September 19, 2007


Brain drain summit sparks ideas


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Grant Wilder, of Primerica Financial Services, writes out ideas during a brainstrorming session called “Talent Taskforce: Bridging the Gap” during the “I Live NY Summit” on the SUNY Cortland campus. The session was an informal gathering to share ideas about New York’s “brain drain” problem.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The bulk of Tuesday’s “I Live NY Summit” at SUNY Cortland consisted of working group sessions, during which the roughly 500 business and community leaders on hand broke up into groups to discuss specific issues.
The morning sessions included targeted meetings on issues such as internships, entrepreneurial farming, connecting investors with small business owners and how to globalize the upstate economy. The afternoon session included meetings on connecting business with universities, building arts and culture in communities and building up the image of upstate New York.
The Cortland Standard accompanied two young professionals — Grant Wilder of Primerica Financial Services during the morning session, and Steve Hopko of Hopko Designs for the afternoon session — to the group session they attended and asked for their impressions.
Morning session — Talent _Taskforce: Bridging the Gap
For Wilder, who is an independent regional representative for Primerica currently living in Lansing, the choice of the first group of working sessions was an easy one.
“I’m actively recruiting right now, and in our industry this is the demographic we look for, the young, driven professionals who are really going to be successful for us,” said Wilder, who noted he’s looking to establish an office in Cortland in the coming months. “I loved hearing people say that this younger generation in the work force describes itself as entrepreneurial, because that’s exactly what I’m looking for.”
Available jobs in New York state are requiring more and more training and education, John Twomey, executive director of the state Association of Training and Employment, told the summit attendees at the Talent Taskforce work session.
However, with young talent moving out of the state, educational systems falling short, especially in urban centers, and a large generation of experienced employees retiring, employers are struggling to fill jobs, Twomey said, a point that rang true for Wilder.
“You always hear the general complaint that there’s no jobs, but the reality is there are no jobs available for people who, for one reason or another, are lacking the skills,” Wilder said.
When the work session broke out into smaller groups aimed at brainstorming ideas for improving five areas — internships, marketing regions to employees, wider ranging recruitment, better implementing state programs and career education — Wilder joined the recruitment group.
“I thought it was interesting, we started off talking about recruitment but it quickly spilled over into marketing, education, all of that is part of this,” Wilder said.
Much of the discussion revolved around centralizing and streamlining recruitment tools such as online job databases, helping small businesses aggregate their resources in order to reach out to potential employees, and ways to connect state colleges to potential employers.
Other focal points of the group included marketing upstate New York to young talent — “I think everyone agrees this area has a lot more to offer than people realize,” Wilder said — and promoting early education for youths on employment and the changing job market.
“Advance education is a big one,” Wilder said. “Just, in my field, what it means to be an entrepreneur, the responsibilities, the rewards, I don’t think kids are learning any of that.”
Afternoon session — _Transformative Real Estate: Change One Building at a Time
During the afternoon work session, Hopko said he was drawn to the meeting on redeveloping historic buildings because he had renovated a portion of the Cortland Foundations building on East Court Street to house his own graphic design business.
As entrepreneurs described their efforts to turn old buildings that were previously warehouses into high-level condominiums in Binghamton or a decrepit church into a performing arts center in Buffalo, Hopko was clearly impressed.
“What a way to get everybody excited and ready to take part in a revitalization,” Hopko said of the presentations.
The presenters noted that the buildings they renovated were extremely well built, with unique architecture that could be a draw for young professionals.
“Let’s face it, Buffalo would be Tuscon with bad weather if it wasn’t for the architecture,” said Scot Fisher, who, as president of Righteous Babe Records, renovated the church in downtown Buffalo.
Because each of the presenters had stories about difficult dealings with state historic authorities or local code enforcement, much of the group discussion revolved around ways to make redeveloping historic buildings less of a burden.
“Every step I kept saying to people, I can’t be the first person trying to do this,” said Ari Meisel, who spoke about developing old warehouse space in Binghamton into high-end condos.
Meisel said that one initial barrier he faced was an assessor who had no experience dealing with condos, and who was not sure how to assess a second floor dwelling.
Suggestions from the roughly 40 people taking part in the work session included setting up a state authority to provide legitimacy to such development efforts and to help serious developers avoid unnecessary red tape.
Also, agencies like the State Historic Preservation Office should have a greater community presence, and should be able to give developers a sense of what sort of historic requirements a property will need before the developers actually buy the building.
When Meisel brought up the SoHo neighborhood in New York, which was redeveloped by artists who took advantage of upper-story spaces for studios and dwellings, Hopko nodded in agreement.
“We’ve got a lot of great old buildings just like that in Cortland, including the one I’m in,” Hopko said.



Task force will try to plug area brain drain

Staff Reporter

First Lady Silda Wall Spitzer announced today a task force has been created to develop strategies for attracting and retaining young professionals in upstate New York.
The task force is comprised of 22 leaders in the private and public sectors across the state. They include the president of SUNY Binghamton, the president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State and the vice president of human resources for Bausch and Lomb.
The group met at the end of August for the first time at the New York State Fair to come up with five goals it would like to focus on.
Those goals are:
l expanding internship opportunities that provide young people with essential skills and give employers access to potential workers;
l marketing upstate communities as attractive and exciting places to live;
l developing employee recruitment strategies to connect talented workers with New York employers;
l providing workers with continuing education services to enhance career mobility and advancement; and
l creating coordinated programs to achieve these goals, and then implement them statewide.
Jennifer Givner, spokeswoman for Gov. Eliot Spitzer, said the task force has not yet come up with specifics of how it can achieve its goals.
It is awaiting a report from the “I Live New York” summit providing recommendations on how it can best proceed. The recommendations will be based on feedback given by summit attendees during work sessions.
lthough the report won’t come out for another 30 to 60 days, task force members have some ideas of how they can accomplish their current goals.



Summit hits home with participant

Staff Reporter

I’m a 24-year-old, proud upstate native who’s experienced the frustration of New York’s job market and the bite of the state’s high cost of living.
While I was only able to attend a fraction of the work sessions at Tuesday’s summit, here are some other points that hit home with me:
Interactive job recruiting: Stephen Mitchell, a representative of the Center for Government Research, asked an interesting question during a breakout session on recruiting: if candidates apply for five jobs in a given area, don’t hear back from any of them, why should we expect that candidate to apply in that area or field again?
Having searched plenty of times for jobs in many different areas, I couldn’t agree more.
I really liked Mitchell’s suggestion of a more interactive recruiting process, providing feedback for applicants and actively helping them look for other opportunities in the area.
Also, the suggestion that small and mid-sized employers pool their resources and recruit employees as a regional aggregate would not just benefit the employers, in my mind, but also job searchers who might not be aware of the lesser-known companies out there.
The importance of career education: After four years of high school and three years of college, I latched on to my college newspaper because, as an English major, I wasn’t sure what other options I had.
The issue wasn’t that I didn’t have options, but that I wasn’t aware of them.
With the job market changing rapidly, it’s critical that students are educated on the types of careers that will be available to them.
Some summit participants agreed that educating students about skills should begin in grade school, and all agreed that real career education should start by middle school.
Building a community: The summit’s afternoon keynote speaker, jazz musician Marty Ashby, spoke impressively about a performing arts center the company he works for, Manchester Bidwell Corp., built in a depressed area of Pittsburgh.
The center was used to educate and empower the nearby residents, and its success drew artists and musicians, who in turn drew a generation of professionals to the area.
As Mr. Ashby spoke, I immediately thought of friends who were once involved in music or sports and who lack those sort of outlets.
Young people, while full of skepticism, are also itching to be involved, and creating a community where they can scratch that itch would attract both employees and businesses, I think.




Challengers win primary

2nd, 4th ward Common Council incumbents consider write-in campaign

Staff Reporter

The two Democratic Party challengers to Common Council incumbents won Tuesday’s primary election, but at least one of the sitting aldermen will pursue a write-in candidacy while the other contemplates legal action, as well.
Challenger Clay Benedict won the 2nd Ward primary waged against incumbent Shannon Terwilliger.
He received 87 votes of 155 votes cast, or roughly 56 percent of the total, while Terwilliger received 68 votes, or about 44 percent.
There were 326 registered Democrats eligible to vote in the 2nd Ward.
Fourth Ward incumbent Nick DeCarlo lost to challenger Brian Tobin, who received 36 votes, or about 61 percent of the 59-vote total. DeCarlo received 23 votes, or about 39 percent of the total.
There were 198 eligible Democrats in the 4th Ward.
There was one absentee ballot in each ward, but they had not been counted or included in the total as of this morning.
County Republican Election Commissioner Bob Howe said this morning that the turnout for the primary was normal.
The challengers received the Democratic Party endorsement at a meeting in June.
“You put in the time and effort over the course of several months without really knowing how it will go, so I’m definitely pleased with the results,” Tobin said shortly after the results were posted Tuesday night on the county Board of Elections Web site.
“I’m impressed — I’m pleased that so many people came out to vote,” Benedict said, thanking his supporters and all of the voters in the 2nd Ward. “I will work hard to serve the people of the 2nd Ward, and I’ll try to get around to visit all of them.”
As far as Terwilliger is concerned, though, Benedict is not in office yet.
“This is the kickoff of to my write-in campaign, now,” Terwilliger announced shortly after the results were posted online Tuesday night. “I’m happy with the high turnout, and I hope this bodes well for the write-in campaign that I plan to aggressively pursue.”
Meanwhile, DeCarlo hinted that he would be considering legal action, if not a write-in candidacy of his own.
“I certainly am entitled to do that,” DeCarlo said. “I think at this point, I might just pursue the write-in and see what happens.”