that feels even bigger due to COVID-19 restrictions with limited seating and spaced tables. A couple tables sit on the front porch; however, it’s an advantage to enjoy that indoor seating with cooler temperatures setting in. Takeaway is always an option. I kicked off the meal with a bottled water and a can of Fat Tire amber ale ($4 for a pint). Skip’s beer is probably the most affordable prices I’ve seen in a while. After ordering the food, the staff told me they’d bring it out when it was complete. I ordered a Maine lobster roll with fries ($17.99), a seafood platter ($14.99), OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
and a small order of lobster mac and cheese ($9.99). For a solo outing that promised copious leftovers, I was looking at a $60 check before tip. Let’s begin with the lobster macaroni and cheese. The mound of this American delight was impressive and could comfortably be split among three people. Actually, this “small order” can be divided among four — you’ll just be asking for more mac. It’s good, too. It’s genuine comfort-food good. There were chunks of lobster meat hanging out by the top, but I figured that was it. However, as I spooned out the cheesy dish, more pieces of lobster appeared. It was just like finding buried treasure. Boy, did I come out on top. There was an appropriate amount of lobster in this … well, c’mon, seriously — it’s too big to be considered a OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Skip’s Fish Fry Address 42 W. 2nd St., Oswego, NY 13126 Phone 315-216-4781 Website/Social skipsfishfry.com facebook.com/skipsfishfry instagram.com/SkipsFishFry twitter.com/SkipsFishFry Current Temporary Hours Sun. – Mon.: “Gone Fishing” Tues. – Thurs. & Sat.: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Fri.: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
“side” dish. I went with the seafood platter to get a taste of a few different items on the menu — haddock, shrimp, and scallops. You can get these options as their own dinners (respectively $11.99, $10.99, and $13.99). With the platter, you get a typical portion of haddock, three shrimp, and three scallops. All of these are prepared as lightly breaded and fried. Each dinner is served with fries and coleslaw. Although the amount of food isn’t too much, it leaves a patron such as myself thinking I’m paying for market price and quality. It was simply that. The scallops were very good and were average size. The shrimp was nice and crispy and above average size. The haddock was not overly filling — it was delicious. It’s nice to enjoy seafood that isn’t overcoated and overly fried. The sides were good, too. The pile of fries was heaping. The tartar sauce was flavorful and balanced, creamy and chunky. The finely diced coleslaw, thankfully, was not drenched in a soupy mayo. Last but not least was the Maine lobster roll. Skip’s also has a Connecticut lobster roll as well. What’s the difference? The former is served cold with mayo, and the latter is warm and with butter. I don’t see too many places that offer the traditional approach, so the Maine lobster made the cut. Oh, and by the way, the lobster is real and not imitation. The guarantee is on the menu and with the taste. It’s amazing how this heaping pile of lobster meat is able to fit into a OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Maine lobster roll. Skip’s Fish also offer Connecticut lobster.
Lobster macaroni and cheese filled with chunks of lobster. The meat is not just on top. toasted New England-style hot dog bun. For those intimidated by cold lobster with mayo, don’t be. The mayonnaise is not caked on. The lobster, as stated, is delicious and the chilled crustacean stands out just as much. In these strange days, it’s nice to have a local place prevail. I have to also note the cleanliness of the restaurant and its bathrooms, too. The staff also deserves a shout out because of their kindness, the conversations we shared, and what they added to the experience. I could hear their banter in the kitchen. OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Happy employees lead to, well, happy meals. I left incredibly stuffed and with leftovers in hand. Skip’s Fish Fry hit the spot and will certainly lure me back. It succeeds and follows through with its promise of a no-nonsense fish fry. And be sure to look for it an event or neighborhood near you — Skip’s has a food truck. 29
Juhanna Rogers, Ph.D., is a scholarartist and is the creator of Behind the Woman, a WCNY television production that shares personal stories from diverse women leaders to empower other woman to pursue their goals and dreams. She has traveled and lived in Spain, England and Costa Rica while pursuing her graduate education. She currently lives in Syracuse and is the mother of a fifteen yearold son, Nile. She is Center State CEO’s first vice president of racial equality and social impact.
Striving for Greater Diversity CenterState CEO first VP of racial equality and social impact discusses her new role By Lou Sorendo
uhanna Rogers, Ph.D., was recently named vice president of racial equity and social impact, leading the newly formed racial equity and social impact portfolio at CenterState CEO. The 38-year-old Newark, New Jersey, native and Syracuse resident earned degrees at Penn State Altoona (2004) and Indiana University (2007, 2016). The mother of a son, 15-year-old Nile, she enjoys acting, writing, directing and creating experiences with friends. Recently, she addressed the importance of her new role in the midst of national racial unrest. Q.: What motivated you to join forces with CenterState CEO? A.: Obviously over the last several months, we’ve seen the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and the way this has really challenged 30
us as a business community and overall community in terms of thinking about the role that racism plays in our lives in a much more critical way. Prior to this point, I came in as part of CenterState CEO’s economic inclusion team, working with the community on issues regarding workforce and entrepreneurship. [CenterState CEO President] Rob Simpson has continually had conversations about our business leaders thinking more inclusively about how this could be a community where all people profit. When I came to CenterState CEO, I was excited about the way the staff was thinking very intentionally and strategically around issues of inclusion and access to opportunity. I do this work outside of promoting my own brand as a facilitator, motivational speaker and performer. OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
When I came to Rob and Dominic Robinson [vice president of economic inclusion, Work Train director], I said, “I know I can do more.” We talked about opportunities to really engage the business community. I think I can be helpful and intentional in helping this organization work for economic inclusion in a more strategic way. Oftentimes you come into an organization as a woman of color and have to make a case. You have to push and you’re being questioned. At CenterState CEO, they asked, “How can we help you do this?” That spoke volumes about the way in which CenterState CEO is an organization that is thinking more forwardly. It doesn’t have all the answers, and asked if I could help find them. They asked if I could work with business leadership in a very real way; OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
help think of metrics and how to hit bottom lines; and challenge leaders to take courageous action at this time. This is something we know in the community we have to deal with, but there haven’t been spaces for us to have conversations about it in real, authentic ways. Even the allies and accomplices out there who want to help us lead and drive social change or just balance the system in a different way would not even know where to begin. So this position both internally and externally is going to be an opportunity to help our organization think more critically around race, how to drive equitable change, how to measure it and think more intentionally about it. We will help our business members do the same. Q.: How is the COVID-19 experience impacting you? A.: One thing that I kept thinking about as COVID-19 and the protests happened is that we are all tuned in. I really do believe this COVID-19 experience forced many of us to sit at home and think about what was happening in our communities in so many different ways. It’s not that these are new issues; we have been working toward them. Even at a time when we as humans are being challenged to stay alive while dealing with a health crisis, racism is still a prevalent issue and affecting the Black and brown community in substantial ways. Q.: Were there influences in your life that helped lead you to the position you are in now? A.: When I was graduating from Indiana University, my mentor told me, “Getting your Ph.D. isn’t the accomplishment; now it’s time to do the work. Now is the time to put all this training to work.” I said OK, but I had no idea what that was going to mean or the kind of choices I was going to make in order to do that. I then began working with Sharon Owens in my former position at Southwest Community Center. She was the one that I saw as passionate about the community, intentional about addressing issues of equity and capable of challenging people to meet the mark to address them. She did it in such a powerful way. I had the opportunity to spend some time with her when I first came to Syracuse and began working and was part of her leadership team. She really OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
helped me to think in a grassroots way in terms of how do we take ideas around equity, race and the realities that it forces people to live in or around and develop strategies to drive it in a community where it is needed. I spent 2 ½ years with her, and then came over to CenterState CEO. That’s when Dominic [Robinson] brought me into the team. We worked in partnership and were thought leaders together, and he trusted my views. We established this great rapport and he told me that I really can make a difference. Then COVID-19 happened, and we were shut away in our homes. Q,: At what point did you decide to ramp up your role as an education activist and work toward racial equity? A. It was the incident when CNN reporter Omar Jimenez was arrested on live TV. He was standing there on air with credentials, and police put him in handcuffs without any hesitation. That shook me to my core. It really made me think about how unsafe I am as a woman of color, even in privileged spaces that I occupy. It also made me think about in such a real way that regardless of where you stand professionally or your level of education, a black body or individual who is perceived to be a black body is not safe. I was just shaken because I know I can talk about these issues and that I am doing great work with economic inclusion, but I am called to do more. I have to do more and have to feel like I am in a position of really driving some of these issues that can help us think about the different ways we experience American life. A contingency of mentors in this community and beyond just really empowered me to stand my ground and say this is important. We have been talking about it in this country and have stepped toward it, but we really need to do some things daringly right now at this moment and hopefully have different results. I have a 15-year-old son, Nile, and I want business opportunities and employment for him and his peers. It sounds very much “I have a dreamish,” but we have to have a better quality of life. In this community, with the role of CenterState CEO bringing people together and thinking about change, I would say I really think we’re in a position to hold some people accountable and do this work in a dynamic way. OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
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Riverside Artisans a gallery-like space in downtown Oswego where local artists display and sell their work.
Creative Co-op in Oswego Turning 10
Riverside Artisans in Port City gives local artists venue to display and sell works, socialize
hat started out as a great idea 10 years ago has grown into a major business attraction in downtown Oswego. Tim Ames and Michele Southgate, along with other local artists, had wanted a cooperative shop in the Oswego area that would provide artisans with a gallery-like space where they could display their work but also make the items available for sale. In 2010, they submitted a proposal to Operation Oswego County’s “The Next Great Idea” competition, a program created to stimulate entrepreneurship and to help provide seed money. They won a $25,000 grant to launch their project. The shop opened in 2011 as Lakeside Artisans at the Canal Commons, but the name was later changed to Riverside Artisans, and Ames and Southgate have moved on to other endeavors. Ten years after being awarded that grant money, Riverside Artisans has moved in the Canal Commons to the front of the building at 191 W. First St., giving it more space and large windows that face the busy street. The store is very inviting, with lots 32
of natural light coming through those windows, warm-colored walls and plenty of space to move around. Each artist has his or her own section, with many of them utilizing eye-catching ways to display their wares. For example, Kathy Fenlon, an artist who works with fabrics, has her goods set on and around a vintage Singer sewing machine treadle table, and one artist has necklaces hanging off what appears to be a piece of driftwood. “The talent in a small city like Oswego or a small county like Oswego is astounding,” said Carl Patrick, a member who joined more than six years ago. The nine full members of the cooperative own the store and are responsible for staffing it and taking care of expenses. The 15 consigned members pay a nominal fee for the space to display their handiwork, and pay a higher percent of commission than full members, Patrick said. The full members form the core of the shop, and the consignment members help to provide the breadth of the inventory, whether it be wood, fabric art, jewelry, paintings and print, photographs, and stained glass, he noted. OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
“One of the things that we really take pride in is how many different types of art we have here,” he said. That diversity of the inventory is one of the reasons for the longevity and success of the business — that along with sound business practices, the uniqueness of the pieces and that they are all made by people from the area, he added. Fenlon, 70, has been sewing since she was a young girl in 4-H. She makes fabric bags of varying sizes, children’s aprons and, most recently, face masks that continually need to be restocked. Net proceeds from the sale of the masks are being donated to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund, which provides nonprofits funds for emergency needs. She makes about 150 fabric bags a year, but no two are alike. Cindy Schmidt, 66, who joined the co-op in 2011, is known as the “Cranky Cat Lady,” with her collection of fun feline items, like paintings and key fobs.
Opportunity to interact Patrick’s medium is woodworking OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
and among his specialties are Celtic knot-wood plaques. With some Celtic blood in him, he was inspired by the intricate knot work he saw during a trip to Ireland. While he uses a Dremel or router to rough out the pieces, all the details are done by hand, using gouges, files, sandpaper and some imagination. The shop not only affords members the opportunity to show and sell their artwork, it also gives them the chance to meet with each other and their patrons. The work schedules are short and flexible — perfect for retirees, which all full members are. “I just love being part of it socially,” said Schmidt. “The people in our group are all willing to work with each other, and that makes such a difference. We listen to each other and we make decisions.” For Patrick, it’s half-club and half-business. “They’re a great bunch of people to work with. We enjoy digging into the business of it as well. It’s a terrific situation for a retiree,” said Patrick, 73. “I get to make my art, I get to sit here in the store and interact with the community, and you get that satisfaction of somebody liking and buying your product.” The store’s artisans are working their way back from a period it was closed earlier this year due to COVID-19. The foot traffic has been down, and they lost much of their tourism trade, but local people are coming in and sales per customer are about twice what they had been, according to Patrick. The artists remain hopeful for a good holiday season and are enthusiastic about the renovations going on downtown and what it means for business. “This is a great time to be in business in Oswego,” Patrick said. “In spite of COVID-19, there are so many great things happening in the city right now. There’s construction all over. We have new facilities. We have all sorts of new developments.” As the members look toward the future of the business, they are searching for the next generation of artists, Patrick said. “We’re trying to recruit new full members that would come in and be the next generation. There’s real opportunities for some of these people who are looking for something to do in their retirement,” he said.
By Mary Beth Roach OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Cindy Schmidt is known as the “Cranky Cat Lady,” with her collection of fun feline items, like paintings and key fobs.
Carl Patrick’s medium is woodworking and among his specialties are Celtic knotwood plaques.
Kathy Fenlon is an artist who works with fabrics — she has her goods set on and around a vintage Singer sewing machine treadle table. OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Bruce Frassinelli email@example.com
Media: Where This Appetite for Scandals Comes From Do our political figures today have more scandals than their predecessors or has the media coverage changed over time? ‘Do our political servants today have more scandals than their predecessors, or is it that today’s news media are more probing, and scandals and sexual indiscretions are more likely to get social media attention?’
BRUCE FRASSINELLI is the former publisher of The PalladiumTimes. He served as a governor of the Rotary Club District 7150 (Central New York) from July 2001 to June 2002. 34
s we head toward the presidential election finish line in November, the issue of how the news media report on campaign issues continues to dominate center stage. Critics say the media are obsessed with fringe issues, which, in some cases, result in the destruction of candidates for high public office. They point to Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, and Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan. Franken, a former stand-up comedian who was on an upward trajectory in the Democratic Party, resigned in 2017 after he was accused of sexual harassment. Conyers was the longest serving member of Congress when he retired — also because of sexual harassment allegations in 2016. When it comes to these allegations, especially among presidential candidates, some wonder what does this have to do with running the country. The question has much to do with the way the media report these missteps. The role of journalism and journalists has gone through many twists and turns when it comes to the reporting of presidential politics. Periodically, this band of imperfect human beings is called upon to cover every four years what is affectionately known as the greatest show on earth – the presidential campaign. The presidential candidates are mere mortals, who in some instances have skeletons jangling in their closets. To be successful, these candidates must morph into near superhumans and combine seemingly contradictory qualities — worldliness and an America-first principle, toughness and empathy, skepticism but not cynicism, humanity and self-confidence and enthusiasm and restraint. Their success in achieving these dichotomous objectives are mirrored and chronicled incessantly, so it is easy to praise or blame us in the media for their success or failure.
The road to the White House is lined with potholes, some much deeper than others. Do our political servants today have more scandals than their predecessors, or is it that today’s news media are more probing, and scandals and sexual indiscretions are more likely to get social media attention? Both major candidates this year have had to fend off accusations from women who claim that they sexually harassed them, an issue that presumably speaks to a candidate’s character, especially in the age of #MeToo. President Donald Trump has been accused by at least 16 women of sexual wrongdoing, all allegations he has vehemently denied. As if to put an exclamation point on these accusations, along came the now infamous audio of the Access Hollywood tape where Trump said his fame allowed him to grab women in their private parts. This blockbuster disclosure about a month before the 2016 election was predicted to spell disaster for his presidential run. So much for the so-called pundits. Trump beat Hillary Clinton. Last year, a group of women came forward and accused Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden of being too touchy-feely, to the point of making them uncomfortable. One of them has now gone further, accusing Biden of sticking his hand up her dress and penetrating her. Biden has emphatically denied the accusation, saying “It never happened. Period.” It’s interesting how complex these types of allegations are. For one thing, the public seems to be selective on whom they will forgive and those they will not. Why did a sex scandal do in Gary Hart in 1988, yet Bill Clinton was able to dodge the tawdry affair with Monica Lewinsky and come out of even an impeachment process with his career – if not his reputation – pretty much intact? In addition, what might be perceived as scandalous in one century is business as
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
usual in another: • In 1836, we elected Richard M. Johnson as vice president, even though he fathered two children by his Black, live-in girlfriend. • Long before that, we just about canonized Benjamin Franklin, although it was well known that his wife was raising his illegitimate son. King George III even commissioned Franklin’s bastard son, William, to be governor of New Jersey in 1767. • In 1884, Democrat Grover Cleveland, who was mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York, was believed to have seduced a widow, fathered her child, refused to marry her and paid her off. Despite these allegations, voters chose him twice during non-consecutive terms. So why the intense scrutiny now? Haven’t the media in the past even looked the other way when it came to the dalliances of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt? These were widely known but not reported in the press. Back then, it was a type of “presidential courtesy” not to report on these indiscretions. Perhaps the public’s appetite for scandal is more voracious because of the rise in social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and reality TV. Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, and former Democratic New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer would surely agree. Most press historians say the Chappaquiddick affair, which implicated the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, changed the ground rules of press coverage for all time. After a party of drinking and merriment in 1969, Mary Jo Kopechne, one of the senator’s aides, drowned as the result of a car accident in which Kennedy was the driver. His failure to report the incident, leaving her to die and
resurfacing a day later brought Kennedy’s moral integrity and judgment into question and dashed his presidential aspirations for all time. Despite this, the voters of Massachusetts re-elected him to the U.S. Senate seven more times prior to his death in 2009. Since Chappaquiddick, it’s been open season on politicians and their indiscretions — sexual or otherwise. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that voters, just as everyone else, find “sex” titillating. After all, it’s been prevalent for a long time in the advertising and marketing world. A few years ago, readers saw a scantily clothed Paris Hilton pushing burgers with the message “She’ll tell you size doesn’t matter; she’s lying.” Don’t forget: Both women and men are sexualized when it comes to promoting and selling. Don’t think this concept stops at politic door. Women swooned over a handsome President John Kennedy, and political analysts said his good looks turned out to be one of the factors in his close victory over a sometimes gloomy-looking Richard Nixon in 1960. Some men have gone gaga over President Trump’s newest press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany. In a feature story after she was appointed earlier this year, The Washington Post referred to McEnany as “maximum gloss, the spokesperson that an image-obsessed president has longed for but who had proved to be terribly elusive…the picture-perfect face in an administration filled with funhouse mirrors.” But make no mistake about it: McEnany is no Barbie doll blonde without a brain. She gives as good as she gets when it comes to her media duels, even though her version of truth often goes off the rails.
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recently approved academic minor in sales will help make SUNY Oswego graduates more marketable and better equipped for relationship management and other key professional skills. “This will not only improve our students’ job placement and promote their long-term career advancement but also professionalize the practice of selling in New York state and beyond,” said marketing faculty member Napatsorn (Pom) Jiraporn, who coordinates the minor. “A career in sales offers outstanding earning potential, flexibility and a good job market even during an economic crisis. Smart companies do not lay off sales people easily.” Jiraporn said data backs up the minor’s relevance. Among SUNY Oswego students graduating in the past three years, 43% of marketing majors, 25% of business administration majors and 27% of finance majors earned sales jobs. Among non-business students, 8.7% said they have sales jobs. The minor aims to provide knowledge and skills needed for students to perform sales-related tasks such as customer service, customer relationship management and negotiation. It complements Oswego’s School of Business emphasizing pitches and presentations in many of its classes. The courses helping develop soft skills could benefit even those who do not take sales jobs, as Jiraporn noted that a survey study from LinkedIn found persuasion among the top skills that employers sought in 2019 and 2020. The 18-credit minor encompasses six marketing courses, including three new offerings: “Professional Selling,” “Negotiation” and “Advance Selling.” “The negotiation and professional selling courses will introduce students to sales-related concepts and skills,” Jiraporn said. “The advanced sales course is a capstone course for the minor, so it will challenge students to apply what they learn to experiential activities such as in-class role plays, shadowing sales professionals and actual field sales.” Organizers expect interest from students majoring in business, education and communications, as well as others who seek to combine their majors with a sales component. For more information, email email@example.com. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Barb Belna and her daughter, Chris Belna, with their dogs, Bella (left) and Bailey. Chris Belna owns A La Carte Business Services and Arete HCM Solutions in Syracuse.
Trending: Pets in the Workplace Small business owners say having pets in the workplace raises morale, customer engagement By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
irst-time shoppers at DeVine Designs by Gail in Fulton expect to see floral arrangements by owner Gail Jones and an array of gift items. What they likely don’t expect is a greeting from Kooper and Kali, her great Danes or Mia, her Boston terrier. “Kooper has more fans than I do,” Jones said. “People now come in to see the dogs, especially Kooper. He can just look over the counter to greet everyone, like he’s saying, “May I help you?” Her large dogs also offer her OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
companionship and protection if she remains at the shop alone late at night. Jones keeps the dogs behind the counter so they cannot contact customers unless customers want to pet them. She has crate trained the dogs so that if a customer feels uncomfortable, Jones can send them to the back of the store. Mostly, the dogs sleep the day away. “I think it’s wonderful when I go to stores and see they’re pet friendly,” Jones said. “I think it’s terrific. When people see Kooper, their problems disOSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
appear for a few minutes. They want to talk about Kooper and forget about their problems for a little bit.” Because of his size, many customers ask how tall he is, where he sleeps and how much he weighs. A few ask Jones if she has a saddle for him, even. “They’re gentle giants,” she said of great Danes. Unwittingly, Jones has made her pooches part of her store’s branding. “I have people call who can’t remember the name of my shop — espe37
cially people from out of town — and they ask if this is the place with the great Dane,” Jones said. “They remember that this is the right shop where they stopped before. It makes a mark in their memory.”
Flossy, the cat at the dental office Some people visit the dental office of Anthony J. Tabone, D.D.S. in Auburn for more than just a cleaning or filling. Flossy the cat and her three feline friends, Slick, Walla and Soffi, draw some patients to the office. Somehow, the office has become a magnet for stray cats. Tabone said that for the past 20 years, he has both housed cats at the office and at his home. He has also found homes for about 300 strays. “This seems to be a haven for strays and we’re suckers for animals,” he said. “It’s something we feel we have to do. We try to give them the best life they could ask for. The majority are skittish. It’s hard to see an animal looking at you wanting help but it is too afraid.” He maintains a place for the cats in the back, vaccinates them and feeds them. The cats live at the dental office. “We are cognizant of patients’ allergies,” Tabone said. “If you walk in, you wouldn’t know we had an animal in here. We have an older woman who comes in just to pet the cats, not even on a day where she has treatments. She comes in to play with the cats for about an hour.” Nervous patients sometimes visit with the kitties to relieve their anxiety. So far, no interviewees for positions at the office has mentioned cat allergies. Tabone asks within the first 10 minutes. “One hundred percent of the people are excited we have cats,” he said. “One hygienist interviewed because of our relationship with cats. She specifically came here because of the cats. Without fail, there has not been anyone to my knowledge who has said ‘Why do you do that?’” The employees enjoy petting cats during down time as a means of stress relief. The cats do not roam the office, but patients can interact with the cats whenever they would like. Tabone compares his cats with therapy dogs in hospitals. “I’ve had my share of people tell me that why they chose our office is that we have a unique quality to it,” Tabone 38
Gail Jones, owner of DeVine Designs by Gail in Fulton, with Kooper, one of her four dogs at her shop: “Kooper has more fans than I do,” Holmes says. “People now come in to see the dogs, especially Kooper.
Flossy is one of four cats that greet patients at the dental office of Anthony J. Tabone, D.D.S. in Auburn. “We’re suckers for animals,” Tabone says. OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
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said. “Being at the dentist’s is stressful enough. Lap animals seem to help.”
Bella and Bailey: Two mascots Lesley Wilcox is director of operations at A La Carte Business Services and Arete HCM Solutions in Syracuse, which are businesses that welcome two dogs most days of the week. Wilcox said that Chris Belna, the owner, brings Bailey, and her mother, Barb Belna, who performs administrative work at the businesses, often brings in her pooch, Bella. “It’s very positive,” Wilcox said. “Bella when she comes in, likes to sing. She will start singing and it’s quite funny. We have treats for them. A lot of times, Bailey lies in her bed under Chris’ desk. They’re well behaved and don’t run around and bark.” Usually, the dogs attend meetings with Chris and Barb. “I don’t think we’ve had a client or visitor object,” Wilcox said. “They love everyone who comes in, except UPS, Fed Ex or the Postal Service. Otherwise, they love everyone who comes in. And belly rubs.” Wilcox thinks that having pets in the office creates a more easygoing atmosphere and brings more fun to the company’s culture. Any applicants are told in advance of the dogs’ presence and so far, it has not been a problem. For any others considering office pets, Wilcox said that if the animals are well-behaved, “why not? It creates a different type of atmosphere and another ‘teammate’ or a mascot for the business. It puts a smile on people’s faces. Why not give it a try?”
Walla, one of four cats at a dental office in Auburn. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Cat Café Opens in Syracuse
or people seeking both a cat fix and caffeine fix, Alisha Reynolds recently opened Pawsativitea CNY in the CNY Regional Market. Reynolds has worked on opening the cat café since January; however, the pandemic put her plans on hold a few months. The café offers the typical coffee shop fare — beverages and baked goods — and it includes a separate cat lounge area, where customers can mingle with more than a dozen felines available for adoption through the SPCA and from CNY Cat Coalition and other cat rescues. Guests unable to adopt a cat are also welcomed to simply enjoy the feline’s company. “There’s a bunch of colleges in the area and if the students miss their cats at home, they can drop in and get their fix,” Reynolds said. “It’s also for people who live in apartments that don’t allow pets. If they move to a different place, they can take one home.” The locally sourced cats will have their adoptions processed through their respective organizations. Those from out-of-town rescues, Reynolds will handle by requiring an application and a fee to cover the alterations and first rounds of vaccination shots. Reynolds earned a bachelor’s degree in fine art and an associate degree in culinary art from Mohawk Valley Community College. Her café reflects her education, as she features feline art and she bakes some of the cookies, muffins and cupcakes. A local bakery will make vegan treats. Gluten-free goodies are also in the works. The shop also sells a few locally made gifts and cat items. Reynolds first visited a cat café while visiting Norfolk, Virginia. in 2017. That planted the idea to start one back home in Central New York. Reynolds didn’t forget her dream of the cat café but continued working until the time was right. She has enjoyed cats her entire life. At home, she keeps four cats, plus 11 birds. “I’ve had so many missed opportunities; I wanted to do something for myself,” she said. Last December, she was working three jobs, one in retail, another at a restaurant and a third in banking. Despite this, she filed her LLC, signed a lease Dec. 31 and worked on renovating her rental space until late August 2020. Her lease included three spaces that she OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Alisha Reynolds first visited a cat café while in Norfolk, Virginia. “I’ve had so many missed opportunities; I wanted to do something for myself,” she says. joined to form the café. Reynolds partners with shelters to provide the cats available for adoption. The cats live at the café with their own litter and feeding area away from the seating area. The “kitty side” occupies two-thirds of the 1,200 total square feet. She and her husband, Ron, put a lot of sweat equity into the shop to prepare it for customers. They purchased and refurbished seating and crafted a wood slab for the shop’s countertop. “People can just watch,” Reynolds said. “A few people want to go see cats but their friend might be allergic.” The café features a double door buffer system to make sure no kitties slip into the café side. Only beverages are allowed into the cat room. “The health inspector said that it’s a cool concept and as long as we keep everything where it belongs, that’s okay,” Reynolds said. Pawsativity Café CNY (https:// pawsitiviteacny.wixsite.com/home) is at CNY Regional Market, 2100 Park Street, Space 309.
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant 39
A wedding party of Gino and Selma Ruggio last year at Bayshore on the shore of Lake Ontario. This is one the few events that took place at the popular venue, run by Broadwell Hospitality Group. Approximately 80% of the weddings BHG had on the books this year were postponed and 5% were canceled. Photo of Marianne Natoli-Horning.
Left at the Altar CNY wedding industry trying to make up for canceled, postponed 2020 weddings
nightmare scenario for anyone involved in a wedding — from the wedding party to even the DJ — is that either the bride or groom will have cold feet. Their nerves get the best of them and they pull the plug at the last minute. While not a common phenomenon, it’s not unheard of. What is unheard of, however, is an entire season’s worth of brides and grooms getting cold feet. Yet, that’s exactly what businesses in the wedding industry have been grappling with since the start of the year. The spread of COVID-19 put weddings on hold when the state went into lockdown in March and later on when regions started to reopen, gatherings were capped at 50 people. A court ruling 40
By Payne Horning eventually expanded that to 50% of a wedding venue’s capacity, but the uncertainties and many state regulations prompted many couples to rethink their plans — some canceling altogether, others postponing, and a few deciding to move forward with their 2020 date, but with substantial changes. It’s not just the wedding parties that are affected, though. Hundreds of businesses in Central New York count on the revenue that the annual wedding season brings in, like the Broadwell Hospitality Group (BHG). It owns the wedding venues Bayshore on the shore of Lake Ontario and Alexandria’s, which utilizes the Lake Ontario Event & Conference Center at Oswego’s Best Western Plus located on OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
the Oswego River. “Financially speaking, it’s probably been as bad as it can be,” said John Sheffield, business development manager for the Lake Ontario Event & Conference Center. “Make no mistake; this has been a terrible year financially for all businesses that cater events. There is simply no making up for lost revenue. The only saving grace is that most of our New York state conferences and weddings have decided to postpone until 2021, and we will still have them but we, and those in our industry, have lost a year.” Approximately 80% of the weddings BHG had on the books this year were postponed and 5% were canceled. Sheffield notes that even those wedOCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
dings that have gone forward weren’t the same experience as originally planned due to the state rules that affect almost every aspect of the event. Fewer people are allowed to attend, guests must wear masks whenever they are not seated, hors d’ouevres stations are not being used anymore — even the buffet was impacted as only the staff are able to handle the shared utensils. The situation has been no better for Springside Farm LLC, an agritourism farm in Fabius. The venue’s 5,000-square-foot Harvest Barn and bucolic scene make Springside a popular destination for weddings. Yet owner Paulie Drexler said that of the 21 that were on the calendar from March through September only two have taken place. Five celebrations were canceled and 12 have been moved to 2021. One bride even threatened a lawsuit because the state-mandated capacity limits interfered with her plans. Drexler said in some ways, though, she’s more fortunate than others. “We actually prefer to tell people that we’re a farm that hosts weddings, not the other way around,” Drexler said. “So, for some wedding venues this has been like, ‘Oh, my God!’ because it was their entire way they made income. We have alternatives.” Springside enjoys an influx of visitors every fall for their pumpkin patch and corn maze and have thousands of trees ready for the picking this Christmas season, which Drexler says will “save her bacon” this year. Still, it’s hard to ignore the fallout from the pandemic. Weddings provide a lump sum of several thousand dollars per event to venues and vendors. With cancelations, that money is gone. Drexler has even refunded some of the nonrefundable deposits couples are contractually obligated to pay. There’s also the drop in the total foot traffic this year that weddings bring to Springside each summer, which usually can be counted on to bring guests back for the pumpkin patch or Christmas trees later on. And then there’s the fact that even those weddings that were pushed to 2021 come with a cost. “It’s impacted next year because we’re honoring the contract for this year’s prices,” Drexler said. Jonathan Paduano, owner of Classy Cat Entertainment that provides DJing and related wedding services, said postponements also take a spot that could have otherwise been used for another event. “For those couples that have postOCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
The cancelation of most wedding parties over the last few months has affect hundreds of businesses in Central New York that count on the revenue that the annual wedding season brings poned to 2021 — a tradeoff of that is the postponement kind of takes over a day that we could have otherwise sold,” Paduano said. “So in that case, it is lost revenue. As an entertainment company, it’s definitely going to be a struggle monetarily.” Rather than writing off the entire 2020 season, though, wedding industry businesses like Paduano’s are finding creative ways to fill the void. Paduano said his company’s smartphone trivia game, which started as a way to entertain wedding parties during the rehearsal dinners, has now taken off as its own business. Classy Cats offers a live, virtual trivia night for businesses looking for ways to let their employees get together in a safe environment. Le Moyne College in Syracuse jumped on board as well to give students and even the school’s alumni a way to socialize while avoiding any spread of the coronavirus. Perhaps the best thing about this new endeavor, Paduano said, is the additional exposure it gives to his business. Drexler is using the same tactic. She has rented out Springside out for group exercise classes this summer and started OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
offering pancake breakfasts with blueberries that were grown on the farm. These events may just be “crumbs” compared to what a wedding brings in, she said, but the wedding business will eventually ramp back up and this puts Springside on the radar of every new visitor they can get on the farm. “The exercise classes, for example, we just get a very low rental fee for the facility. We don’t charge much,” She said. “It’s good, but we put it in the category of maybe they’ll come back in the fall. Usually I credit that stuff to just another form of marketing, really, for other things.” And even if the coronavirus does not disappear as suddenly as it arrived, weddings won’t cease altogether. Those in the industry are already experimenting with workarounds like catering their packages and prices to smaller events. Paduano said couples are exploring new arrangements as well. He worked one wedding recently where the bride and groom decided to hold two marriage parties in one weekend. The celebration was repeated to ensure that their entire guest list was able to share in their special moment while still complying with the state-mandated capacity limits. “It was a great idea, and it worked out exceptionally,” Paduano said. “They got exactly what they wanted and got to do it twice, which is not common. I mean, they’re one of a few rare people that can say they celebrated the best day of their lives two times. That’s just one of the creative ideas that are couples come up with.” Sheffield also credits couples for how cooperative they have been. He said BHG’s relationships with its customers has actually strengthened this year due to the need for increased communication. But perhaps the most meaningful thing Sheffield said he has seen is how many couples moved forward with their vows in small ceremonies or at the courthouse, choosing to wait for the party. It’s a reminder that weddings are not just about extravagant affairs, but about the love they celebrate. “All of these couples remaining true to their wedding plans has warmed our hearts on a personal level because this shows us that where these new couples are concerned, their commitment to one another is what is most important to them,” Sheffield said. “It speaks well of the human heart in times such as these.” 41
Presidential Hopes New president needs to address COVID-19, help New York state and small business, say LeMoyne professor, business people By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
hichever candidate is elected president of the United States in the November election, his policies and leadership will affect the nation in the following four years. With the pandemic still on the forefront of the news and affecting daily life, Jonathan Parent, assistant professor of political science at LeMoyne College, thinks dealing with COVID-19 should be a priority. “In the short-term, the priority will have to be to mitigate as much as we can the damage done by the COVID crisis,” Parent said. This is particularly important for Central New York. An Aug. 17, 2017 New York Times story named Syracuse as third on its list of cities likely to have a “severe” revenue shortfall (Rochester and Buffalo were listed as first and second on the list, respectively). The report stated that cities that “rely heav-
ily on tourism, sales tax or direct state assistance will face particular distress.” “Syracuse is looking to lose 20% of its income from a loss of sales tax revenues,” Parent said. “I would say that particularly from the perspective of Central New York, I think the No. 1 thing that the president could do is to get funding to state and local governments. They’ll desperately need it. “There will have to be another kind of stimulus package, like extension of unemployment or something that allows businesses to maintain their workforces,” Parent said. He also sees the importance of generating more employment opportunities in the area. “Small business assistance is critical,” Parent said. “Without it, we’ll lose a substantial number of small businesses.” Since New York has been the epiOSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
center of the pandemic, Parent does not anticipate state aid as feasible. According to a recent report by Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit membership organization consisting of a select group of nearly 300 CEOs from New York City’s top corporate businesses, about a third of New York City’s 240,000 small companies will remain shuttered after the pandemic subsides. So far, that means 520,000 jobs lost. That means lost tax revenue for the entire state. “The federal government is the only institution that can do it,” Parent said of helping Central New York. “The state government can’t, and the local municipalities can’t. Congress will have to agree with it as well.” He thinks that in the imminent future, few small businesses will start up unless regulations relax. But in the long run, entrepreneurs will have many OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
“I would say that particularly from the perspective of Central New York, I think the No. 1 thing that the president could do is to get funding to state and local governments. They’ll desperately need it.
Jonathan Parent, assistant professor of political science at LeMoyne College opportunities for starting new businesses. Parent thinks that post-COVID-19 business incentives will help jumpstart the economy and they’ll need to come from the federal level. “In places that have been successful with dealing with this, I hope the next president will realize that the health issue and the economic issue go hand in hand,” Parent said. “If the pandemic isn’t under control, there’s no amount of economic anything that will make a difference.” Aaron Roth, financial adviser with Northwestern Mutual in Oswego, hopes that the next president will lower corporate taxes to improve the economy. “That can impact the market,” Roth said. “Taxes have a lot to do with economic growth, like corporate taxes. There’s good and bad with everything, but capitalism can help grow an economy. Tax changes in the right places can help. If the stock market keeps going up it is good for everybody.” Though many of his clients have their eye on retirement, he also thinks that economic growth will help the finances of everyone. Considering recent increases in racial tension, friction with police, and frustration with economic inequity, healing societal woes is also a prominent item on many people’s presidential wish list. “We need to bring the humans of our country together, to lift them up to want to fight for what needs to change in our country,” said John Timmerman, founder of Good Monster in Syracuse. He hopes the next president will focus more on these issues. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
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Rebirth Downtown Oswego on Sept. 16. Photo by Chuck Wainwright
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OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
City of Oswego undergoes massive transformation as commercial projects flourish Story by Lou Sorendo
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
t’s a renaissance. The city of Oswego is undergoing a significant transformation as its landscape is being renewed by several major commercial projects. Buoyed by both public and private funding, the projects are expected to make a considerable impact on the city from a quality of life and economic development standpoint. Funds garnered through the state’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative several years ago proved to be the catalyst for the surge of projects. For city of Oswego Mayor William “Billy” Barlow, the unparalleled progress is gratifying but is all part of the plan. Activity impacts several sectors of the local economy. The Litatro building, Riverwalk/22 Crossroads, Harborview Square and East Lake Commons will all feature additions to the retail and housing sectors. The Lake Ontario Water Park will enhance the city’s tourism appeal, while the new Oswego Health behavioral health center looks to fill a considerable void on the local health care scene. Meanwhile, renovations at Oswego City Hall will preserve a vital resource in the government sector. Barlow said the primary goal of the downtown revitalMayor Barlow ization plan was to leverage private investment into the core downtown area. “And that’s precisely what is happening,” he said. “The development taking place in and around our downtown fills in previously vacant or underutilized land. These projects are introducing quality living units to our downtown and creating more activities and new attractions to the area.” Barlow is in his second term as mayor after running unopposed last year. He said a major goal of his second term is to see the downtown projects come to fruition. Atop the agenda are plans to rebuild and transform the city’s waterfront, which is under way and proceeding as expected. Another major priority, Barlow said, is to maintain the city’s “strong and aggressive” code enforcement program, holding landlords accountable for their property while creating and retaining value in city neighborhoods. 46
“We have to keep progressing. If you’re not progressing, you’re falling behind,” he said. “If developments aren’t taking place, if improvements aren’t happening, if there’s no forward movement or investment taking place in a community, you’re losing ground to other regions of New York state and beyond.’
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow
On the waterfront A $16 million waterfront project at Wright’s Landing Marina on the city’s west side is geared to boost fishing, boating and related tourism activity. This will be the first major renovation to Wright’s Landing since it was built nearly four decades ago. The marina’s height was recently lifted as it undergoes a reconstruction process to avoid future flood damage from Lake Ontario. During the past few years, the city has experienced unprecedented levels of flooding, causing significant damage to the shoreline and marina. The project is slated to be complete in June of 2021. The downtown projects feature residential living units, priced for different levels of income. “By creating downtown living units, you automatically introduce people into our downtown and that will bode well for downtown restaurants and businesses,” Barlow said. “The constant presence of people will create the need for more activities and events and presents many more opportunities for businesses in downtown.” The mayor said some projects also make downtown more viable in terms of being a destination. “We’ve already noticed a sizeable uptick in people coming in from other areas to see our improvements to BriOSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
etbeck Park and the marina,” he said. “I think projects like the Children’s Museum of Oswego, the Lake Ontario Water Park and some of the specialty businesses coming into the new buildings will bring more positive attention to our community.”
Changed skyline Developer Atom Avery’s Litatro Building dominates the Oswego city skyline. It features 20 housing units, basement parking and a rooftop bar area. A taste of “Southern Fare” is coming to the first floor of the Litatro Building, located at the intersection of West First and Bridge streets in the city. A new fusion cuisine restaurant, Southern Fare, is one of two occupants planned for the commercial space. It will be a 60-seat, full-scale bar and cookhouse. Residential space on the four floors above will become available in November and December and early 2021. Meanwhile, the Riverwalk/22 Crossroads project, located at the intersection of West First and Cayuga streets, is also proceeding according to schedule and will also feature commercial space on the first floor and residential space on the three stories above. Barlow said the project will be completed in 2021 and is going to greatly improve the West First corridor north of state Route 104. He said businesses using the commercial space will generate foot traffic in an area of downtown that previously hasn’t been quite as busy as other areas of the city. The $26 million mixed-income, mixed-use Harbor View Square project on West First Street in Oswego will feature a five-story structure containing 57 rental units and three two-story structures with 18 town homes. There will be 10,000 square feet of retail and commercial space as well. According to Barlow, the town homes are completed and beginning to be leased with an opening expected soon. He noted the five-story building went up quickly over the summer and work has shifted to the inside of the building. The development replaces a large empty parking lot and the secondary Department of Public Works garage. “It’s an important development because it helps connect our marina and maritime district to our downtown,” OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
The Midtown Plaza on the east side of Oswego was completely demolished to make room for East Lake Commons, a 75,000-sq.-ft. mixed-use commercial and residential project. In the back, right, is the former Price Chopper property, which has been renovated to become Behavioral Health Services. Photo by Chuck Wainwright, Sept. 16.
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Barlow said. “As our marina projects take shape, this project will be a major conduit and we’re working hard on identifying a commercial tenant to occupy the space.”
Year-round destination point The Lake Ontario Water Park, which is attached to the Quality Inn & Suites on East First Street, is close to completion. “The exterior has been done and they are working on the interior, installing the features and putting the place together,” the mayor said. “The water park is going to be bigger and better than anyone is expecting and has been a popular project quietly moving along.” Barlow said to expect the facility to open either late this year or early next. “The final product will be an enormous asset to our community,” he said. Broadwell Hospitality Group is constructing the 16,000-square-foot indoor facility that will include many pools and water assets. The facility will merge into the existing hotel, transforming several hotel rooms into party rooms, arcades, and exercise facilities. GS Steamers Restaurant will be incorporated into the water park. Only memories remain of Midtown Plaza, a once-glorious 1960’s urban renewal project located at the corner of East First and Bridge streets in Oswego. New to the city will be East Lake Commons, a 75,000-square-foot mixeduse commercial and residential project in the heart of the city’s eastside business district. The plaza has been demolished and crews are cleaning up the site before construction begins. Once the site is cleared, construction will begin with the goal of a late 2021 or early 2022 opening. Barlow noted significant progress is also taking place on Oswego Health’s new behavioral health center, located at the former Price Chopper site off East Cayuga Street. “This project will bring some economic activity to the east side of downtown,” said Barlow, noting that
The Riverwalk/22 Crossroads (top two photos) is a 44,000-sq-ft., four-story mixed-use building with 32 apartments and 5,500 square feet of commercial space. Bottom photo is the former Price Chopper, which will be the home of Oswego Health’s Behavioral Health Services. 48
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‘Before, Oswego was known as an awful place to do business. That’s a fact. Now, property owners, business owners and developers say it is so easy and a pleasure.’ Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow work has began on the inside build-out.
Preserving history Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, the 150-year-old Oswego City Hall is receiving a facelift with the installation of new gutters, a partial rebuild of a deteriorating wall and repairs to the roof and bell tower. “The project is moving along really well as the clock tower has thankfully been stabilized, the roof has been replaced, the re-pointing of stonework continues and the re-building of the south side wall, a major part of the project, has started,” Barlow said. He said the scope of work, budgets and schedules are extremely difficult in managing when it comes to projects involving historic buildings like Oswego City Hall, “but so far everything is on track.” Oswego Common Council meetings have been relocated being the current chambers are being reconstructed. “It’s great knowing the work we’re doing now will preserve this building for generations to come,” he said. “We have to keep progressing. If you’re not progressing, you’re falling behind,” he said. “If developments aren’t taking place, if improvements aren’t happening, if there’s no forward movement or investment taking place in a community, you’re losing ground to other regions of New York state and beyond.” Barlow said that over the last five
The new Litatro Building in downtown Oswego (top two photos). It features 20 housing units, basement parking, a rooftop bar area and a restaurant on the first floor. Bottom photo shows Oswego City Hall, which is undergoing a major facelift. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
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The $26 million mixed-income, mixed-use Harbor View Square project on West First Street in Oswego will feature a fivestory structure containing 57 rental units and three two-story structures with 18 town homes. There will be 10,000 square feet of retail and commercial space as well. years, and particularly the last two, he has learned that people gravitate toward momentum. “People notice positive change, they notice improvement, and then they want to be a part of it,” he said. “We’re seeing that already with downtown. There’s unprecedented investment taking place, buildings are going up, development taking place and jobs are being created.” He said residents are going to be introduced to a revived downtown that will spark more economic activity. “Other people will want to get in on the action,” he said. Meanwhile, existing small business owners in the city are doing improvement and expansion projects. Upgrades at Oswego Cinema 7, Gibby’s Irish Pub, Stone’s Candies, Man in the Moon Candies and many other local businesses have helped fuel the momentum oc50
curring downtown. The former Schilling Block on West First Street, which is adjacent to the Water Street Square Park, is also undergoing significant restoration under the guiding hand of owner Warren Shaw. The city also launched its Downtown Improvement Fund projects, an initiative that is one of the 12 DRI projects the city launched in 2016. The DIF is designed to help small businesses and downtown property owners fund smaller projects that the initial DRI award did not fund and to encourage additional investment. “Some of our smaller signage, awning and improvement projects for existing businesses are now ready to go,” Barlow said. “So, I think what we’re seeing now is just the beginning. Once some of the economic benefits of these large projects take place, once they open, you’ll see the spark return to OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Keeping the vibe alive In order to sustain this high level of progress occurring in the city, Barlow said it is vital to keep people engaged — from property owners to stakeholders to the general public. “Our projects and developments have had major hurdles, like COVID-19 for example,” he said. As a result of the global pandemic and ensuing economic shutdown, adverse financial implications and a shortage and delay involving materials and equipment hit the city and region hard. “But you manage, work through it, call audibles, make adjustments and keep moving,” he said. “Stopping or delaying isn’t an option.” “The clock on my term as mayor is ticking and I’m known to be perhaps OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Eighteen townhouse are being built as part of the Harbor View Square project (opposite photo). too aggressive, but to me it’s required if you’re interested in getting things done,” he said. Barlow said the city features an effective team with city government, committed partners like Pathfinder Bank, and determined property owners and developers performing key roles. “It’s been a true team effort and if people only knew all that goes into these projects, they’d appreciate them much more,” he said. Barlow said the city’s efforts under his leadership to streamline and simplify the building and permitting process
is paying dividends. “Before, Oswego was known as an awful place to do business. That’s a fact,” he said. “Now, property owners, business owners and developers say it is so easy and a pleasure.” He noted existing Oswego business owners frequently remark on the difference in quality and experience. “If they had a project years ago, they have terrible stories to share. Now, they thank our staff for the assistance,” he said. “We have out-of-town developers telling us it is the easiest and best system and staff they’ve worked
with. And you’re seeing the benefits both commercially and in residential investment.” He said people are not hesitant anymore to come to City Hall to acquire a building permit to do a project. He said anchoring code enforcement efforts are director Curt Miller and permit administrator Jeff McGann, both of whom have private-sector experience and “get it.” “Jeff was a contractor so he understands the process from the other side and that’s important,” Barlow said. “Typical bureaucrats don’t understand or value schedule, budgets, or time variables, so we developed our office around people who’ve lived it.” When Barlow first meets with a business owner or developer, they make the decision the project is going to happen. “I then afford them all the services of city government,” he said. He said he wants to know immediately of any problems or delays in order to rectify them and get back on course. “That’s the way it should be. Nothing is impossible and everything can be overcome,” he said. “There’s no reason to make things harder than they need to be.”
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Whelan & Curry’s Partnership Makes Working with Municipalities Easier
or nearly 30 years, Whelan & Curry Construction Services has provided the Central New York area with quality building solutions. Now local municipalities have access to those same high-quality building solutions. As a Butler Builder, Whelan & Curry is uniquely positioned to work with BlueScope Construction, an affiliate of Butler Manufacturing and an approved Sourcewell supplier. Sourcewell members can use their membership to not only purchase a Butler building factory direct, but any construction project including new buildings, additions, remodels and rehab projects. This common-sense process will save time and money, and avoid the headaches that come with an extensive hard-bid process. “Many of our private sector clients have returned to us repeatedly over the years appreciating our streamlined approach at design-build construction and the value of a solid relationship built on trust and understanding, and now public sector project owners have an opportunity to do the same,” said Chris-
topher Corfield, president of Whelan & Curry Construction Services, Inc. Sourcewell, a leading cooperative purchasing agency streamlines the procurement process for government agencies, municipalities, educational institutions and nonprofits. It develops request for price (RFPs) for national, competitive solicitations that meet or exceed local requirements. On behalf of its members, the vetting process is rigorous, and once a contract has been awarded to a supplier, the competitive bid process has been satisfied. This allows members to work with a vetted supplier without having to conduct their own RFP and bidding process. And best of all, the project is still managed and executed by a trusted local general contractor and highly qualified subcontractors, eliminating the uncertainty of the “low bidder” that these agencies are often forced to work with. Instead of working at odds with one another, all of the parties are now able to work collectively, as a team, to achieve the goals of the project.
As a Sourcewell member, the town of Cicero recently partnered with Whelan & Curry to complete a construction project. The project was listed for competitive bid and only received two bids in response, both well over the town’s budget. In the traditional scenario, the town would have had to make a decision to either abandon the project or go back to the drawing board attempting to reduce the scope in hopes that the next round of bidding would come in under budget. Whelan & Curry presented the Sourcewell opportunity and was able to negotiate a scope of work and a design that met the town’s needs and kept the project within the original budget. This also saved the added expense and time that would have been incurred if the project had to be redesigned and re-bid. The project was recently completed in full compliance with Whelan & Curry’s NY Forward safety plan, taking advantage of an opportunity to complete the construction work while the property was closed due to the COVID-19 shut down.
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L. Michael Treadwell firstname.lastname@example.org
Project Summary: Current Growth Across Oswego County
O ‘All these projects are examples of great growth in Oswego County. That growth is a muchneeded positive sign during the pandemic. It’s proof of our strength, courage and perseverance as a community.’
L. MICHAEL TREADWELL, CEcD, is executive director of Operation Oswego County based in Oswego. To contact him call 315-343-1545 or visit www.oswegocounty.org. 54
in the city of Fulton. The project involves swego County has seen its share of its conversion into an 80-bed assisted living new construction and expansion/renfacility. The 41,000-sq-ft. building has two ovation projects recently. Below are floors. The $4.1 million project will create project descriptions and photos from many 30 full-time and 15 part-time jobs. of these projects. These projects represent • East Lake Commons involves the significant investments in and job creation demolition of the Mid Town Plaza in the for Oswego County. city of Oswego and the construction of a • R.M. Burritt Motors, Inc. constructed a 75,000-sq-ft., five-story mixed-use building Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram dealership adjawith 70 apartments and 3,300 square feet of cent to its Chevrolet/Buick dealership in the commercial space. The apartments will be city of Oswego. The 38,000-sq-ft. expansion a mix of market rate and affordable units. includes a 7,800-sq-ft. collision center. The The $25.4 million project will create 16 full$7.6 million project will create 36 new jobs. time and 12 part-time jobs and is part of the • White Pine Commons is being developed Oswego Downtown Revitalization Initiative. by S & S Premier Realty in the village of • Construction Design and Management, Phoenix. The $1.2 million, 12,000-sq-ft. project a building developer, constructed a 9,000 includes commercial lease spaces from 1,200 square foot facility on the former Nestle site to 3,600 square feet, along with a common in the city of Fulton. The area equipped with a full Economic Trends $1.4 million project was commercial kitchen. This developed for Spectrum. common area will be able • Harbor View Square will be an 86,000-sqto be rented for meetings, weddings, banft. mixed-use complex with 75 market-rate quets and other events. apartments, 10,000 square feet of retail/ • The Litatro Building is a five-story mixedcommercial space and 18 townhouses in the use development in the city of Oswego. city of Oswego. The developer is Housing The project consists of 7,500 square feet of Visions Consultants Inc. of Syracuse. This commercial space and 22 residential units brownfield redevelopment project represents overlooking the Oswego River. The $5 million a $20 million investment, eight jobs and 77 project was part of the Oswego Downtown construction jobs. Revitalization Initiative. • EJ USA, Inc. constructed a new • The Maples Assisted Living Facility ac71,300-sq-ft. manufacturing facility on a quired the former Michaud Nursing Home
43 North Marina, LLC, located in the town of West Monroe, is adding 28,500-sq-ft. for boat storage, office space, a showroom and sales department for parts. OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
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15-acre site in the Oswego County Industrial Park in the town of Schroeppel. The facility is a steel and aluminum fabrication plant and a distribution center for the northeast. The company manufactures infrastructure access products such as manhole frames, grates, covers, hatches, etc. The company’s headquarters are based in East Jordan, Michigan. The $9.1 million plant employs 91. • 22 Crossroads is the development of a 44,000-sq-ft., four-story mixed-use building with 32 apartments and 5,500 square feet of commercial space in the city of Oswego. The $6.9 million project was part of the Oswego Downtown Revitalization Initiative. • 43 North Marina, LLC, located in the town of West Monroe, is adding 28,500-sq-ft. for boat storage, office space, a showroom and sales department for parts. The marina will feature 178 deep-water slips, 230 racked boat storage spaces, 1,200 feet of Oneida Lake shoreline, 14 buildings, a full-service marina with gas, service and repair shop, fiberglass and canvas shops, and heated storage. • Oswego Health’s Behavioral Health Services acquired the former Price Chopper building in the city of Oswego from the County of Oswego IDA. They are currently transforming the property into a new BHS complex. The $17 million project will create 25 jobs. • Bella Fattoria, Inc. expanded its agribusiness with a new 5,536-sq-ft. winery operation located in the Town of Hannibal. The facility includes a production area, a tasting room, a small kitchen, cold storage and equipment storage. The new winery plans to offer 10 wines and nine ciders. They have been producing hard cider since 2014. The $732,046 project created six jobs. • Strategic Domains, LLC acquired and is renovating a 7,560-sq-ft. building in the city of Oswego. This mixed-use project will house a coffee roasting facility, a coffee and ice cream shop, as well as two apartment units. The $950,000 project will create 10 new jobs. • CGP Acquisition & Development recently purchased 1.35 acres in the town of Albion and has built a Dollar General store. The store opened in early September. They expect to employ six to 10 people. • Compass Credit Union recently built a new 3,400-sq-ft. building in the city of Fulton. It replaces its former location in Fulton’s Canalview Mall complex. The new branch opened in early August. Several of the projects, above, are part of the city of Oswego’s Downtown OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Compass Credit Union recently built a new 3,400-sq-ft. building in the city of Fulton.
White Pine Commons is being developed by S & S Premier Realty in the village of Phoenix. The $1.2 million, 12,000-sq-ft. project includes commercial lease spaces from 1,200 to 3,600 square feet, along with a common area equipped with a full commercial kitchen.
Construction Design and Management, a building developer, constructed a 9,000-sq.ft. facility on the former Nestle site in the city of Fulton. The $1.4 million project was developed for Spectrum. Revitalization Initiative (DRI). As the first-round winner of the DRI for the Central New York region, these projects are well underway. The city of Fulton was the fourth-round winner of the DRI for our region. They are at the beginning of the process and we look forward to OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
seeing those projects get started. All of these projects are examples of great growth in Oswego County. That growth is a much needed positive sign during the pandemic. It’s proof of our strength, courage and perseverance as a community. 55
Developer Joe Castaldo Leaves a Lasting Legacy in Oswego By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
f you live in Oswego, it is likely your life has benefited from that of Joe “JD” Castaldo, whether directly like the many family, friends and business associates he left behind Sept. 12, or indirectly through the numerous ways in which the contractor helped build the structures and sense of community that comprise the city of Oswego, his lifelong home. He was 92 years old and the last surviving member of a nine-sibling, first-generation Italian American family. Like many in his generation, living through the Great Depression shaped his work ethic. He excelled as a mason while working for his father and eventually established Joseph D. Castaldo Construction Company Inc. in 1952. He served as president for more than 30 years. “He basically built the skyline in Oswego: City Hall, St. Joseph’s, 120 East Bridge, several projects at Nine Mile, Fitzpatrick and Novelis/Alcan,” said granddaughter Katie Toomey. Other major commercial construction projects Castaldo played a role include Armstrong, Steam Station, Newman Center at SUNY Oswego, Sealright, and additions to Oswego Hospital. His business and civic involvement included serving in the Carpenters Union, and supporting service organizations such as the Salvation Army, Elks Lodge, Knights of Columbus, and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, plus sponsoring local sports teams. Castaldo served as a National Guardsman for more than 10 years. Oswego Mayor William “Billy” Barlow, Jr. dedicated the 120 E. First Street building as “The JD & Alma Castaldo Building” for Castaldo and his wife in honor of their community contributions. Toomey related that balancing work life with family life was important to Castaldo. His legacy includes the three daughters he and his wife Alma 56
reared, Cindy Murabito, Sandra Bilson and Patricia Reynolds, and the influence they had on their six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. His bride of 63 years died in 2016. His community influence encouraged his family to become civic minded such as Toomey, who serves as the executive director of the Greater Oswego Fulton Chamber of Commerce, and her cousin, Joe Murabito, who operates several long-term care facilities in the area. “He always encouraged us as women to seek out an education and strive to be whatever we wanted to be,” Toomey said. “We were never told we couldn’t be something because we were women. He was present for everything: sporting events, concerts, milestones, high school graduation, college graduation.”
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Between the big milestones were ordinary days in which he still found time to spend with his children and grandchildren, including Sunday church services at St. Joseph’s Church in Oswego, backyard barbecues, fishing, bowling, playing softball, gardening and taking care of his hobby farm. As Castaldo’s oldest granddaughter, Toomey became Joe and Alma’s traveling companion in their later years, accompanying them to Los Angeles, Colorado and Washington, DC, for their great-grandchildren’s graduations. Each of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren filled a special place in their hearts. Toomey’s cousin, Joe Murabito of Baldwinsville, recalled his grandfather’s generosity to the community. In
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the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Castaldo was a general contractor on a nursing home project. “What happened was the developers ended up walking for some reason,” Murabito said. “He had all his local workers partway into a job. He decided to finance it himself and finish it.” He named the facility Sunrise Residential Healthcare and Rehab Center. He served as the landlord from 1971 through 2014 when Murabito bought the building from him. From 1995 through 2012, he operated what is now known as Morningstar Care Center until Murabito began administrating it. “None of those things he was looking for, but I think he was a very committed, stick-to-it person,” Murabito said. “When he started something, he finished it. Not many people recognize that. He wasn’t a healthcare guy but a general contractor. He kept it going a long time and caught a lot of flak for it.” Murabito said that his grandfather was “a fixture of Oswego. He was very involved, a family-oriented guy. That was always first.” Oswego’s Mayor Barlow remembers not only Castaldo’s contribution as a contractor but also through family members like Toomey and Murabito who still benefit Central New York. “He was an extremely hard worker and built a great company and more than that, he was a family man,” Barlow said. “That’s what I first noticed about him.” The mayor first became acquainted with Castaldo in 2014 when he was a city councilman and the two met frequently after Barlow was elected mayor. “During my first term, we talked about buildings he owned and about history and politics,” Barlow said. “It was great to hear his input. He contributed a great amount over the years. He was a great contributor to the Oswego community but his legacy will live on through his work as a contractor and through his family.” Bill Galloway, licensed real estate broker and owner of Century 21 Galloway Realty in Oswego, counts Castaldo as a business contact and family friend. “My father did many real estate transactions with Joe and I was able to meet him and work with Joe on many of his projects over the years,” Galloway said. “I had the honor of meeting Joe in my new office which Joe developed years ago and loved hearing the stories of the history of this project as well as many more. Joe will be greatly missed by the Oswego real estate community.” OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
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Craig Buckhout, principal at Rockbridge Investment Management, stands on the rooftop terrace outside his office in downtown Syracuse.
My wife Carol and I developed a donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation to easily facilitate our annual giving to the causes we care about. Central New York is where we’ve grown up and it continues to be our home today. It is vital for us to continue providing funding for local organizations to ensure a prosperous region for generations to come.
GIVING BACK TO MY HOME: CRAIG BUCKHOUT
Read more of Craig’s story at cnycf.org/Buckhout
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Banks Embrace Face Masks as Safety Measure Despite Challenges By Ken Sturtz
n the months since the COVID-19 virus began spreading across the United States, perhaps no change has been as noticeable as the introduction of face masks to limit the spread of the virus. Since Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order requiring a mask or a face covering in public when social distancing isn’t possible, face masks have become ubiquitous. But there’s at least one place left where masks are met with some suspicion: banks. At first there wasn’t much of a problem. Banks, deemed essential businesses, remained opened but closed their branch lobbies. Customers could do their banking online or via one of the bank’s drive-through lanes, which offered plenty of physical distance. But as banks began reopening their lobbies to customers, they were obliged to follow the mask order. The American Banking Association urged banks nationwide to require any58
one entering a branch to wear a mask or face covering “to protect the health of bank employees and customers.” Federal regulators, however, were skeptical of indefinitely allowing bank customers to wear face masks. Temporarily relaxing rules against face masks during the height of the pandemic made sense, according to a letter released by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. “Lengthy and potentially permanent requirements that individuals wear face masks in many or even all public spaces create the very real risk of increases in bank robberies.” Whether face masks contribute to a significant uptick in bank robberies this year remains to be seen. A smattering of face mask bank robberies has made headlines around the country. And in July, a man wearing a surgical face mask robbed the Key Bank branch in the village of Mexico. “Do masks add additional concern to banks? I would say yes,” says Jerry Clark, a former FBI agent who teaches OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
criminal justice at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. “The fact that you can have a mask now and enter a bank, it becomes a bit more of a challenge for the bank employees.” Criminals are constantly looking for any opportunity they can find, Clark says, and the mask situation potentially provides an advantage. It was still March when Barry Thompson began getting phone calls from banks asking for advice on what to do when they eventually reopened their branches to customers. Thompson, of Oswego, is managing partner of a company that offers consulting and training for financial institutions. Thompson says awareness training for bank staff has been in high demand this year. “A lot of people are more afraid of masks than they really need to be,” Thompson says. “I find masks are more of a problem for somebody that isn’t paying attention.” When bank staff don’t know the customer at drive-thrus and can’t idenOCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
tify them, they’re advised to politely ask customers to remove their mask and step out of their vehicle. Thompson says the reason is simple. A criminal is likely to leave instead of removing their mask. Inside a branch, staff are taught to be aware of who is coming in the door and to greet them as soon as possible. Criminals don’t want to be greeted at the door and that small act can serve as a deterrent, Thompson says. At most branches, especially in small communities, staff will likely know 90% of the customers when they walk in the door. Even with a mask on, they’ll still dress the same way and walk the same way. “There aren’t that many unusual people coming through your door,” Thompson says. “They’re going to notice something is wrong quick.” While banks have taken pains to implement new security protocols, they’ve also instituted additional measures to ensure customers and employees remain healthy. Banks provide hand sanitizer and have installed Plexiglass OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
barriers at teller windows and banker’s desks. James Dowd, chief operating officer of Pathfinder Bank, says that the bank took the extra step of adding employees at each location whose responsibility it is to sanitize all the common areas after each individual comes in. “I think we’ve done as much as others have done to make sure the health and safety of all those who come into our building is important,” he says. While the ability to wear a mask might give a would-be criminal a false sense of security, it doesn’t actually increase Thompson their chances of success. Bank robberies still have a high conviction rate, Clark says. OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
A man wearing a surgical face mask robbed the Key Bank branch in the village of Mexico July. Whether face masks contribute to a significant uptick in bank robberies this year remains to be seen, according to expert. “That folk hero status that those early bank robbers entertained and enjoyed no longer really exists,” he says. Although there some career criminals who might try to time a robbery for when the bank has the most cash, or gain access to the vault, most robberies are crimes of desperation, Clark says. The average robber who walks up to the counter usually gets less than $2,000. Even when a criminal wears a mask, law enforcement still has many tools to help them catch the perpetrator, such as high-resolution video surveillance, bait bills, dye packs and DNA. “You’re putting a lot of risk out for a short reward,” Clark says.
Where Have All The Coins Gone? Cash shortage continues to be a a problem. Experts blame COVID-19 By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
ave you been reaching for your credit or debit card more recently instead of cash? Numerous businesses have posted signs stating they prefer cards or exact change for payments. But why? Kenneth P. Walsleben, professor of entrepreneurial practice and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises at Syracuse University, has seen the signs, too. After he had placed his order at one restaurant, he arrived at the register to
learn that the restaurant had no change and that his total would be rounded up. While Walsleben did not mind the slight increase in price — it was less than $1 — he did mind that the restaurant did not tell him until he was ready to pay. “If you’re a merchant taking on a policy like that, you have to be straightforward and change the menu so everything ends in an even number,” he said. For Walsleben the lack of change stems in part from people who have not redeemed their loose change jars at OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
home since the pandemic began. Since few bank lobbies were open during the quarantine and even still, not all customers are comfortable going inside, customers’ change remains at home. Drive-thru tubes cannot accept change. “That eliminates the biggest source of loose change: the individual,” Walsleben said. “You have a situation where this should loosen up now that banks have opened their lobbies and we can go get rid of our loose change. I don’t know if we can fix the problem fast enough. But I’m not sure that that’s why this should get so acute.” Bill Prosser, professor of economics and business at Cayuga Community College, has also noticed the lack of change. He said that part of the problem may be that banks can’t get servicing for their coin machines during the shutdown and they’re backlogged. “For health and sanitary conditions, businesses would prefer not to be handling cash and coins because they don’t want employees handling currency,” he added. “When the COVID guidelines first came out, we didn’t know how much contamination could be on coins. Now the evidence is suggesting there’s less risk there as COVID is airborne.” The no-cash trend hurts small businesses, which generally prefer cash since they do not have to pay credit card fees for currency payments. Prosser also said that the Federal Reserve and US Mint slowed down during the quarantine period but are back on track producing currency. NBT Bank attributes the nationwide lack of change to “a substantial disruption of the supply chain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Cat Manion, PR and social media manager. “Less change is being exchanged at our businesses and within our community as individuals alter their spending habits.” All spring, most people spent from home using credit or debit cards, which means that few coins were spent. Manion also said that the US Mint temporarily decreased production earlier this year to protect employees. “According to the Federal Reserve, the US Mint has been operating at full capacity again since mid-June.” As a result, NBT Bank and other financial organizations have not been able to offer coins for business customers’ drawers for making change. “Like many other disruptions that COVID-19 has caused, it is impossible for us to predict how long the shortage OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
will last,” Manion stated, “however, the Federal Reserve has formed a task force to address issues causing low coin inventories, and to work on solutions to address the supply chain disruptions.”
Going Cashless Though the change shortage we have seen in the last several months should self-correct, it raises questions of whether America should go cashless. Kenneth P. Walsleben, professor of Entrepreneurial Practice and Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises at Syracuse University, sees both pros and cons to the notion. “I don’t see it as being harmful to the economy,” he said. “I’m aware of people for a number of years who’ve said it’s not credible and gives too much information to banks about wealth. I’ve looked at it as someone’s pipedream. It’s an extremist view of what will happen but we’re getting closer to that.” He also thinks that going cashless isn’t so much a decision that’s made but a trend that’s developing as more people use electronic means of spending, including the surge of online spending that’s increased because of the pandemic and will likely continue and also the general trend he’s observed for years, including automatic paycheck deposits and bill paying; purchasing with cards for convenience and safety; and online shopping. He doesn’t see a cashless society happening, however. “There are people who are blackballed by banks for bouncing checks,” he said. “How would they get by? For that reason, there always needs to be currency. It will cause people left out of the system to be at a disadvantage. A fair number of people don’t have access to banking.” Some people like to use the “envelope system” of saving and budgeting promoted by financial guru Dave Ramsey, author of “The Total Money Makeover” book. People place in labeled envelopes the cash they have budgeted for certain expenditures by the month and when the cash is spent, they are done. “I have a good friend who has the envelope method,” Walsleben said. “It helps them watch those pennies.” Though he said about 90% of his spending goes through a card, he does not see how consumers could become completely cashless. How would they tip servers, bell hops or hotel housekeepers? What about concessions at fairs, festivals and sporting events? Going cashless would force these vendors to use card readers. No cash also makes giving children allowance and teaching them about saving and spending much less tangible. What will happen to piggy banks, lemonade stands, birthday money and the tooth fairy? How would consumers privately sell goods and services through yard sales or working odd jobs? “If that is our future, that merchants have to adjust to this and do it the right way,” Walsleben said. “Manage this as a policy in terms of the cost you charge at the restaurant. If you’re going to propose it as cashless, you might need to change how you’ll price things.”
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Banks, Clients Learn to Be More Flexible By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
ho could have guessed in January 2020 how different the year would be? Financial institutions have certainly felt the effects of the pandemic with their commercial customers. “It’s certainly been an unprecedented year,” said Tom Roman, commercial banking relationship manager at NBT Bank in Syracuse. “We’ve been more active than ever supporting our customers related to the pandemic.” Roman said that keeping in touch with corporate customers has helped support those with loan needs for keeping their business going and for those whose businesses could profit considerably by increasing their scale or pivoting Tom Roman to a new line of business during the pandemic. Internal changes in banking have also helped financial institutions meet customers’ needs. “We have had an expanded use of e-signatures that allowed us to continue processing loans and official documents within the bank,” Roman said. “We’ve seen some clients in our portfolio who have seized the opportunity, even if it wasn’t in their normal line of business. There have been some clients that have capitalized in increased demands.” For example, companies making personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and medical equipment have done well during the pandemic. Financial institutions have also needed to change how they do business.
Many have chosen to beef up their remote banking capabilities, for example. “Remote deposit capture allows businesses to deposit checks from their desktop,” Roman said. “Fraud prevention services to help our clients mitigate risks when fraud became more prevalent.” Richard Shirtz, regional president of the Central New York region for NBT, said that loan rates have come down because of the economy, making it “a good time for consumers and businesses” to obtain loans. “Mortgage deRick Shirtz mand all over the place is high, but a good amount of refinancing has taken place.” He said that it’s all about staying in communication with commercial customers and how they’ll make it through the pandemic, whether that means a loan to make payroll, to gear up to meet increased demand or alter how they serve customers to continue operating through the pandemic. “We’ve been able to witness creativity among our customers,” Roman said. “Entrepreneurs are survivors by nature and are creative. We’ve seen quite a bit of that, like restaurants working with their municipality to offer seating in their parking lot or expand seating in some way.”
‘Crazy time’ Kenneth P. Walsleben, professor of entrepreneurial practice and entreOSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
preneurship and emerging enterprises at Syracuse University, called this a “crazy time” in the world of finance, but one in which financial institutions should do well since many businesses need financing for the changes caused by the pandemic. It’s also a time when businesses may seek funding for different purposes than they have in previous years. “Businesses might be seeking loans for cash flow purposes,” he said. “I’m sure many companies are not paying bills on time. I would imagine banks have been fairly busy with requests. The hard part for banks is trying to figure out who to lend it to. COVID has affected many kinds of businesses.” Businesses can also seek alternative means of financing than they’ve considered in the past, such as invoice factoring, which is selling the rights to an invoice to a finance company and receiving a payment right away instead of waiting for the buyer to pay it. Or a merchant credit card advance in a business to consumer environment. “They’ll come in and look at what you historically swipe and say you’ll likely swipe $100,000 in a year and they’ll take it out of your future swipes to get paid,” Walsleben said. If a company’s financials do not support a loan today, an asset-based lender allows companies to pledge assets against a loan. “The lender will repossess the collateral if they can’t repay the loan,” Walslben said. “These are sometimes individual companies and others are arms of a bank.” He added that purchase order funding can help companies that receive a large purchase order but need capital to supply the order. A Small Business Administration loan can also aid by banking that loan. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
U.S. News: SUNY Oswego Among Top 10 Public Colleges, Best Value
UNY Oswego continues to be ranked in the top 10 among public colleges in U.S. News and World Report’s 2021 Top Regional Universities in the North, as well as in the top 10 for the region’s Best Value Schools, according to the publication released Sept. 14. This year, SUNY Oswego moved up two slots to No. 50 in the northeast. The region includes public and private colleges throughout New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware. Of just the public institutions on the list, SUNY Oswego is tied for 10th. Also noteworthy was Oswego’s No. 9 ranking among Best Value Schools for its region. This sought-after recognition indexes academic quality with net cost of attendance for a student who received the average level of needbased financial aid. “The higher the quality of the program and the lower the cost, the better the deal,” the U.S. News website explains. This year, Oswego earned placement on the national list for Top Undergraduate Engineering Programs, non-doctorate — recognition likely linked to the global accreditation of Oswego’s Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Software Engineering programs last summer by the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of ABET. The college also kept its place on the Top Performers for Social Mobility, A+ for B Students and Best for Veterans lists. “Our continued solid and rising placement among U.S. News’ rankings reflects SUNY Oswego’s high-achieving students, faculty and staff; innovative initiatives; insightful practices; and deep commitment and resolve our institution displays year after year,” said SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley. U.S. News also has included Oswego in its Best Online Graduate Business Programs: MBA, top 5 nationally for Women Enrolled in MBA Programs and Green Colleges guides.
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Bringing Play Back to Children’s Museum Keeping it clean: A lot of work goes into making the museum a top destination The Children’s Museum of Oswego closing from March to August was a challenge, because it took away peak time for field trips, as well as the ability to host birthday parties
Tim Nekritz is director of news and media for SUNY Oswego, where he spearheads telling the stories of the campus community. 64
hen what you do is all about handson experience with a clientele who puts their hands on everything, how do you adjust to a global pandemic? My kid has been wonderful at adapting to changes brought on by COVID-19, but one thing he kept asking this summer was when he could play at the Children’s Museum of Oswego again. Finally, in early August, the museum at the corner of West Bridge and First streets in Oswego reopened its doors with changes and an ambitious cleaning regimen, to the delight of local children and families. One big change we discovered immediately is that you have to make a reservation online. The museum is only allowed to operate at reduced capacity, so they need to limit attendees. When we go, the museum is less crowded for this reason, but this can actually make for positive experiences, said Sondra Wendt, education and programming specialist for the museum. “Families have a lot more space to play and enjoy,” Wendt said. “They actually get to have a more intimate experience because of it.” The reduced capacity and extra cleaning “has also required us to divide the day into two play sessions, a morning session and an afternoon session, with a mid-day closure allowing us to do a deep cleaning,” said Kathryn Watson, CMOO’s education director who also took on the role of pandemic health and safety coordinator. In this role, Watson became familiar with all the relevant guidelines and headed three days of staff training.
ing is constant throughout the day, which means less interacting with families, but it’s ultimately about keeping them safe. “It’s two and a half hours of cleaning during the morning play session, then cleaning and disinfecting between sessions, then another two and a half hours for the afternoon, then cleaning after we close for the day,” said Cardinale, who also is a senior childhood education major at SUNY Oswego. Three to four staff members work at any given time. The front-desk staffer takes care of the downstairs, which is dominated by a huge water table — which has a specialized filtration system to keep it safe — while other staff members will clean the many toys, props and surfaces upstairs in spaces that include an art room, a variety of building stations, a play kitchen, a play dentist’s office, a garden and farm stand, a simulated fire truck, a toddler play place and much more. Bleach solution used to clean throughout the day, and a strong cleaner and disinfectant during the mid-day break and after the museum closes. A back room that previously hosted birthday parties and thousands of Lego pieces now is set up like an assembly line for cleaning and sanitizing, drying and then disinfecting everything children play with. “Our number one priority has been and always will be the health and safety of our visitors, staff and community. Strict cleaning and sanitizing regimens are the norm in our field, so we actually felt pretty well equipped to handle that aspect of reopening,” Watson said. “We did train on our new cleaning and sanitizing procedures, but we spent the bulk of our time talking about how we maintain a high-quality visitor experience during a global pandemic,” Watson added. “We strategized ways to engage and support
Constant cleaning One of the things we notice in our visits is how attentive the staff is to cleaning. Play facilitator Sophia Cardinale said the cleanOSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
our visitors, we reviewed methods for encouraging mask wearing and we spoke extensively about what customer service looks like for us during this health crisis.” The museum had to change some of its exhibits and find ways to divide the objects available to ensure enough pieces are in play (literally) for both
2.5-hour sessions. While this means that one might find fewer building blocks large and small, wooden planks, toy food, magnets and other playthings at any given time, the lower traffic and remaining wide variety of stations means families will always find plenty to enjoy.
Arius Cunningham, 7, plays foam building blocks at the Children’s Museum of Oswego.
Sophia Cardinale, a play facilitator at the Children’s Museum of Oswego, spends a lot of her time now cleaning the exhibits, materials and toys to ensure a healthy experience for visiting families. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Care and cooperation What visitors don’t see is the staff giving the museum a top-to-bottom cleaning and sanitation after every play session. Watson emphasized the importance of the well-being of the staff, who she called “the heart and soul” of the museum. “They are dedicated, professional and truly excellent at their jobs,” Watson said. “They are our most valuable resource and as anyone who has visited CMOO will tell you, they are just as much a part of the museum experience as the exhibits.” “Our staff has been really excellent in going above and beyond,” Wendt added. Wendt also offered praise and gratitude toward the families as well for being very conscientious about following guidelines, while still knowing how to get the most out of their visits. “Like most public places, we have new rules regarding mask wearing and social distancing,” Watson said. “Maintaining social distance is a tricky thing in a children’s museum, but for the most part our visitors seem to be willing to regulate themselves. They understand that we would not be allowed to open without enforcing these guidelines.” The museum closing from March to August was a challenge, as it would be for any not-for-profit or small business, because it took away peak time for field trips, as well as the ability to host birthday parties; it remains unclear when health guidelines will allow the latter to resume. But overall, hearing the sounds of laughter (even behind masks) and seeing the wide eyes of children playing, learning and discovering can make everybody feel better. In addition to the many benefits children gain from open-ended play and using their imaginations, Watson noted, having a cornerstone of downtown Oswego alive again is good for the community. “CMOO is essential to a thriving downtown Oswego,” Watson said. “All of the things that make up our historic downtown: independent small businesses, arts organizations and nonprofits have been hit hard these past few months. We are doing everything we can to ensure that the downtown Oswego this community has worked so hard to build makes it through the COVID-19 pandemic.” For more information on CMOO, or to make a play reservation, visit cmoo.org. 65
The Persistency of Poverty in Oswego County COVID-19 brings poverty to the forefront as county continues to rank among the poorest in New York state
he issue of poverty in Oswego County can be measured in statistics, but the numbers are only part of the picture. Diane Cooper-Currier, executive director of Oswego County Opportunities, and Tina Eusepi, the OCO collaboration manager for workforce and anti-poverty programming, recently shared their thoughts on the statistics, which they know only too well. They have a grasp of what challenges people are facing and resources that might be helpful to individuals and families. OCO is one of 1,100 community action agencies across the country that
By Mary Beth Roach was originally formed in the 1960s as part of the war on poverty. It is the largest social service agency in Oswego County — involved in housing, transportation, physical abuse, sexual education, health and nutrition, education for children and adult literacy, and a number of things that in general affect people with low-income. The poverty rate in Oswego County has slightly decreased over the past few years. The numbers from 2019 showed the percentage was at 17.9%, compared with 18.3% in 2018, Cooper-Currier said. However, the rate for the county remains one of the highest in New York OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
state. According to Welfareinfo.org from 2019, out of the 62 counties in the state (with 62nd being the worst), Oswego County ranked 55th. According to the federal government, the poverty level in the lower 48 states is $12,760 for a single person, and $26,200 for a family of four. But there are those who don’t fall below that poverty line but yet find it difficult to make ends meet. “We’ve got a large population in Oswego County that aren’t technically in poverty, because they don’t meet the federal threshold for being in poverty, but they are extremely poor and unable to meet their household budget every OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
month. And that’s what we call asset limited income families,” Cooper-Currier said. The United Way has a national report called ALICE, an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed, which it defines as those residents who work but have little or no savings and are one emergency away from falling into poverty. According to Cooper-Currier, the ALICE report indicates that a single adult should be earning about $24,000 and a family of four with two adults and two children in day care should be $70,000. She estimates that about 41% of the Oswego County population is either living in poverty or asset limited.
Behind the numbers
For Cooper-Currier, Eusepi and their teams, these stats are much more than in a report or the bars on a graph. They are families that have to make tough choices because their income doesn’t cover all their monthly expenses; the senior citizen whose only visitor all day might be the volunteer coming from Meals on Wheels; or those individuals who have worked all their lives only to find themselves unemployed and are overwhelmed by what to do. The low-income earners are struggling and often find themselves having to choose between putting food on the table, paying the rent, fixing the car, buying the prescription, or paying for day care, Cooper-Currier explained. One of the factors contributing to the poverty levels is the high concentration of service-industry jobs, which are usually low paying with little or no health care benefits. The most recent figures that Cooper-Currier has seen show that about 56% to 58% of all the jobs in the county are in the service industry, such as those associated with hotels, motels and restaurants. Then COVID-19 hit, and many of those tourist attractions and related businesses are cutting their staffs to a minimum. In addition, some of the higher-paying jobs are in locations that people may find it difficult to get to, especially if they’re having difficulties making car payments, covering car insurance or attending to necessary vehicle upkeep, Eusepi pointed out.
Pandemic and poverty
“Poverty has many faces,” said Cooper-Currier. “People can be impovOCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
erished in their social support system. They can be impoverished in their mental health in relationships. I think that’s the other thing we’re seeing through COVID-19: We are certainly seeing people who don’t have the support systems or are struggling with mental health issues and addiction coming to the forefront as well.” Through its wide spectrum of services and with a staff of about 600, OCO becomes a support system with programs in health and nutrition; education for children and adult literacy; and community services which are focused on linking people to community resources that include public transportation, crisis and development services and employment education. At the beginning of the pandemic, Cooper-Currier said OCO was seeing an uptick in crisis calls from people who were experiencing homelessness. People who might have been staying with others at the outbreak of COVID-19 were getting kicked out because homeowners were afraid for their health and wellbeing, she added. The situation has somewhat stabilized thanks to the state providing legal protection for tenants during the COVID-19 emergency. While there have been numerous food and milk drives, OCO has seen an increase in the need for basic products, including diapers and personal hygiene products. High prices and stores’ inability to keep some of these products on the shelves are only making the situation worse. As prices increase and items are not on sale as they once were, people with limited resources have to rely on social service agencies to help, Cooper-Currier said. Unemployment, whether caused by COVID-19 or not, can be overwhelming for many individuals, Eusepi said. Newly unemployed people never had to access services before and they don’t know where to turn for assistance. That’s when OCO walks them through step-by-step and connects them with what they need for support right now, even connecting them with a health system navigator, for example. When COVID-19 hit, people relied on OCO services even more, but yet the agency lost many of its volunteers and staff who were forced to work from home. The Meals on Wheels program, for example, has about 200 volunteer drivers who deliver approximately 500 meals a day. With the onset of the OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
pandemic, the number of meals has climbed to more than 600. However, since most of the volunteers are retired and fell into the population that has been considered vulnerable, they stopped providing service. As a result, Cooper-Currier said, they reorganized their employees and redeployed them to make those deliveries. Both Cooper-Currier and Eusepi commended their staffs for their willingness to adapt. “To flip their roles, flip their switch, be creative and find a new way to deliver those services right away is something that really shined during this,” Eusepi added.
Still staying positive
DespitethenumbersandCOVID-19, Cooper-Currier and Eusepi remain positive about some of the programs and activity they’re seeing in the county aimed at helping the economy and generating housing opportunities. Cooper-Currier said development attracts businesses and helps diversify the job market. “It will raise the bar hopefully and we will not have a disproportionate number of service-industry jobs,” she added. Another key component is access to affordable housing and improving the current housing stock, Cooper-Currier said. As examples, she pointed to the nearly completed Champlain Commons, a 56-unit affordable family housing project in Scriba and Fulton Block Builders, an organization dedicated to helping homeowners and property owners recoup some of the costs of making improvements to their properties. Moreover, OCO is continually working with community partners to create programs that will help individuals learn good work habits and job training skills. Current projects include SCORE (Support, Collaboration, Opportunity, Resources, Education and Employment), and in collaboration with Cayuga Community College, the ACT Work Ready program, aimed at developing proficiency in workplace documents, applied math and graphic literacy. These programs go hand-in-hand with economic development, Eusepi noted, and they are designed to help prepare a trained workforce. For more information on OCO and the programs it offers, go to www. oco.org. 67
Recovery in Manufacturing By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
s with most industries, manufacturing was disrupted by the pandemic, with a few exceptions such as essential businesses. But despite the “significant impact” of the pandemic on manufacturing, “recovery is underway,” said Randy Wolken, president and CEO of Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY). “There’s unevenness. Some members are doing quite well and others are coming back Wolken more slowly.” The pre-COVID initiatives to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. have been underscored by the pandemic’s disruption of the supply chain. Relying too much on offshore manufacturing has led to shortages in many goods, which Wolken said is causing people to rethink the supply chain. “Re-shoring is becoming important,” he said. “I think COVID-19 has convinced people we need to make 68
“I think COVID-19 has convinced people we need to make things in the US again.” Randy Wolken, MACNY’s president and CEO of Manufacturers Association of Central New York. things in the US again.” In addition to that movement in the industry, the aging workforce is retiring in large numbers, causing numerous openings. Wolken believes that older workers who are more prone to infection may be more reluctant to return to work while the pandemic continues. He thinks that apprenticeships can help encourage more people to learn manufacturing skills, since they can earn while they learn and avoid educational debt. Current times have also created opportunities for manufacturers. “It’s a unique opportunity to hire talent now that unemployment is close to 12% compared to when it was 4%,” Wolken said. OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
That doesn’t always translate to plenty of workers, however. Wolken said that manufacturers seeking workers with skills in welding, soldering, electrical technology, assembly and machine operation still don’t have enough workers. Simply transplanting a worker from retail to these skilled positions can’t happen until the person receives training. The pandemic has also somewhat shifted where manufacturing industry works. Many office workers transitioned to working at home because of the pandemic. To a lesser extent, Wolken said that is also true for manufacturing. Essential businesses found ways to continue operating by adjusting to how the pandemic changed how they did business. Except for sectors like furniture and automotive, “most were open in some capacity so they learned how to navigate the pandemic,” Wolken said. “They learned how resilient they were and that they could be open successfully.”
Reopening in phases For some manufacturers, the pandemic meant shifting their operations to OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
essential goods — like hand sanitizer, medical equipment or protective gear — to become an essential manufacturer. In general, reopening in manufacturing depended upon the industry segment. “A lot like our government had phases of reopening, we found that our manufacturers were going through this in stages,” said Cory Albrecht, who directs the Advanced Institute for Manufacturing at Mohawk Valley Community College, which serves Oneida, Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Otsego and Schoharie counties. Those who made non-essential goods and were unable to pivot had to close for a time. In Upstate New York, many manufacturers were deemed essential, which helps the overall economy continue operating. But Albrecht said that the pandemic negatively affected many small manufacturers performing contractual work for larger businesses, such as metal fabricators making a few automotive parts or electronic specialties. Not all manufacturers are operating at their pre-March employment levels. Meeting state and federal guidelines for reopening has challenged some employers as they must keep employees disAlbrecht tanced and wearing masks. “Companies are trying to satisfy their customers during a very disruptive time,” Albrecht said. “That takes a lot of strong leadership. It takes a lot of planning and sound execution.” He views a COVID-19 vaccine as the means of getting manufacturing back on track. Despite the difficulties that the pandemic has brought to the industry, Albrecht sees a few bright spots, such as the increased public perception of manufacturing as important. COVID has also brought state grant money to manufacturers producing goods like masks. Albrecht also hopes that the pandemic will help more people consider manufacturing as a viable career option and encourage support organization to continue to aid in the industry’s growth. Mohawk Valley Community College is part of the New York State Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). The organization helps small and mid-sized manufacturers in increasing their business through modernization. The school is one of 11 statewide that offers an Advanced Institute for Manufacturing (AIM). The purpose of AIM is to offer small to mid-sized manufacturers with training and consulting services. Another MEP member is Central New York Technology Development Organization (CNYTDO), which serves Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, and Oswego counties. “As these companies look to rebound and grow and continue down the path of being successful manufacturers in New York, they have access to these 11 nonprofit partnership centers,” Albrecht said. “Together, the New York State MEP network connects with thousands of manufacturers across the state. I couldn’t see a better time than now for these small to midsized manufacturers to reach out to us. We have programs and solutions. We can help them get on the path to recovery and being innovative an growing their businesses in New York.” OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Only the Essentials For The Fulton Companies, it’s all about making adjustments in the midst of pandemic storm By Lou Sorendo
uccessfully adapting to market conditions is certainly a priority for any business. But the ability to pivot has never become more of a necessity than in today’s pandemic-wracked business environment. With nearly 500 confirmed cases and three deaths attributed to COVID-19 as of Sept. 27, the Oswego County industrial community is not taking the global pandemic lightly. “Certainly we were preparing for the worst as COVID-19 hit and the economy was shut down,” said Bram Palm, president and CEO of Pulaski-based The Fulton Companies. He said reflecting back to February and March, he foresaw the need to lay off 100 or more workers. The Fulton Companies employs about 350 workers in Central New York. It employs about 300 workers in Oswego County, ranking it eighth among the largest private employers, according to the Business Guide, published by this magazine. The Fulton Companies represents a group of companies that primarily has been involved in sales, service and manufacturing of commercial and industrial heat transfer equipment for the past 70 years. “We have a wide-ranging customer base from small dry cleaners to food processing to all forms of health care,” Palm said. “As an essential business, we have been extremely busy supporting hospitals, food suppliers, pharmaceutical companies, disinfectant manufacturers, N-95 mask makers, and many more with products and services,” he said. Some other businesses like dry cleaning, hotels, and those involving energy development have shut down completely, he noted. Palm said the company did not reduce its workforce in Upstate New York — primarily Oswego County — because of COVID-19.
However, employees were working reduced hours in one of the company’s five plants in the county due to the drop in dry-cleaning demand. “We have been shocked at how resilient our business has been,” he said. “Our operations in China went through a steep slowdown in the first quarter but have snapped back sharply to levels above the pre-pandemic rate.” The Fulton Companies has manufacturing plants in the U.S. and China and operates on five continents, reinforcing its reputation as a worldwide leader in the development of heat transfer products. Fulton UK in Great Britain is facing both COVID-19 and issues relating to Brexit, or its departure from the European Union. “Business there is very slow now,” Palm said.
Tip of iceberg “We are only beginning to see the impact on the economy within our business, because it involves expensive capital equipment with long planning and buying cycles,” he said. “Certainly government stimulus will have a positive short-term effect.” Palm said he is seeing strong demand in some areas and some extreme slowing in others. “There is fear to invest in areas that are assumed to be impacted long term by this pandemic, so we expect some degree of permanent buying changes,” he said. Due to the impact of COVID-19, The Fulton Companies anticipates achieving about half its profit goals for 2020, Palm said. He said limitations on shipments in the first two quarters was simply “too much to make up without extraordinary luck and execution. OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
“Most companies earn between 5% to 20% before they pay taxes with the average probably at or below 10%.” He said from a common-sense standpoint, that means one-month loss of business cuts profits to zero. “It is a fine line in a competitive world,” he said. “We may have been able to minimize our profit loss by laying off workers, but we had to bring them back a few months later.” Palm said the business model at The Fulton Companies will definitely change as a result of COVID-19. “We have learned how effective we can be working mostly remotely with our office staff,” said Palm, noting he has been isolated in northern California since February as a Type 1 diabetic. He said the company holds many meetings using Microsoft Teams — a Microsoft-operated business messaging and collaboration platform — with participants scattered around the world. “I do not think we have ever communicated as well at the leadership level when we were all trying to get everyone together in a central office,” he said. “Our efforts over the past decades to support health care, education and food processing with our product developments is an element of our business model that has been validated by the experience in 2020.” Fulton Boiler Works, Inc. was founded in 1949 by Lewis Palm to provide vertical tubeless boilers for dry cleaners. Since then, other companies such as Fulton Thermal Corporation and Fulton Heating Solutions, Inc. have been formed, offering products to many other industries including food processing, health care, and commercial heating. Fulton’s headquarters are in Pulaski, where the fourth generation of the Palm family has begun taking on active roles in the family business. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Economic Downturn: Significant and Real The region and country has experienced the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, followed by the largest unemployment since the Great Depression. “The economic downturn was significant and real,” said Randy Wolken, president and CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York during MACNY’s virtual 107th annual Celebration of Manufacturing. U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the American economy, shrank by a rate of 5% between January and March. It was the worst performance for the economy since the final quarter of 2008, when America was in the midst of the financial crisis, and put an end to six years of uninterrupted economic growth. However, the worst was yet to come. GDP then decreased at a record-setting annual rate of 31.7% in the second quarter of 2020, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The amount of joblessness as a result of COVID-19 was 10 times larger then the ’08 global financial crisis. In August, the statewide unemployment rate did decrease from 15.9% to 12.5% a month before. Jobless rates peaked at around 16% in May. Unemployment in the manufacturing sector is about 13%, the largest jobless rate for all sectors of industry in the state. Wolken said there are about 2,500 fewer jobs in Central New York compared to this time last year, while there are 50,000 less manufacturing jobs in the state. In the Syracuse Metropolitan Area, which encompasses Madison, Onondaga and Oswego counties, the unemployment rate stood at 9.8% in August compared to 4.2% in August of 2019. Only about a third of manufacturers nationwide reportedly have a positive outlook for their company, the lowest reported positive outcome since the first quarter of 2009, Wolken said. “They are also expecting growth rates and full-time employment to be lower as well as,” he noted. Capital improvements and prices for companies’ products and inventories are all trending lower, Wolken added. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
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Full Steam Ahead Exelon’s county-based nuclear power facilities prove pandemic-proof By Lou Sorendo
he only thing infectious at Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in Scriba is top-end production. Despite COVID-19 and a lingering global pandemic that paralyzed the U.S. economy, Exelon Generation’s three nuclear facilities in Oswego County have been running at close to full capacity. The 900-acre station features two nuclear reactors along with the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant. Exelon Generation shares ownership and is the sole operator of Units 1 and 2 as well as owner and operator of the Fitzpatrick nuclear facility. Susan Cole, senior site communications specialist for Exelon Generation, Nine Mile Point, said the company’s nuclear facilities are highly reliable, running at full power more than 95 percent of the time. “Through the pandemic, they have continued to deliver carbon-free electricity for New York state,” she said. This past summer, Exelon Generation’s four nuclear sites in the state record a near-perfect reliability rate, 72
operating 98.9 percent of the time, one of many indicators that industry experts use to rate efficiency and performance, Cole noted. Exelon also owns and operates the R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant near Rochester. When the Oyster Creek power plant in New Jersey was permanently shut down in September of 2018, Ginna became the second oldest nuclear power reactor after Nine Mile Unit 1 still in operation in the U.S. “Our business continues through the pandemic, as our teams are essential for continuing to deliver carbon-free electricity to hospitals, regional response centers, more than 3 million homes and businesses,” she said. The FitzPatrick plant was in the midst of a refueling and maintenance outage at the time of this writing in late September. The 22-day outage began on Sept. 14. “The FitzPatrick station is conducting a refueling outage, which it would do regardless of the pandemic,” Cole OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
said on Sept. 28. “While we successfully have taken extensive precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19 within our facilities, our business otherwise continues as it would pre-pandemic.” Nine Mile Point Unit 2 will experience a 21-day outage beginning March 9, 2012, while Unit 1 will begin a 17-day outage on March 22, 2021. She noted Exelon is grateful that Gov. Andrew Cuomo recognizes and supports the role of the company’s essential employees. “As part of our pandemic response, we review our staffing plans to ensure that we are bringing only those required on site to safely and effectively operate the plants,” Cole said. “As many employees as possible are working remotely and will continue to do so while the pandemic continues.” Exelon Generation is the No. 1 private employer in Oswego County with 1,391 workers, according to the 2020 Oswego County Business Guide. Overall, it is the second-largest employer behind only SUNY Oswego. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
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OS W EG O CO UN TY
BUSINESS October-November 2020
Covering Oswego, Onondaga
City of Oswego Sees Unprecedente d Construction Boom
CNY’s Business Magazine
Inside: Meet 6 Members of CNY’s Next Generation of Business Owners
CNY’S BUSINESS MAGAZINE 315-342-8020 • email@example.com OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Meet the Next Generation
amily businesses make up to from 80% to 90% of all incorporated businesses in the United States, according to the Family Business Center, Madden School of Business, Le Moyne College, Syracuse.
They make up 37% of Fortune 500 companies, and 60% of publicly traded firms in the nation. Family businesses also generate between 50% to 70% of the U.S. gross domestic product and provide approximately 80% of U.S. private sector jobs.
The average life span of a family-owned business is 24 years. About 40% of U.S. family owned businesses transition into second-generation businesses, approximately 13% are passed down successfully to a third generation, while 3% survive to a fourth or beyond. In our “New Generation of Family Business Owners” feature package, we profile six young people who are part of their family business’s succession plans, and are carrying the torch of tradition for future generations as well. 74
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Luke Boshart Oswego County Monuments in Port City, Barnes Memorials in Baldwinsville on sturdy ground as son Luke succeeds father Shawn Boshart By Lou Sorendo OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
n an uncertain world, it seems like very little is etched in granite. That is unless you are talking about the monument business. Luke Boshart, the son of Oswego County Monuments’ owner Shawn Boshart, is poised to someday take over the family business. In 1991, Shawn, a graduate of SUNY Oswego, was working in Oswego as a licensed funeral director. It was at that time he decided to fill a niche and start a monument business. Shawn learned the business from some of the most experienced, respected stone workers in Barre, Vermont, the granite capital of the world. Luke said his dad has been a main influence. “The monument industry is quite niche and you don’t meet a lot of others in the business, so he has been invaluable in learning the business and helping me get started,” he said. “However, in recent years, I have met a variety of others in the business through conventions and meet-ups.” Luke learned a lot from his father, including how to make sure customer satisfaction is always a priority. “My dad always went above and beyond to make sure the families we did memorials for were pleased with the end result,” he said. “Even if something wasn’t his or the business’s fault, he would spare no expense to make sure everyone was satisfied.” In addition to consistently producing high-quality work, this has been the philosophy that has led my father to running a successful business for so many years, he added. Boshart said the business is not afraid to invest in and try new technology, tools and ways of doing things. “The monument industry is very old, and it can be easy to think that you don’t need to change the ways that things are done or the equipment that is used,” he said. “However, to truly excel and stand out, I think it is essential. We have been very good as a company at constantly assessing and asking ourselves what we could do better.”
Early introduction As a youth, Luke would help his father out both in the field and around the shop. He started working for him full-time in the summers after his sophomore year at Roberts Wesleyan College. After graduating, he was looking 75
for other jobs when the opportunity to buy Barnes Memorials in Baldwinsville came up. His father acquired the business and offered Luke the chance to independently manage the office. “I figured it was an opportunity to gain business experience and skills that would be hard to find elsewhere,” Boshart said. The Oswego native is intent on seeing how far he can take the business in terms of expansion and broadening its capabilities and services. “So I definitely have an interest in staying with the company and trying to be a part of this next phase of growth and improvement,” he said. While growing up and working in the field with his father, Luke learned a lot about the manual labor parts of the business. It wasn’t until the last few years that he started mainly working in the office, selling monuments and meeting with customers. “But I think that having that experience and understanding of how the field work goes definitely helped me in terms of meeting with potential customers since I knew how the process works and could accurately answer a lot of their questions,” he said. “This background gave me credibility in meeting with people and likely helped close sales.” Boshart’s responsibilities consist of meeting with customers, coming up with design ideas and concepts, then creating those designs into a production ready computer-aided design file. He also attends to quoting and ordering materials, determining which work needs to be subcontracted, coordinating efforts with cemeteries, bookkeeping, paying bills, writing checks, and sending out invoices. “My typical day can vary greatly but usually consists of fielding inquiries by email and phone and contacting material suppliers for quotes on materials and shaping work,” he said. Boshart also monitors the business’ ongoing orders to make sure they are properly proceeding and also sends proposals to prospective customers. “I also spend a decent amount of time outside of office hours on-site in cemeteries installing monuments and plaques, getting measurements or whatever else needs to be done to keep everything running smoothly,” he added.
Custom made The most enjoyable aspect of the job for Boshart is developing creative and unique ideas for a customer’s memorial. “I think that by really listening to what people have to say about themselves or their loved ones can provide an opportunity to create a piece of art that is unique and reflective of an individual’s life, as opposed to just a memorial picked out of a catalog,” he said. The key to customer satisfaction is to make sure the design that is created creates excitement with customers and is something that is personal and meaningful to them, Boshart noted. “But then after a sale is made, it’s important to make sure all the expectations are clear as far as timeframes and next steps,” he said. “This makes sure they aren’t wondering what is going on and keeps them updated throughout the project.” There are many challenges associated with the monument business, Boshart noted. “People often have never purchased a monument before and therefore have no idea as to what they want,” he said. “As a result, you have to quickly guide them and help them decide what they like.” “There is literally an infinite number of possibilities, so it can be a challenge to try to explain all the options while also not overwhelm them with too much information,” he added. “It can be a delicate balance.” Boshart added that another significant challenge is switching gears many times throughout the day. “The scope of what we do is so large that you could be talking with someone about engraving their house number on a rock outside their home one minute, then with someone who just lost a loved one the next, and everything in between,” he said. Trying to juggle all the responsibilities of previous clients while also being ready to take on new business can be challenging at times as well, Boshart said.
Preferences changing The 25-year-old noted that cremation has risen significantly in terms of preference over the past 10 years as opposed to full burials.
“However, I have found that most people still choose to have cremations buried in the cemetery,” he said. “A large percentage of the memorials we sell are for those that have been or will be cremated.” He said this has definitely affected the monument business over the years, but most people still want to have a permanent way to memorialize life. Boshart noted the monument business is seasonal, and activity is generally quite slow from late fall through winter. It normally picks up between late February and March, which this year featured the advent of COVID-19 and resultant quarantine. “It was a challenging time to not have the influx of business in early spring that we usually rely on,” he said. “Initially, we had to field inquiries all through email and phone, and we had to learn how to sell monuments entirely remotely.” Since every memorial and design is custom made, it was a challenge to learn and find the best way to personalize the product. “We wanted to create as close to an in-person experience as possible, so we improved our website and galleries and created eBooks that go over monument concepts and possibilities,” Boshart noted. “We all learned how to more effectively communicate the memorial process through phone and email since it was our only option for a while,” he said.
Birth date: May 24, 1995 Birthplace: Oswego Current residence: Oswego Education: Oswego High School; bachelor’s degree in business management and social entrepreneurship, Roberts Wesleyan College Affiliations: Rotary Club, Baldwinsville Personal: Single Hobbies: Golf — played for Oswego High School and in college for Roberts Wesleyan College; stock market — actively follow and trade in markets; web design and building websites
Online @ www.oswegocountybusiness.com 76
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Emil Christmann Following in footsteps of his parents, Oswego native Emil Christmann determined to continue river’s end independent bookstore legacy in Port City By Lou Sorendo
hen family members reach a point when they want to transfer business ownership to the next generation, it’s more than just passing the torch.
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
It’s continuing a legacy. Emil Christmann is the manager of the river’s end bookstore, located at the intersection of West Bridge and First streets, Oswego. OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
His mother, Mindy Ostrow, and father Bill Reilly are current owners of the establishment. The store opened in May 1998, a month before Christmann’s 13th birthday. He worked at the store on and off over the years as he attended school or worked other jobs. “I’ve always been interested in literature, so that and my studies in creative writing certainly lend themselves to the position,” he said. “I’ve worked in kitchens and on farms, done demolition and construction, and installed solar panels. All of those jobs gave me plenty of experience sweating it out, putting in long hours, and working with small teams toward common goals.” Those positions showed him the importance of healthy communication and how to keep his ego in check. “I’ve worked with hotshots. I’ve worked with lay-abouts. Both types of worker taught me what not to do on the job,” said Christmann, noting that working as a bike taxi operator when he lived in New Orleans for a while was “great fun.” “I got a physical workout every time I clocked in, and got to engage one-on-one with people from all over the world,” he noted. In terms of opportunity, his parents have had a significant influence on him. “They had me helping out in whichever way I could,” he said. “They’ve never been averse to sharing their thought process when it comes to business decisions and have often included me in many such conversations.” Christmann recalls the three of them eating dinner at Canale’s in Oswego, scribbling down potential names for the store on a napkin. “As much as they have shared with me and encouraged me though, I can say that they’ve never pressured me to take over the business just for the sake of keeping it in the family,” he said. “If anything, I feel more of an obligation to our community to keep a good thing going.” About four years ago, the trio began talking seriously about a succession plan, and Christmann’s parents suggested that he got involved with the American Booksellers Association and the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, national and regional trade associations, respectively. “I’m glad I did, because these organizations open booksellers up to an incredible amount of business strategies, best practices, and cautionary tales,” he 77
said. “Within the world of independent bookselling, there is a truly inspiring level of collaboration among peers.” Christmann noted his parents each have different approaches. “Where Bill has been more apt to take certain risks and may have many irons in the fire, Mindy has been more measured and pragmatic,” he said. “I’m fortunate to witness the resulting dynamic, because I think the success exists somewhere within that tension.” He said his father has always stressed the importance of taking pride in one’s work, and that anything worth doing is worth doing well.
Up for challenge Christmann said he is on a mission to foster and maintain community engagement, always keeping a focus on the customer, offering various products, and all the while balancing the books and managing day-to-day operations. “It’s challenging with such a small staff, but we make it work. My wife, Megan, has taken a much larger role behind the scenes,” he said. “So as a team, we’re essentially emulating the division of labor that my parents have been fine-tuning over the past 22 years.” Christmann is strongly considering the bookstore business as a career, and said it is encouraging speaking about this with other booksellers who are at various points on a similar path. “Whether they’re about to open a new store or are preparing to retire, there’s an understanding that while it would be great for a business to be exceptionally lucrative, that’s not the driving force behind doing what we do,” he said. “Of course, there’s room for healthy growth, but the heart of our business has always been and will be a love for literature, and sharing that love any way we can with our community. Christmann, 35, is a native of Oswego. The Martville resident earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English-creative writing at SUNY Oswego.
Up against digital Christmann said despite the high level of technology that is available to access literature and information, brick-and-mortar bookstores are still relevant today. “I hear it from our customers all the time: They love holding a physical book in their hands,” he said. “It’s what most of them grew up with and how 78
they prefer to read.” Christmann said it is crucial to note that technology allows him to sell digital copies as well as have a physical presence. The river’s end bookstore offers digital audio books and e-books through its website as well. During the recent lockdown as a result of COVID-19, the store’s online sales grew to cover approximately 85% of its business, with the remainder being orders over the phone. “When we opened our doors again at the beginning of June, that percentage dropped significantly, but the volume of online sales is still easily two or three times higher than it was previously,” he said. Customers have created accounts on its website and purchased books from their homes not only in Oswego County, but Onondaga, Jefferson, Cayuga and Wayne counties as well as throughout New York state and beyond. The river’s end bookstore recently had a highly successful exclusive pre-order campaign for popular regional author Ellen Marie Wiseman. Readers who ordered with the store got signed copies of her newest book, “The Orphan Collector,” and were invited to join a virtual with her that it hosted. “So we certainly need to do more of that in the future, working with local, regional, national and international authors and their publishers to try to secure some exclusive offers and events,” Christmann said. The business can offer that type of community engagement despite the lingering effects of the global pandemic. “We provide a social gathering place for our community and allow local readers and writers to engage with each other,” Christmann said.
Unequal footing As booksellers, Christmann and his staff are acutely aware of the immense power that a business like Amazon wields. Back in the late ‘90s, when the river’s end and Amazon were both new, they were basically dealing in the same merchandise — books and CDs. But as time went on, Amazon began to leverage those products as loss leaders. “That means owner Jeff Bezos doesn’t care if he takes a hit losing money or breaking even selling deeply discounted books, because then he’s got OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
people onboard with a Prime subscription and suddenly they’re buying all kinds of other stuff,” Christmann said. “It sounds too good to be true, and really, it is,” he noted. “Because as convenient as all of that sounds, every time we give money to the giants, that money is leaving our communities. So now it’s not just bookstores that are affected, it’s independent retail everywhere.” Christmann said what locally-owned independent businesses such as river’s end offer their clientele is the opportunity to get the goods and services they need while keeping money in their community. He said his customers represent a wide array of tastes, and the business tries to cater to that as much as possible. “If we don’t have a book on our shelves and it’s still in print, we’ll do our best to get it in,” he said. Those customer orders have been a significant part of its business since river’s end opened. In terms of dealing with COVID-19, Christmann said the business is adhering to ongoing safety protocols. “Our customers have been very willing to adapt with us, whether by using masks and hand sanitizer in the store, or by taking advantage of curbside service or local delivery,” he said. “We were even offering free shipping on all orders, and pivoted to become practically a two-person fulfillment and distribution center for a little while,” he added. “Our shipping game is a lot tighter as a result of all that. Our web and social media presence has naturally improved as well,” he said.
Birth date: June 21, 1985 Birthplace: Oswego Current residence: Martville Education: Leighton Elementary School; Oswego Middle School; Oswego High School; Bachelor of Arts degree, English-creative writing, SUNY Oswego Affiliations: Member, American Booksellers Association; member, New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association; member, 610 Stompers (New Orleans) Personal: Wife, Megan Irland; son, Rowan Christmann; dog, Sugar Hobbies: Playing music with friends; hiking, sailing, and of course reading OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Eric M. Cullinan Co-owner, funeral director at Dain-Cullinan Funeral Home in Oswego carries on family tradition that extends back to 1865 By Lou Sorendo OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
eeping the family business alive might not seem like too daunting of a task. That is unless that family business began in 1865. Eric Cullinan is in position to be a fifth-generation owner at Dain-Cullinan Funeral Home in Oswego. He is a licensed funeral director at Dain-Cullinan, and co-owner-president of Keysor-Dain-Cullinan Funeral Service, Cato; Becker-Keysor Funeral Home, Red Creek; and Farnsworth-Keysor Funeral Home, North Rose. His father, Michael J. Cullinan, and partner Christopher C. Dain serve as owners-licensed funeral directors. The two have a combined 73 years experience in the business. The funeral home is one of only a few businesses in Oswego County that has existed since the 1800s and never left the family. The Dain and Cullinan families have been in business since 1865 and 1882, respectively. After 100 years of competition, the two businesses combined and eventually consolidated into their current location on East Second Street, Oswego. After John F. Dain founded the Dain Funeral Home in 1865, the business has passed from father to son for four generations, and the Cullinan side is welcoming its fifth generation as 31-year-old Eric assumes his father’s business in the coming years. Cullinan said the history of the business and manner in which it has continued from father to son “has made me very proud to continue on with what we have always done. “The ongoing business is much bigger than myself and my career.” Cullinan graduated from Simmons Institute in Syracuse in 2013, served his residency at Dain-Cullinan, and then became licensed in July of 2014. “It was a good small school, and prepared me to pass the National Board Exams,” Cullinan said, noting both his grandfather and father also attended Simmons. He said his father and Dain have been “great mentors to me and are always available for questions when I come across things I have not encountered yet. “I also learn from them the manner is which to best serve the families we work for.” Cullinan said he has always wanted to be a funeral director. “I looked up to my father growing up and I still do,” he said. 79
In order to be successful as an owner and funeral home director, Cullinan said it is “essential to stay on top of things and don’t let the workload build up. “And of course, get up early in the morning and get after it,” he said. He recalls his father always telling him, “No one is self-employed. You work for the people you work for; they are your employer.”
Round-the-clock availability The Oswego native and resident said he is on call 24-7. If he does take time off or plan to do something with family or friends, he must have his father, Dain or another funeral director on standby when a call does come in. “Some days for me can be pretty intense and involve travelling between funeral homes, at home deaths, nursing homes, hospitals, doing prep work on the decedent, meeting with families and facility maintenance,” he said. “We do all of this ourselves, on top of running the day-to-day business.” During his late teens through mid20s, and while in college, he operated a small landscape business. His crew at one point took care of 55 lawns, attending to tasks such as trimming hedges, landscape design and planting. “I am a good multi-tasker, which comes in handy when things get busy,” he said. “I enjoy what I do so it comes easy at times. “Things need to be ready to go all the time, and being organized is key. The small things need to get done for everything to work.” The business now features three other locations besides its original Oswego facility — Keysor-Dain-Cullinan Funeral Service, Cato; Becker-Keysor Funeral Home, Red Creek; and Farnsworth-Keysor Funeral Home, North Rose. He worked at Ontario Orchards throughout his teen years and was mentored by owner Dennis Ouellette. “Dennis would tell me, ‘When opportunity presents itself and it seems like a good move, you make it happen’,” he said. Cullinan said it is difficult to find licensed funeral directors in what is a changing industry. A wave of retirements among sea-
soned funeral directors has reportedly occurred, and there are not enough trainees in the pipeline to replace them, in part because the children in many family owned businesses are choosing other paths.
Gaining an edge Cullinan said the business has always done its best to stay on top of the competition with technology that is available. “Social media is here to stay. We offer Facebook live and recorded services at no charge to families we do work for,” he said. He said the internet has been a useful tool for getting obituaries out to the public. With three funeral homes located in rural districts, newspapers there are distributed on a weekly basis. In response, the funeral homes post obituaries on their websites and also send out emails so community members do not miss notices on services. Cullinan said in terms of competitive advantage, customers always get the assistance of an owner thanks to the business being family owned. “It’s nice to have Chris, my father or myself be able to meet with every family that calls upon us,” he said. Recently, the business also began offering a military and first responder discount. “This is an effort to try and give back to those who have served our country and local fire and police departments,” he said. “We keep our prices low and do our best to keep overhead low so we can afford to do that.” In terms of trends, Cullinan said a viewing of the decedent before cremation is what a lot of families are turning to, using a rental casket to keep the cost down. He said the company works with many vendors so it can offer an affordable price to customers. “We never try to up-sell. We don’t want people putting themselves in a tight spot,” he said. As far as job gratification goes, Cullinan said it “can be a satisfying job in that you are helping people at an emotionally hard time.” “Being flexible is important. If people feel more comfortable meeting at their own home, we will meet with
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
them at their kitchen table to get the information and decide what to do to move forward,” he said.
Coping with COVID-19 Meanwhile, the specter of COVID-19 has loomed over many sectors of the economy, and the funeral home business is no different. Cullinan said with travel not an optimal choice and families being spread out throughout the country, the use of live-streaming and recorded services is playing an important role. “This has helped people be able to watch services and see family members at the funeral home or graveside,” he said. “It’s been a difficult thing to deal with for families; not being able to get into the nursing homes and hospitals to see their relatives has really taken a toll on people.” In response to the global pandemic, the business has been routinely doing deep cleanings, requiring face masks, having hand sanitizer available throughout its facilities, and even making sure clean pens are available at the register book. “It seems like this is the way it’s going to be for a while, and is certainly not something I expected when this all started,” he said. The New York State Department of Health says congregant-attendee capacity is limited to no more than 33% of the maximum occupancy for an indoor area. Outdoor funerals of 50 or fewer individuals are permitted, provided that social distancing protocols and cleaning and disinfection protocols required by the DOH are adhered to. Any drive-in or remote funeral service may continue in excess of the 50-person limit so long as there is no in-person contact between participants.
Birth date: Oct. 28, 1988 Birthplace: Oswego Current residence: Oswego Education: Attended SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Oswego for business; mortuary science degree, Simmons Institute, Syracuse Affiliations: National Funeral Directors Association; board member, Friends of Oswego County Hospice Hobbies: Bow hunting, duck hunting, boating, spending time with family OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Carl Byrne Succession plan flows smoothly as third, fourth generations of Byrne family play key roles at Byrne Dairy, Sonbyrne
By Mary Beth Roach
even members of the Byrne family — three from the third generation and five from the fourth — are following in the dairy business that
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
patriarch Matthew Byrne founded in 1933 in Syracuse. After World War II, the elder Byrne turned it over to three of his sons — Jack, OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Bill and Vincent. Today, Vincent’s son, Carl, is the president and CEO of Byrne Dairy, and his brother, Mark, is president of Sonbyrne, which oversees a convenience store chain that numbers about 65 locations that are spread from Watertown to Elmira and from Rochester to Utica. Tom Byrne, a corporate sanitarian with Byrne, also represents the third generation. The fourth generation includes Kate Byrne, sales and marketing for Byrne; Bailey Byrne, customer service representative for Byrne; Ryan Elliott, Ultra Dairy plant production manager; Stacey Byrne, processing supervisor at Byrne Hollow Farm; and Peter Elliott, director of purchasing and marketing at Sonbyrne. Carl’s division oversees the operation of its three plants — its ice cream plant in Syracuse, its Ultra Dairy plant in East Syracuse, and the Byrne Hollow facility in Cortlandville that produces Greek and conventional yoghurts and sour cream — along with two warehouses. They also buy milk and cream for their products and have contact with major customers, which include some of the big supermarket chains in the area. They sold Byrne’s original milk plant to Upstate Niagara Cooperative in 2019, but have a long-term contract with the new owners to bottle fresh milk for the Byrne stores. Between the plants, warehouses and stores, Carl estimates they have about 1,700 employees. When Carl was a senior attending Babson College in Massachusetts in the 1980s, he decided to enter the family business. He had worked there while in high school, on weekends and holidays. “I sat down with my Dad and said, ‘I think I’ll give it a shot instead of going somewhere else,’ and that’s what I did,” Carl said. To keep a family business running for decades, Carl said it takes a combination of luck, a solid work ethic, accountability, the ability to challenge yourself and your team, a knowledge of developments in your field, and the ability to determine the best track for family members based on their skill sets and interests. Depending on the size of the business, you have to answer to someone, he said. He answers to a board of directors, for example. “We meet regularly and take notes about expectations, goals and dashboards, and it’s pretty easy to see after 81
a period of time who’s doing what, how it’s getting done and how successful they are,” he said. “It is also important to be willing to make necessary changes, even if it’s a departure from how previous generations did things,” he noted. “It’s hard to move away into something that’s unfamiliar unless you’re really challenging yourself,” he said. Carl said by measuring your business, how it’s doing against the competition, and its place in the market, “you’ll quickly see that the best folks and the best companies are constantly evaluating their position in the marketplace,” he pointed out. “And once you make that a practice, you’re able to see ‘we need to do more of this, and we need to do less of that.’” Toward that end, Carl is continually working to develop a team that brings together the best experience. “As we’ve grown, we have had a lot of good, long-term employees develop into very good managers and become part of senior management. We’ve also recruited from the outside to work for Byrne and bring their talents to Byrne,” Carl said. “That’s very helpful to put a mix together, so you not only have what we know and what we’ve grown up with, but the experience of others around the states and sometimes around the globe.” Its Ultra Dairy is undergoing its fourth expansion since first opening in 2003, and it will make shelf-stable milk that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and can last up to 13 months. Carl anticipates the company will ship not only throughout the United States, but around the world. “We’re getting into that business because that area is growing not only in the States, but globally,” he noted. Continued reinvestment in the business is part of future plans, and that will include prepping for the next generation. “My brother and I plan to continue to develop the fourth generation,” he said.
Lifelines: Age: 56 Birthplace: Syracuse Current residence: Skaneateles Education: Babson College, Massachusetts Hobbies: fishing, whitewater kayaking, traveling 82
Joe Bright Fourth generation owner of Dunk & Bright Furniture continues tradition of excellence By Mary Beth Roach OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
an. 1, 2020 marked a new beginning for Joe Bright as he closed on purchasing his family’s business — Dunk & Bright Furniture — from his father, Jim, who was retiring after 26 years in the business. Joe was ready to represent the fourth generation of the Bright family. He became owner of a store that has been on the city’s south side, between Brighton Avenue and Colvin Street, since 1927. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit several later, and in mid-March, Joe had to shut down. Joe has brought experience to his position, but there’s no real preparation for a pandemic. He hired back his dad, who he credits as a master strategist and marketer, for several months to help him navigate through these unchartered waters. His worst fear, he said, was the business his great-grandfather opened more than nine decades earlier was going to close just three months after he took over. “I did think we were going to go out of business. All that weighed on me a little bit,” he said. But his worries never came to be. The store has reopened and is flourishing, said the 30-year-old. With families spending more time at home during the pandemic, Joe explained, they have been making changes to their décor. And as more people work from home, there is a desire and need to renovate rooms into office space. Another trend he sees are the empty nesters welcoming their adult children back home, and new furniture has to be purchased. The pandemic has seen some college kids returning home and some younger adults who are now working remotely opting to move back in with their parents to save on rent. Joe moved back to Syracuse in 2017 in preparation to run the business. He had been working for a medical device company in Los Angeles, and had been in Syracuse visiting his family over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2016. It was then his father asked him if he was interested in taking over the furniture store. After some thought, he said yes.
Wishing to put in a few more months of work at the California firm he was at, he wrapped things up and returned to his hometown in September of 2017. Both father and son thought it was important that the younger Bright purchase the business, instead of Jim just handing it over to Joe. So, while a valuation of the business was done and Joe got a financing package together, he worked alongside his father until the transaction was completed earlier this year. That Joe would take over for his father was not necessarily a foregone conclusion. “My dad would say, ‘The key to a successful family transition is to not assume it will happen’,” Joe recalls. “He felt strongly that I should somewhere else, decide whether I wanted to be part of the family business and not feel like I had to do it.” Upon graduating from Westhill High School in 2007, he studied business at Cornell University and took a job with Aldi as a district manager. He helped operate four stores around Watertown before relocating and having four stores in the Elmira-Southern Tier area. Of his work with Aldi, he said, “I felt fortunate to get that job with management experience. They hire recent college grads and give them management experience. That was really valuable for this position.” Dunk & Bright Furniture began in 1927 when Joe’s great-grandfather, William Bright Sr., teams with William Dunk Sr. to launch the business. According to the company’s website, Bright bought Dunk out, and when Bright passed away in 1939, brother-inlaw John Monahan took over until he died in 1952. At that time, A. Patrick Bright Sr., Joe’s grandfather, became president in 1952. Joe credits his grandfather for the initial growth of the store. He was “laser-focused” on the design aspect of the business, Joe said. He was also adept at marketing, his grandson added. He knew his customer base and how to market to them. “He had some serious swagger,” Joe said of his grandfather. And during Jim’s tenure, the busi-
ness would grow both in space and community involvement. He added a 25,000-square-foot expansion, moved its eight-story warehouse out of Syracuse and into a one-story facility in Liverpool, and he converted space at the Salina Street store and started renting it to the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University for a low rate. Called the Southside Innovation Center, the site serves as an incubator for fledging businesses. His father and grandfather, a talented group of employees, and loyal customers all account for the store’s longevity, according to Joe. “I have to really tip my hat to my grandfather and my dad. They both bought vacant tax delinquent properties adjacent to our property, expanded the footprint here, built what is now the largest store of its kind in New York state and combine that with a good reputation in the community,” Joe said. Some of the employees, Joe said, have been with the company for 30 years and remember him when he was a baby. And although Joe worked at the warehouse during high school, he thought joining the business as president might be a little challenging. But he said it’s been smooth, adding that it’s helped that the employees understand that he’s sticking around.
Lifelines: Birthdate: Nov. 10,1989 Birthplace: Patterson, New Jersey (moved to Syracuse when I was 1 year old) Current residence: Syracuse Education: Cornell University, business major, B.S.; University of Virginia M.B.A. Personal: Single. Mom and dad live in Central New York. Two sisters, one is an ER physician and one is a pediatrician; one brother, who works in real estate in New York City. Hobbies: Tennis, sailing, skiing and hiking
Find more great stories on our website!
www.oswegocountybusiness.com OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Whitney Mirabito Fourth generation family business owner eager to keep grocery store tradition going By Lou Sorendo
hitney Mirabito was practically born into the family grocery business. She became involved in one of the longest-standing family businesses in Oswego County “as soon as I was able to walk and talk. “My sister Morgan and I grew up in the stores; they were our home away from home,” said Mirabito while referring to both the first Broadway location in Fulton and Village Market IGA in Hannibal. While her parents worked, the sisters were given tasks like sorting invoices and filing them away alphabetically. “However, we spent our fair share of time bugging the deli girls for snacks and playing supermarket sweep at the empty register,” she said. After many years of owning and operating the Village Market IGA, Jim and Cindy Mirabito along with 84
their daughter Whitney opened the Save-A-Lot store at 364 W. First S. in Fulton in 2017. Whitney, 30, serves as vice president-store manager. The first Mirabito store opened in Fulton on Erie Street in 1928 by Jim’s grandfather. That marked start of a family business that has withstood the test of time for more than 90 years. Several members of the family have owned and operated Mirabito grocery stores throughout the area since. Whitney said she considers it an honor and privilege to carry on the family tradition. On a regular basis, she meets members of the community who share stories about her dad, grandfather, great-grandfather and relatives. “To hear about the impact they have had on individuals and this community is amazing, and I am honored OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
to be a part of that,” Mirabito said. Of course, her parents were a significant influence on her as they presented the opportunity for her to explore the grocery business. “My parents were a huge influence. I grew up seeing the way they interacted with the community and the impact they had, the relationships they created and the result of their hard work,” she said. “Having three generations before me in the business definitely had an influence but seeing my parents hard work and their love for the business was by far the biggest influence.” Mirabito has learned some valuable lessons from her mom and dad in terms of how to sustain a successful business. “Anything in life is attainable as long as I work for it and believe in myself, and if I fail, to learn from my mistakes and move on,” she said. “No matter what, they will always be there for guidance, support and encouragement.”
Shift to new model For Mirabito, the biggest challenge has been adjusting to a different business model. Even though Save-A-Lot is a grocery store, it is significantly different than any other store her family has owned and operated. “We were accustomed to a convenOCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
tional model with a bakery, deli, and a focus primarily on customer service — focusing on individual customer needs,” she said. “Hard discount models like Save-A-Lot focus on needs of the masses and not as much individually. As a result, they cannot support a bakery and deli.” Mirabito said finding the balance between the two models has been the greatest challenge. “The key is operating a successful hard discount store without sacrificing the quality customer service our family is accustomed to providing,” she said. Mirabito maintains all human resources files, and handles the hiring, training and onboarding of new employees. “I am responsible for ordering, communicating with vendors, setting up displays, and essentially almost all aspects of the business,” she said. “No two days are the same for me. “I have my essential daily duties. However, every day is different and the only constant in the grocery business is change. That is one of the reasons I love this job.” Mirabito attended St. John Fisher College, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration and played women’s lacrosse. Also during college, she waited tables, bartended and worked her way up to management. After graduating, she worked for GLC Services, a company contracted by law firms to support their mail services. She was then hired by Davidson Fink, LLP as a legal assistant and worked her way up to a paralegal, managing a team of three legal assistants. “My previous experiences allowed me to meet so many people with different personalities and backgrounds,” she said. “The single most valuable lesson I learned was how to effectively communicate.” She said the strengths and skill sets she has that will lead to success in the grocery business include communication, teamwork, adaptability, perseverance, motivation and a strong work ethic. In terms of the future, Mirabito said she intends on continuing to reinvest in the store. She said the last three years have been spent updating to an eco-friendly refrigeration system, investing in all LED lighting and installing a new produce floor, efficient display cases, and HVAC system. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Technology’s impact Like its impact on all sectors of the economy, technology is changing the face of the grocery business. Save-A-Lot features its own Facebook and Instagram page, while apps like Instacart and Amazon Locker are gaining popularity and changing the shopping experience. “So many people are shifting to buying groceries online, which has resulted in an even more competition,” she said. In terms of competitive edge over other grocery stores, Mirabito said Save-A-Lot features a quality meat department and affordable pricing. The store has at least one meat cutter in house seven days a week to provide fresh product. “Their knowledge and combined 80-plus years’ experience is a huge asset to the store,” Mirabito said. She said when customers shop at a full-service grocery store, they look for cleanliness, quality products and stellar customer service. Mirabito said the ability to serve the community and interact with many different people on a daily basis are the more satisfying aspects of being involved in the grocery business. She added the partnerships she has created with local clubs, companies, charities and programs — such as Blessings in a Backpack — has also been a gratifying experience as well. Blessings in a Backpack is a nonprofit organization that feeds school children in the U.S. who are fed during the week on the federally funded Free and Reduced Meal Program and are at risk of going hungry on the weekends. She said learning about the organization’s service to underprivileged children in the community and being a part of helping has been an honor.
Countering COVID-19 Dealing with COVID-19 has presented a challenge. “These have been some scary times. In all the years my family has been in the business, neither my parents nor grandparents have seen anything like it,” she said. “Overnight, our sales more than quadrupled,” she said. “We were incredibly short-staffed and exhausted working 16-plus hour days. However, I am forever grateful and proud to say that every single employee pitched in and helped out tremendously.” Everything has been affected by the OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
pandemic from staffing issues, product supply, pricing and the customers’ shopping experience, she said. “In May, meat pricing almost tripled overnight to outrageous costs,” she said. “We did our best to absorb as much of that cost as possible.” Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Save-A-Lot ordered two to three half tractor-trailers of product on average every week. In the first few weeks of the pandemic and shutdown, Save-A-Lot was ordering five to six full tractor-trailers of product per week. “I believe because we are a small business and have the ability to institute changes immediately, we were able to quickly adapt to the dramatic increase in business,” she said. “We quickly utilized our local vendor relationships, allowing us to better supply our community than many of our corporate competitors.” She said there are lingering effects of COVID-19, including the coin and aluminum shortage. Many product lines are being cut or reduced due to pandemic-related issues within production facilities, Mirabito added. “For example, I was just informed that our Boardwalk soda brand will be cut to four flavors down from 14 flavors due to issues with staffing and material acquisition at the production facilities,” she said. She said the supply chain nationwide has been severely affected by the pandemic and it will take several years if not longer to fully recover.
Lifelines: Birth date: Jan. 11, 1990 Birthplace: Syracuse Current residence: Fulton Education: Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, St. John Fisher College Affiliations: Graduate of 2018 Leadership Oswego County Personal: fiancé Sean Latulipe of Sodus (the couple met after college while working at NY Davidson Fink, LLP, a law firm in Rochester) Hobbies: Time spent with friends and family, golf, traveling, exercising, hiking at Great Bear in Fulton with her new puppy JoJo, a Rhodesian Ridgeback 85
Richard Weber Successful Family Business Succession Planning — Where to Start
F Ensuring a smooth transition to the next generation of family ownership can be challenging and requires careful preparation and execution.
amily-owned and operated businesses are a source of great pride to those who have built these companies from the ground up or built upon an earlier generations work. Ensuring a smooth transition to the next generation of family ownership can be challenging and requires careful preparation and execution. Following are some tips to help:
Determine the Business Objectives of the Key Players
Transitioning a family-owned business requires the transfer of two distinct items: (a) ownership, and (b) management and operation. While the individual founder of the business may have held both roles simultaneously, the transition process may divide those roles among multiple family members, each with different goals. For example, the departing owner(s) may want to retain a role at the business, perhaps by serving on the board of directors or assuming a consultant role. Separately, the next generation may want “free rein” to take the business in new directions, including exploring new product lines or relocation to a new facility. The transition process must strive to identify and resolve the differing business goals of each of the key players ahead of time.
A business succession process involves either a “gift” or a “sale” of the business and its assets — often, a combination of both methods is required. A transfer by gift raises potential tax consequences: Under current I.R.S. regulations, an individual can “gift” $15,000 to another individual each year without impacting the gifting party’s lifetime estate and gift tax exemption. In contrast, a transfer by sale allows for immediate income to the departing owners and/or influx of cash to the business, but may place a high financial strain on the new owners. From a tax perspective, the current economic climate (which includes low interest rates and reduced asset values) presents many advantages in planning for the transfer of a business.
Identify Potential Liabilities of the Business Early in the Process While the next generation may focus on business profits and operation, it is important to understand that business liabilities are part of any business transfer. Existing and future tax liabilities, contractual obligations and litigation risks must be identified. One area of concern that is easy to overlook is the financial status of the departing business founder — if the succession process is not handled properly, the death of the founder post-transfer could trigger significant individual estate tax liability, which in a worst-case scenario could then demand that the family sell the business in order to satisfy the tax debt.
Consider Family Dynamics
Rick Weber is a litigation attorney at Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consider the Best Mechanism for Business Transfer — Gift or Sale?
Business succession planning can challenge long-standing family dynamics. For example, where certain members of the next generation have worked in the business for years while others have not, what will be the effect if all members of the next generation receive an equal ownership share? If members of the next generation do not get along, is it viable to install each as co-managers? The situation is more difficult if the founding generation includes multiple family members, each with children in the business and a different timeline for stepping away from the business. Impasse may require that the family engage an independent CEO to operate the business. In addition, the business founder may wish to consider alternate gifts or arrangements to provide for children that will not have a role at the business, including making gifts via his or her estate plan.
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Engage Professionals to Plan and Execute the Transition
Business succession planning should not be attempted casually or haphazardly one does not know what one does not know, and many of the challenges and complications inherent in the business succession process are not immediately apparent to those who do not regularly address such situations. Successfully business succession planning demands the involvement of attorneys, accountants and tax professionals early in the process. These trusted professionals can assist in ascertaining the priorities and wishes of both the founding and successor generations, and identify and resolve the challenges that will arise along the way. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Health News BRIEFS
Pagliaroli Promoted to the Corporate Director of Integrated Healthcare at Oswego Health Oswego Health recently announced the promotion of K a t h r y n Pagliaroli to the corporate director of integrated healthcare. Pagliaroli began her career at Oswego Health in 2001 as a registered nurse in the intensive care unit Pagliaroli
and quickly advanced to clinical trainer in 2004, RN case manager in 2008, patient services/staff development manager in 2011, director of quality management in 2013, before becoming director of clinical quality and patient safety in 2014. In this newly created position at Oswego Health, she will provide executive leadership and guidance for care coordination across the healthcare system and operations. She will act as a liaison, in collaboration with senior leadership to develop and sustain a culture that supports access to care across all Oswego Health locations as well as its strategic partners. “Kathryn has been a true asset for Oswego Health and the recent pandemic proved how critical her leadership is to the organization. From managing
relationships internally and externally to ensuring access to care for the community, and managing quality of care to patient satisfaction, we feel strongly that Kathryn is deserving of this promotion as she upholds the true mission of Oswego Health,” stated Michael Harlovic, President & CEO of Oswego Health. pagliaroli earned her Master of Science management degree from Keuka College in 2009 and her Bachelor of Science in nursing from Roberts Wesleyan College in 2001. In 2019, Pagliaroli was selected for a leadership award from the New York Organization of Nurse Executives and Leaders and currently serves as region president for Central New York Organization of Nurse Executives and Leaders.
Oswego Hospital named among top 5% for patient safety Oswego Health announced it is a recipient of the Healthgrades 2020 Patient Safety Excellence Award. This distinction places Oswego Hospital among the top 5% of all short-term acute care hospitals reporting patient safety data as evaluated by Healthgrades, the lead-
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ing resource that connects consumers, physicians and health systems. During the study period (2016 through 2018), Healthgrades 2020 Patient Safety Excellence Award recipient hospitals demonstrated excellent performance in safeguarding patients in the Medicare population, as measured by objective outcomes — risk-adjusted patient safety indicator (PSI) rates — for 13 PSIs defined by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Healthgrades found that patients treated in hospitals receiving the Patient Safety Excellence Award were, on average: • 48.3% less likely to experience a collapsed lung due to a procedure or surgery in or around the chest, than patients treated at non-recipient hospitals. • 54.4% less likely to experience a hip fracture following surgery, than patients treated at non-recipient hospitals. • 66.8% less likely to experience
pressure sores or bed sores acquired in the hospital, than patients treated at non-recipient hospitals. • 63% less likely to experience catheter-related bloodstream infections acquired at the hospital, than patients treated at non- recipient hospitals. In addition, if all hospitals in the country performed at the level of award recipients for each of the 13 patient safety indicators, 110,864 patient safety events could have been avoided. “The mission of Oswego Health is
to provide accessible, quality care and improve the health of residents in our community,” said Chief Medical Officer, Duane Tull, a physician. “Our priority has always been patient safety and quality of care, even throughout this pandemic. To receive these accolades during these unprecedented times is truly a proud moment for our staff and their hard work. This truly proves that our community hospital is one of the safest places to place to seek medical care in our region.”
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Oswego Health orthopedic team expands Oswego Health recently announced the addition of two health professionals to its orthopedic team, led by surgeons John Ayres, Michael Diaz and Kamaljeet Banga. They are: • Brandon Weaver has been an orthopedic physician assistant for the past seven years with 18 years’ experience as a physician assistant. Prior to joining Oswego Health, he worked at Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists (SOS). He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the physician assistant program at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2002. When he’s not in the office seeing patients or assisting in surgery, you can find Weaver on the lacrosse Weaver field as he currently is the assistant varsity coach in Fulton. • Shannon Zinn brings an extensive skillset to Oswego Health. She began her medical career in 1998 as a registered nurse in the operation room and on the medical/ surgical unit at Robert Packer Hospital, based in Sayre, Pennsylvania. After several per diem positions in various CNY health systems, Zinn made her way into orthopedics in 2008. Her most recent position was an nurse practitioner at Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists where she was responsible for evaluating, treating and implementing plans of care Zinn for clinic patients. Zinn earned her master’s degree from Binghamton University in 2008 and her RNFA certification in 2013 from the National Institute of First Assisting.
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Success Story Page Trucking, Inc. Page Trucking is one of the largest lowvolume transportation suppliers and does the lion’s share of Novelis’ specialty transportation in Oswego.
on, daughter of trucking entrepreneur overcome heavy obstacles to drive family business along road to success. Resiliency is vital for business owners, particularly during times that test the mettle of the best entrepreneurs. Dan and Piper Titus, president and CFO-CEO of Page Trucking, respectively, know the value of being resilient after overcoming challenges that could only be viewed as humbling. The family has endured the untimely death of its patriarch, the founder of a business that has steadily earned respect in Cayuga County and beyond. The business also managed to rebuild after a devastating fire several years ago that resulted in more heartbreak. And this year, coping with a global pandemic in the form of COVID-19 also proved to be an unprecedented
hurdle. Page is a family owned and operated company with diversity in the transportation industry and the bulk handling of materials. The parent company is Keith Titus Corporation. Keith Titus started the trucking business as Keith Titus Corporation by way of a roadside repair business. Originally moving agricultural products, he built the business one relationship at a time. The company features three transportation subsidiaries: Page Transportation; Page E.T.C., which is its environmental transportation company that specializes in hazardous waste products; and Page M.T.C., which specializes in the transportation of molten liquid metals. The company also features two OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
By Lou Sorendo
Dan Titus, president of Page Trucking, Inc., stands next to a rig at the company’s corporate headquarters in Weedsport. He joined the company in 2005. additional service entities: Exit 40 Truck and Trailer Services, which is a full-service repair shop for tractors and trailers that is used both internally for Page’s own equipment as well as for outside customers. It includes a parts department that has over-the-counter capability for walk-in customers. The other entity that falls under the service side is Page Material Management that encompasses the company’s on-site services. Personnel perform truck-related services but mostly material management support onsite at customers’ locations. Page has employees that work at sites that include Honda, Chrysler, General Motors, Arconic, Alcoa and Novelis. Page Material Manager is a wholly owned subsidiary of KTC as well. It manages all of the company’s warehouse facilities.
Loss of patriarch The company features a close-knit management team, a crew that has been OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Page Trucking, Inc. is headquartered in Weedsport. The company is a national leader in bulk trucking solutions and features about 1,000 pieces of equipment. The company has rebounded following a damaging fire in 2017. together since the death of company founder Keith Titus in 1999. Keith died of leukemia at the age of 50. Dan Titus has been with the company for nearly 17 years, while his vice president of operations has been aboard for more than 20 years. His sister Piper has been working for the company for nearly 13 years as well. “It was tough on the family. We’ve been in business in the town of Cato in this county since 1809,” Titus said. “We lost my dad and grandfather inside of one year,” said Titus, noting Kirby Titus died in 1998. “It was a bit of a setback for us. We’ve transitioned out of the farming business in large part because there really wasn’t any family members to maintain it and continue it on,” Titus said. “Having grown up on the farm and around the trucking company that was borne off the farm, Piper and I got exposure to perhaps the most important element of that, which is not necessarily the day-to-day operations, but the true blue-collar nature of the people that comprise these types of organizations,” he said. “You have to appreciate what’s important to people who truly are proud OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
to call themselves dark blue-collar people,” he said. Titus said his mom was a school bus driver, and his father grew up on the same family farm that he had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with in his youth. “Piper and I both had the opportunity to work around the business a little bit as kids growing up,” Titus said. “You learn what makes people tick, and to make sure you show them respect and loyalty,” he said. “You want to create a culture where there is respect and loyalty among one another and you have the foundation for something that is truly sustainable,” he said.
Devastating blaze A fire leveled the Weedsport facility in December of 2017. From a shop standpoint, the company lost about 60% of its maintenance facilities and its entire parts facility, which features a 30-year-old inventory of specialty parts for a lot of specialty equipment that it operated. “We had an operation to maintain, so I think from a priority standpoint, we had to understand the needs of our employees and customers while coming OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
up with a short-term plan to keep all the wheels turning,” Titus said. Having some contingency planning in place made that an easier process, but the real challenge was what the plan was moving forward and what that design looked like, he added. “Anytime you have a loss, you have to understand the impact of that loss and begin the planning process,” he said. Over its 40-plus years, the company had grown from its original location on the family farm in Cato to the Weedsport facility on Trombley Road. Over the last 25-plus years in Weedsport, growth was accomplished by acquiring neighboring properties one piece at a time, Titus said. A series of about eight different additions occurred over different growth spurts during that time. Following the fire, Titus said the challenge became during the planning process to either rebuild with the understanding that another addition would be required during the next growth spurt or to build something that would be more accommodating to what the company’s future plans could look like. Titus attributed a successful rebound from the setback to the continuity of the organization and the true teamwork culture that exists at the company. “We all looked at it in terms of what we needed to do additionally,” he said. He said employees went to work in a third of the space to try to accommodate the same sized fleet. “They worked out in the elements and truly made the additional sacrifice to allow us to continue to function,” he added. Titus said that approach wasn’t just a key to the rebound from the blaze; it’s been the key to success for a business that has flourished for four decades. “We are a service-based business providing the services of transportation and material management, and that service is provided by people,” Titus said. While highly specialized equipment is involved, it mostly requires operators, oversight and management personnel. “The attitude of that personnel and the atmosphere that creates is more relative to the success of this business than any piece of equipment we have,” he added. The decision was made to construct a “forever facility” representative of a corporate campus. “We are proud to provide a worldclass service, so our facilities and the environment that our people work in need to be commensurate with that,” 91
Titus said. “The only way to achieve that was to take a long approach. What we have rebuilt is more than what we’ve ever had and will accommodate our growth for many years to come. The new two-story building that was constructed features about 18,000 square feet for office and administrative space. It provides a viewing of the shop facility and shop administrative offices, which is another 35,000 square feet. “With the growth of the company over the last 20 years in particular, we’ve been cramped for space more times than not,” he said. The company’s fleet consists of about 1,000 pieces of equipment spread out over about a dozen terminals across North America. A major phase of construction involved rebuilding the company’s original office facility into its training and driver comfort center. “To be honest, we truly didn’t have that space before,” Titus said. “Being able to have a space for our drivers when they are here for orientation, ongoing training or for maintenance repairs in a state-of-theart type of place that they can call their own was really important to Piper and I,” he said. At the same time, the training component of the organization from a safety as well as continual improvement standpoint was equally important. “We didn’t have facilities that were commensurate with the organization’s mission, which is to be truly best in class in safety and to provide a training regimen that allows us to develop our own labor pool,” Titus added. Piper was instrumental in developing a qualified, state-approved curriculum to train heavy-duty repair technicians, construction operators as well as truck drivers. “That was really important to our long-term plan. If we are truly going to be sustainable over the long term, we need to generate and help feed our own labor demands,” Titus said. “To be able to do that internally with the training that is specific to the specialized work we do was very important.”
‘Symbiotic’ bond Page is one of if not the largest low-volume transportation suppliers sand does the lion’s share of Novelis’ specialty transportation in Oswego. Novelis is the world leader in rolled aluminum products and recycling, and the largest global producer of automo92
Page Trucking recently rebuilt their facilities in Weedsport following a fire in 2017. The business is a family owned and operated company with diversity in the transportation industry and the bulk handling of materials. The parent company is Keith Titus Corporation. tive and beverage can sheet. “It’s a truly symbiotic relationship,” said Titus, noting that his company and Novelis have grown on parallel paths. Novelis’ leap from producing can sheet and specialty materials to becoming the world’s leading supplier of aluminum sheet to the automotive industry go hand-in-hand with what Page has experienced, Titus noted. Novelis’ products are featured in more than 225 different models on the road today. Titus designed the trailer that allows Novelis to complete the largest closed-loop recycling model in the world. Novelis manufactures aluminum coil stock that goes to Ford Motor Co., and the trailer in turn goes from the delivery of the coil over to the receiving of the scrap, which is then transported back to Novelis. Page Material Management has two facilities both within a few miles of the Novelis plant. One of those buildings is the former Distribution Centers-Americas facility on county Route 1A in Oswego. Page has about 50 workers at the Oswego facilities. At its headquarters in Weedsport, Page employs between 80 to 100 on-site workers. Also, when including drivers and owner-operators, the total employment count nears 600 depending on driver counts at any one given time. As president, Titus is responsible for all management and oversight of the operations of all entities, both from a fundamental operations perspective OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
as well as from a net profitability and sustainability standpoint. “None of that would happen without my business partner Piper Titus. Her and I work hand-in-hand to meld operations with accounting and systematic functions that allow us to provide services,” he said. “I find that I spend most of my time in the data and the processes that drive the quality of the data,” Piper said. “I then use that information to inform leadership for opportunities for improvement.” She also spends a significant amount of time with employees looking at their workflows and how they can improve their departments. “Supporting employee processes and improving profitability are very gratifying,” she said. Page Trucking, Inc. is a Women’s Business Enterprise National Council-certified women-owned business. Only 36% of all businesses are women-owned, and they account for 12% of all sales and 15 percent of employment. “I don’t necessarily see a lot of opportunity to mentor ownership but I actively try to mentor leadership as a woman in any business environment,” she said. Piper noted she recognizes talented, ambitious women in the organization that may not specifically have leadership or business training. “I try to both model and direct them to resources to empower them in their own understanding of where they can grow as leaders in my organization,” she said. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
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Backus Now the Second in Comand at Oswego Health continued page 17 Andrea is a coach that does streaming fitness workouts on Beachbody on Demand. “I don’t stick to any set regimen, but my wife sticks to a really lean, healthy diet,” he said. “That has helped me eat better and try to set a good example for our kids.” “They eat pretty much what we eat and having them learn that salmon or flank steak is better than processed food will hopefully set them on a healthy eating life course,” Backus added. That’s not to say the family doesn’t enjoy treats, albeit in a limited manner. “I also very much enjoy walking the golf course whenever possible,” he said. Before COVID-19 struck, he joined a group of his high school friends and started playing basketball outside at Oswego High School. “I try to stay active as much as possible and now that gyms are sort of back open, I’d like to get into a routine,” he said. Backus notes that he has seen many people claim to have an effective worklife balance, but sometimes that is not the case and they pay a long-term price for that. 94
“I am pretty grounded when it comes to my home life,” he said. “My kids ensure that I know what Barbie is out or what new monster truck Grammy or Grandma bought. So they definitely are my beacon call every night coming home.” Backus greatly enjoys cooking on a regular basis. “Finding time to make dinner gives me an hour or so of uninterrupted focused mindfulness,” he said. “I also know it means a lot to my wife, a kindergarten teacher, who after a long day in the classroom could use that hour to play with our two kids or catch up on all the things she needs to get done,” he said. “It’s not just a work-life balance for me that I try to strike — it’s a work-life balance for our family.”
Tough call Backus said stepping away from the county clerk’s position was a difficult decision and one that he did not make lightly. “I definitely learned over the seven-plus years I served in county government that there are some tremendously OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
dedicated people who are subject area experts in their field,” he said. Standouts include Cathy Sharkey, Oswego County Department of Motor Vehicles supervisor, and Matt Bacon, now acting county clerk and formerly deputy county clerk. “They both run their divisions with professionalism and an eye toward quality that is not always found in government,” the Syracuse native said. Backus said skills sets he developed as county clerk translate well into his current position at Oswego Health. “I’ve always strived to be a good listener. Whoever came up with the saying, ‘You have two ears and one mouth — they should be used in proportion,’ knew what they were talking about,” he said. When he started as clerk, Backus sat down with county employees to understand his or her perception and spin on the world. “I took those conversations and developed approaches that strategically positioned employees to be successful for their specific tasks,” he said. Oswego Health is a significantly larger organization than county government, but Backus said his initial approach has been the same. “Listen first, learn the culture and what culture needs to be built, and then implement strategies to help ensure employees are set up for success,” he said. Backus’ experience on the boards of both Oswego Health and ConnextCare is helping him transition into his new position and understand the health needs of area residents. He resigned from the board at Oswego Health when he started discussing potential employment to ensure that there were no ethical conflicts, but he does continue to serve as chairman of the board of ConnextCare, a nonprofit corporation and a federally qualified health center with a network of primary care practices that serve people in Oswego, parts of Jefferson and Onondaga counties. “I believe strongly in board service,” he said. “We need more community members willing to dedicate their time to serving on nonprofit boards.” He said board and community service gives participants a high level of understanding in regards to the important work that is done by each entity. “I’ve always grown as a person and a professional from serving on these boards as it broadens your worldview, which is always something I strive to do,” he said. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
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OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Should You Consider a Reverse Mortgage Now?
M ‘Because reverse mortgages are complex loans, all borrowers are required to get counseling through a HUD-approved independent counseling agency before taking one out.’
assive job losses, a volatile stock market and low interest rates caused by the coronavirus pandemic have caused many cash-strapped retirees to consider a reverse mortgage. But there’s a lot to consider to be sure it’s a good option for you now. Let’s start with the basics. A reverse mortgage is a unique type of loan that allows older homeowners to borrow money against the equity in their house (or condo) that doesn’t have to be repaid until the homeowner dies, sells the house or moves out for at least 12 months. At that point, you or your heirs will have to pay back the loan plus accrued interest and fees, but you will never owe more than the value of your home. It’s also important to understand that with a reverse mortgage, you, not the bank, own the house, so you’re still required to pay your property taxes and homeowners insurance. Not paying them can result in foreclosure. To be eligible, you must be 62 years of age or older, own your own home (or owe only a small balance) and currently be living there. You will also need to undergo a financial assessment to determine whether you can afford to continue paying your property taxes and insurance. Depending on your financial situation, you may be required to put part of your loan into an escrow account to pay future bills. If the financial assessment finds that you cannot pay your insurance and taxes and have enough cash left to live on, you’ll be denied.
Loan Details Jim Miller is the author of Savvy Senior, a column that appears in 55 PLUS magazine (www.cny55.com) and In Good Health—CNY’s Healthcare Newspaper (www.cnyhealth.com). 96
Around 95% of all reverse mortgages offered are Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM), which are Federal Housing Administration-insured and offered through private mortgage lenders and banks. HECM’s also have home value limits that vary by county but cannot exceed $765,600. How much you can actually get through OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
a reverse mortgage depends on your age (the older you are the more you can get), your home’s value and the prevailing interest rates. Generally, most people can borrow somewhere between 50% and 60% of the home’s value. To estimate how much you can borrow, use the reverse mortgage calculator at ReverseMortgage.org. To receive your money, you can opt for a lump sum, a line of credit, regular monthly checks or a combination of these. But be aware the reverse mortgages aren’t cheap. HECM loans require a 2% upfront mortgage insurance payment, plus an additional 0.5% annual charge, on top of origination costs and lenders’ fees. Any amount you borrow, including these fees and insurance, accrues interest, which means your debt grows over time. To learn more, read the National Council on Aging’s online booklet “Use Your Home to Stay at Home” at NCOA.org/home-equity. Also note that because reverse mortgages are complex loans, all borrowers are required to get counseling through a HUD-approved independent counseling agency before taking one out. Most agencies charge between $125 and $250. To locate one near you, visit Go.usa.gov/v2H, or call 800-569-4287.
Other Options If you have a short-term need for cash, there are other options you should look into. For example, many low-income seniors don’t realize they qualify for the earned income tax credit, a refundable tax break that can put cash in your pocket. You also could use BenefitsCheckUp.org to search for financial assistant programs you may be eligible for. Another possibility is a regular home equity loan or line of credit. This type of borrowing requires you to make payments, and lenders can freeze or lower limits on lines of credit, but the borrowing costs are much lower. OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Best Business Directory AUTO SALES & SERVICE Bellinger Auto Sales & Service. Third generation business. Used cars, towing, general auto repair & accessories. Truck repair. Oil, lube & filter service. 2746 County Route 57. Call 593-1332 or fax 598-5286. Jake’s Automotive of Oswego, Inc. Auto repair and service of brakes, steering, suspension, diagnostics, oil change, tires & more. We also sell performance parts. 801 E. Seneca St., Oswego. 315-342-6871. Munski Automotive. Brakes, exhaust, NYS inspections, shocks & struts, steering & suspension, check engine & ABS light, tires. 14 West Seneca St., Oswego 315-343-6229. Visit us on the web: www. munskiauto.com. Port City Car Care. Oil, lube, NYSI, alignments, tires, brakes, electrical, air conditioning, suspension, tune-ups & timing belts, complete car care. We do it all! Over 28 years’ experience, 20 Ohio St. Phone 315-207-0500 or visit us on the web at www.portcitycarcare.com
BIKES, SERVICE Murdock’s. Oswego County’s only authorized Trek dealer. We service all brands of bikes. Check out our website: www.murdockssports.com or call us 315-342-6848.
COPY + PRINT Port City Copy Center. Your one-stop for all of your printing needs. 115 W. Thrd St., Oswego. 315-2166163.
DEMOLITION Fisher Companies. Commercial & residential demolition. Great prices. Fully insured. Free estimates. 48 years of experience. Call us at 315-652-3773 or visit www.johnefisherconstruction.com..
EXCAVATING Gilbert Excavating. Septic systems. Gravel & top soil. Septic tank pumping. 685 County Route 3, Fulton. Call 315-593-2472.
JANITORIAL SERVICES Looking for good service, start by calling LC Cleaners at 315-744-2205. We clean dirt cheap. We will also disinfect your office. Please leave message on our phone. We will be happy to call you back.
KILN-DRIED HARDWOODS Lakeshore Hardwoods. We stock kiln-dried cherry, walnut, maple, butternut, ash, oak, basswood, mahogany, cedar figured woods, and exotics. Also, hardwood flooring, moldings, stair parts & woodworking supplies. 266 Manwaring Road, Pulaski. 315-298-6407 or visit www.lakeshorehardwoods.com.
LAND SURVEYOR Robert M. Burleigh, licensed land surveyor. Quality land surveying. Residential, subdivision, commercial, boundary surveying. 315-593-2231.
LUMBER White’s Lumber. Four locations to serve you. Pulaski: State Route 13, 315-298-6575; Watertown: N. Rutland
Street, 315-788-6200; Clayton: James Street, 315686-1892; Gouverneur: Depot Street, 315-287-1892.
PICTURE FRAMING Picture Connection. Custom matting & framing for photos, posters, prints, oils & more. Shadow boxes, object framing, art print source. 169 W. First St., Oswego. 315-343-2908.
PLUMBING & HEATING SUPPLY Pullen’s Plumbing & Heating Supply has a large variety of plumbing & heating repair parts & fixtures. Water heater, furnace, boiler & all plumbing installations available. We do our own excavating for water service & sewer replacement. 22 Ohio St., Oswego, 315-343-1906.
PLUMBING & HVAC AHR Plumbing & HVAC service, sewer cleaning, hydrojetting, video inspections, water heater installs, new construction & remodel service & repairs. 315668-6569 AHRPlumbing.com.
SCREEN PRINTING & EMBROIDERY Valti Graphics-Creating garment graphics on customized apparel in screen printing, embroidery, Greek apparel & custom lettering. 152 W. Bridge St., Oswego. 315-342-4912.
TRACTOR/LAWN RanMar Tractor Supply. Sales and service of new and used tractors and farm equipment – 5219 US Rte. 11 Pulaski – 315-298-5109.
$159 for 1 Year Oswego County Business P.O. Box 276 Oswego, NY 13126 97 OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
Just fill out this form, and send it with a check to: 2020 OCTOBER / NOVEMBER
Brandon Schwerdt Oswego County Airport manager: Federal funding for runway rehab propels Oswego County Airport to new heights Q.: The Oswego County Airport has been awarded $213,200 in Federal Aviation Administration funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The funding will help begin the design phase to rehabilitate runway 6-24. How will this upgrade the facility? A.: The surface of runway 6-24 is exhibiting signs of distress and wear. The design life for airport pavement is 20 years, and the pavement in question was last overlaid in 1997 and is due for rehabilitation. Removal and replacement of the bituminous surface will restore the runway surface to good condition, improve surface grades and reduce the risk of foreign object debris damage to aircraft. Each approach end of the runway will also be evaluated for drainage improvements to reduce wildlife attractants. Q.: Can you give us an idea of how the project is going to be structured? What will be the first step in the process? A.: The FAA funds airport construction projects in two phases — design and construction. This grant will fund 100% of the design phase. Once designed, the project will be publicly bid and awarded to the lowest qualified bidder. Oswego County will then apply for a subsequent FAA Airport Improvement Program construction funding grant.
airport consultant. It is critical to have a knowledgeable airport consultant who is familiar with the airport’s needs and FAA procedures and requirements. Q.: Generally speaking, what benefits will the airport realize as a result of the project? A.: Every aspect of the runway will be evaluated in this design phase. The current surface is starting to show signs of cracking and has deteriorated to the point that preventive maintenance activity is no longer considered cost effective. A full mill and overlay along with drainage improvements and new pavement markings will restore the runway and adjacent areas to the safest possible conditions. Q.: Can you give us a sense of what national and international companies use the Oswego County Airport and to what extent? A.: Various companies utilize the
By Lou Sorendo airport, including Exelon, Perdue, Sunoco, National Grid, Net Jets and Gypsum Express. We also have a lot of locally based companies [that] keep their airplanes here. Q.: In general terms, can you characterize the economic impact that the airport has on Oswego County? In what ways is that most evident? A.: The latest report from New York state shows the Oswego County Airport is directly or indirectly responsible for 25 jobs and $2.5 million in annual economic activity. What is not included in that study are patient air lift services and Mercy and Angel flights in and out of the airport, which are not easily quantified. Numerous local companies base their planes here, allowing them ease of travel. Having an airport in their back yard definitely plays a key role in their business. Q.: How important is it to have the airport as part of the county’s infrastructure? A.: The Oswego County Airport has continued to grow. The airport has attracted a number of corporate users as well as recreational users. In addition to corporate users, we have 80 aircraft based on the field with 42 county-owned T-hangars and eight more in process. All hangars are leased and there is a need for more.
Q.: What were the keys to successfully acquiring this funding? A.: Oswego County has a great track record of obtaining and using available New York State Department of Transportation and FAA AIP funding grants for critical infrastructure improvement projects. Oswego County has experience managing aviation grants effectively and efficiently. Well-prepared grant applications with supporting documentation and justification is critical to compete for funding. We are also very fortunate to have C&S Companies in Syracuse as our 98
OSWEGO COUNTY BUSINESS
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2020
Exelon Generation Generating safe, clean and reliable power, fueling the upstate economy and protecting the environment. 866.237.POWER | exeloncorp.com
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