July 25, 2007

Local businesses see global prospects


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer    
Dan Gundersen, head of Upstate Empire State Development Corporation, speaks to attendees at the Going Global conference at the Ramada Inn in Cortland Tuesday.  

Staff Reporter

Steven Frierson attended Monday’s “Going Global” conference at the Ramada in Cortland to learn how his business can delve deeper into its Latin American markets.
“I want to get more into there than we already are,” said Frierson, who owns Source1 Compliance in Groton, which makes pouches and tents that prevent radio frequencies and other electromagnetic waves.
He was one of about 100 people attending a conference put on Tuesday by the Cortland County Business Development Corp.-Industrial Development Agency.
During his talk at the end of the conference, Dan Gundersen, chairman of the newly created Upstate Empire State Development Corp., said Upstate New York has to establish more global connections to keep up with New York City and other nearby states such as Maryland and Pennsylvania.
He said one way the state could encourage this is by sending more marketing representatives abroad that could help broker deals.
“You never know when you’re going to meet someone or where you can cut a deal,” Gundersen said.
Frierson said he learned Tuesday about how federal agencies can help make connections with partners in foreign countries.
Although most of the attendees at the Ramada Inn were not business owners and instead government and economic development officials, business owners interviewed said they appreciated having a wealth of contacts to network with and hearing the chairman of Upstate New York economic development talk about global expansion.
The event began with a talk by David Hempson, the senior vice president of business development for Cortland-based Marietta Corp., about how Marietta grew from a company with a handful of employees exporting shampoo packets to the Northeast to one with 1,000 employees exporting a wide variety of products all over the world.
“We’ve always had that can-do attitude that emanates from the people in the company,” Hempson said.
During one of the four workshop’s after Hempson’s talk, three business heads — Kevin Tompko, president and CEO of Barden Homes, Theresa Slater, president of Empire Interpreting Service, and Alex Deyhim, president of Advanced Design Consulting USA, Inc. — discussed how their businesses have gone global.
Slater, who said her sign and foreign language contracting business has started working with visitors from other countries and sending contractors abroad, said the Internet, resources such as Cornell University’s foreign language department and travel agencies and cultural savyness have helped her develop connections.
She said when she realized some countries prefer doing business with men, she did what she had to do. “I hired a man,” she said, sparking laughter from a room of 30 people.
In between workshops, Shivanand Utlasar networked with potential clients.
Utlasar started m2m Global in Syracuse, a company that helps companies trade with India and forms dual degree programs between American and Indian universities.
He exchanged contact information, for example, with German Zarate-Hoyos, an economics professor at SUNY Cortland who is also involved in the university’s study abroad office.
Zarate-Hoyos said he would consider whether SUNY Cortland could set up a dual degree program with India similar to the one set up with Turkey.
“We came here to make contacts,” Utlasar said.
Thomas Sims, who owns Diversified T.E.S.T. Technologies, a company in Groton that test products, including products with microchips, for other companies, said he had similar motives. He said he just wanted to get his name out to as many businesses and government and economic development officials as he could so they would consider him for business or referrals in the future.
“We’re here for the links,” Sims said. “So we can have people who don’t know us know us.”




C’ville Planning Board nears end of Wal-Mart review

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — The site plan review of the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter on Route 13 is nearly complete, and the town Planning Board likely will vote on that and the company’s subdivision request at its monthly meeting Tuesday.
Town attorney John Folmer will prepare the necessary resolution by the next meeting.
If the Planning Board approves the subdivision and site plan and makes a recommendation to the Town Board regarding an Aquifer Protection Permit, the Town Board would hold a public hearing for the aquifer permit before a decision about that permit is made.
At a special meeting Tuesday night, the board ran down a checklist provided by Clough Harbour & Associates, the town’s engineering firm, to make sure everything would be addressed.
One question that has been on the table for months is the final status of the two outparcels on the 33.7-acre site — one is about 1.6 acres, and the other is about 1.2 acres — that would each be sold or leased to a commercial business if Wal-Mart had its way, and would be kept as green space if the Planning Board had its way.
The Town Board had made the latter recommendation in March when it approved the company’s Planned Unit Development zoning designation, and the issue had been put off until the end by the Planning Board and Wal-Mart’s engineering firm, APD Engineering of Rochester.
The Planning Board recommended to the Town Board — which is responsible for accepting and dedicating land — that both outparcels be maintained as green space, and either retained by Wal-Mart or turned over to the town.
Planning Board member Nick Renzi said he would like to see the parcels remain green not only because of the sensitive nature of the site over the aquifer, but to provide a buffer between the commercial developments and neighboring Walden Place senior assisted living community.
Wal-Mart had hoped to compromise by offering a small parcel to the south of the 208,000-square-foot store to the town, but the board decided that the land should be used as supplemental snow storage or as overflow for the neighboring detention pond.
Walden Place Executive Director Paula Currie attended the meeting and said she supports leaving both outparcels undeveloped because the properties are too close together.
Although she said she would talk to her client about the outparcels, Wal-Mart attorney Kelly Pronti, of Rochester-based Harter, Secrest & Emery, said the sale or lease of the outparcels is included in the total project budget, and that financial constraints will ensure that “it’s not going to be an easy sell.”
Pronti said when the issue was brought up with Wal-Mart two to three months ago, the company was not receptive to giving up an outparcel.
If the town were to accept any land near the Supercenter, Pronti reminded the board, it would be liable for the vacant land.



Area band hopes talent will net $1 million prize

Staff Reporter

After weeks of anticipation, The Fault Line, a rock band with local connections, showcased its vocal abilities a capella style Tuesday night on “America’s Got Talent.”
The Fault Line consists of four former members of the band Sons of Pitches, including Adam Decker, Justin Adams, Matthew Olmstead and Jeff Bratz. The four split from the group and formed The Fault Line, picking up their other member, Joshua Logan, in 2006.
Decker is a 2001 Cortland High School graduate. The members of the band and their families are under contract with NBC and were not able to make any comments regarding the show.
The Fault Line was one of 10 performances on Tuesday night’s show, competing for America’s vote to move on to the next round.
Viewers were able to vote for the acts from Tuesday night by calling in after the show for a two-hour voting period, or online at between 9:25 p.m. Tuesday and 4:30 a.m. today.
Jason Raff, the executive producer of the show, said The Fault Line auditioned in Boston at an open audition.
“The judges decided to put (The Fault Line) through to the next round,” Raff said in a phone interview. “Of the thousands and thousands of acts, they emerged precisely and quickly. It’s up to America on how far they will go.”
On Tuesday’s show, The Fault Line performed an a capella (without instrumental accompaniment) version of the Michael Jackson hit “The Way You Make Me Feel.”
“You know you guys got it,” David Hasselhoff, one of three judges, said after The Fault Line’s performance. “The song was a little high but you guys have amazing talent.”
The other judges on the show, Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan, also thought that the song selection was not the best fit for the band.



Former McGraw principal speaks out

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — A McGraw high school principal who the district has asked to resign is sending out letters to parents in protest and considering not handing in his letter of resignation.
“They need to know that I wanted to be back there for the kids,” said Curt Czarniak, 54, who sent out letters Monday to parents of all the nearly 300 students in grades seven through 12.
Teachers have organized a party to show support for Czarniak at 7 tonight at the McGraw Community Building, a day before Thursday’s Board of Education meeting where he has been asked to give  his resignation letter.
In his year as principal, Czarniak said he has worked to restore teacher and staff morale and improve student achievement on annual state assessments.
The request for his resignation came as a complete surprise, he said.
On June 22 he bid graduating students farewell and told the seniors they had helped lay the foundation for turning the high school around. At 9 a.m. on the following Monday he was asked to clean out his desk and leave.
“It was like I had committed a heinous felony,” Czarniak said. “I was extremely disappointed in my superintendent.”
Superintendent of Schools Maria S. Fragnoli-Ryan recommended the Board of Education approval his dismissal.
The board complied and has asked for his resignation letter at Thursday’s meeting. It also hired an interm principal July 12 to replace him.
Czarniak said the reason given to him for the firing was insubordination.
“The primary reason ... is over the handling of two nontenured teachers,” he said.
He said he was instructed to place two teachers on 12-month teacher improvement plans in March after meeting with the school attorney, superintendent and Board of Education.  Carzniak said he missed a deadline to put them on the plan out of fear the teachers would be fired rather than given a chance to improve.
Board President Michelle Stauber declined comment, citing  personnel matters.

Beth MacRae, McGraw Faculty Association president, said the annual performance review the district has is a good plan if based on trust and fairness, as intended.