Tri-County Doctors: The business of recruitment

DAYTONA NILES / NNY BUSINESS
Dr. David Wallace just started his job at the River Hospital in Alexandria Bay.

[Read more…]

The BIG Business of Renewable Energy

JUSTIN SORENSEN / NNY BUSINESS
Deryck Montante and Anthony Robbins do solar work Tuesday on the roof of Fourth Coast Inc. in Clayton.

[Read more…]

August 2016 Cover Story: Telemedicine

Technology connects patients with care

The telemedicine machine utilizes a camera, top, that can be controlled remotely by a distance doctor, to analyze a patient and run tests for stroke diagnostics. The display of the doctor would be on the main computer screen, and the patient and location nurse can be seen in an inset screen, seen at bottom right. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

The telemedicine machine utilizes a camera, top, that can be controlled remotely by a distance doctor, to analyze a patient and run tests for stroke diagnostics. The display of the doctor would be on the main computer screen, and the patient and location nurse can be seen in an inset screen, seen at bottom right. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

Telemedicine another tool working to improve
access to specialists for rural residents

By Norah Machia, NNY Business

A patient recently came into Samaritan Medical Center’s Emergency Department presenting with symptoms of a possible stroke. Although a CT scan was done to rule out other causes, the physician treating the patient was still not completely convinced that stroke was the correct diagnosis. [Read more…]

July 2016 Cover Story: Family Farms

Investing in the family farm’s future

From left, Michael, Christopher, Andrew, and Carrie Higby at their family farm in the town of Leyden in Lewis County. The Higbys started their dairy operation nine years ago on 120 acres off Route 12D.

From left, Michael, Christopher, Andrew, and Carrie Higby at their family farm in the town of Leyden in Lewis County. The Higbys started their dairy operation nine years ago on 120 acres off Route 12D.

State’s new farmer’s grant fund supports early stage agricultural businesses in Jefferson, Lewis counties

By Norah Machia, NNY Business

Photos by AFM Photography

Nine years ago, Michael and Carrie Higby decided to quit their day jobs and start operating a dairy farm in the town of Leyden. [Read more…]

June 2016 Cover Story: The Business of Politics

All Politics is Local

AMANDA MORRISON n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES Republican congressional candidate Elise M. Stefanik speaks on Social Security and Medicare during a press conference Tuesday afternoon in Watertown.

Republican congressional candidate Elise M. Stefanik speaks about Social Security and Medicare during an Aug. 26, 2014, afternoon press conference in Watertown. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

For those who operate In the fast-paced world of political campaigns, securing face time with voters makes all the difference on election day

By Brian Molongoski, NNY Business

As New York’s Congressional primary
elections were kicking into gear in June 2014, Anthony Pileggi’s day would start somewhere around 5:30 a.m.

From Glens Falls, he’d drive a little less than two hours north to pick up then-candidate Elise M. Stefanik from her home in Willsboro. Ms. Stefanik, at the time, was vying for the GOP nomination to New York’s 21st Congressional District seat, and Mr. Pileggi served as her deputy campaign manager.

From Willsboro, the first stop was Lake Placid, where Ms. Stefanik and her staff would have breakfast with community leaders. By afternoon, the team was in Warren County speaking with community leaders, followed by dinner in Fulton County with GOP committee officials. Then they had to go west. By midnight, Ms. Stefanik and her staff would reach Watertown, sleep, and meet with locals the following morning. Then it was back north with stops in St. Lawrence County, a journey east with a stop in Plattsburgh, and finally ending at the starting point in Willsboro.

At the height of Ms. Stefanik’s campaign, Mr. Pileggi said two-day marathons like these weren’t abnormal. This was business as usual, business that needed to cover the roughly 15,114 square miles within the state’s largest congressional district, which is home to more than 700,000 residents dispersed among remote towns, mountains and farmland that stretches for miles. And meeting as many of them as possible was the name of the game.

“That meant we had to get her around the district ad nauseam,” Mr. Pileggi said, adding that one of the key principles of the campaign was familiarizing voters with Ms. Stefanik by talking to them face-to-face, despite the sprawling geography of the district.

Come the following November, Ms. Stefanik won the general election with 53 percent of the vote, securing not only a seat in Congress, but a spot in history as the youngest woman to do so thus far.

That victory, Mr. Pileggi said, was the result of embracing “retail politics,” which involves going door-to-door and meeting voters individually. Similarly, Mr. Pileggi said, it’s the same way businesses have to devote time to their customers in order to rake in revenue. Only in political campaigns, votes are the true currency that pay dividends.

On a macro scale, the difference between a political campaign and a business is fairly indistinct. Mr. Pileggi said both are comprised of mostly the same components — the vision, the strategy, the budget, the staff. The process of building a campaign from the ground up generally follows the same path to creation.

In Ms. Stefanik’s case, a first-time run for Congress meant pulling together a core staff of nine people, a veritable army of volunteers, and raising money to sustain the duration of an arduous campaign that included a primary contest against Matthew A. Doheny, who was making his third bid for the seat.

By the end of her 2014 campaign, Ms. Stefanik had raised roughly $1.95 million and spent around $1.92 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.

In Upstate New York, veteran political advisor Michael Schell knows this better than most. Now retired, Mr. Schell has decades of experience advising New York state politicians, including a stint as senior advisor to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

From the get-go, Mr. Schell said the political field needs to be analyzed like it’s a marketplace. Candidates need a strong understanding of what voters are looking for and how it caters to a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. From there, it’s building a team, getting some money, and blasting a message, all while maintaining a budget.

Mr. Schell said the more local political campaigns get, the more imperative retail politics become. Candidates running for supervisor, mayor, city council and even Assembly, Mr. Schell said, are expected to be seen in person.

“It’s certainly one of the most important elements, and it’s certainly difficult to win if you’re not out there pounding the pavement every day,” he said.

Mr. Schell said this market analysis approach is particularly important in the north country, where voters tend to be more persuadable. The reason being, he added, is that north country voters tend focus more on the candidate’s persona rather than the party with which he or she is aligned, even though a majority of the Northern New York population is registered Republican.

Thus, candidates who spend more time connecting with voters, either in person or digitally, have a higher chance of winning an election, Mr. Schell said.

While a digital presence is important for all elections, Mr. Schell said, it’s even more important for bigger campaigns that cover more ground. He said he was first exposed to the power of social media during Mr. Spitzer’s 2006 campaign, and he credits Mr. Spitzer’s win with quickly adapting to online tools and hiring a younger generation of staffers familiar with how those tools work.

But if building a digital presence from scratch is too much to handle for one campaign, this is where consulting firms enter the picture.

Leonardo Alcivar, communications coordinator for Ms. Stefanik’s campaign, has been working with the congresswoman since her first campaign. He also works as director of client strategy for Targeted Victory, one of the largest Republican consulting firms in the country. Though Ms. Stefanik does not use Targeted Victory, as Mr. Alcivar works with her on a volunteer basis, his firm helps develop digital campaign strategies and works with many candidates at the congressional, gubernatorial and presidential levels.

Mr. Alcivar said a strong online identity can be just as important as in-person contact with voters. Sometimes, if needed, he said it’s best to leave the development of digital strategies to a third party.

“When it comes to a digital presence, it is often better to allow for outside experts who have the ability to scale upward and have the tools that have been proven to work rather than trying to recreate the wheel in house,” Mr. Alcivar said.

“At a moment in history when all the eyeballs are online, every campaign should devote significant resources to a digital platform to drive fundraising, to drive social media communication, to drive messaging, and in some cases to drive ticketing and public speaking events.”

Mr. Schell has similar thoughts, noting that more local campaigns for a seat on the state Legislature also make use of digital consulting firms, which work closely with the state’s Democratic and Republican campaign committees of both houses.

While businesses and political campaigns parallel in a number of ways, Mr. Alcivar said there is one stark difference between the two — time.

Whereas businesses are built to go on for as long as possible, the lifespan of a campaign is finite. Come November of an election year, it’s over, and the results speak for themselves. Smart campaigns, Mr. Alcivar said, need to work backward. Plan for Election Day first, and then set a timetable from there. He noted that it’s about using the limited timeframe as an asset and not a liability, so that means taking advantage of every minute possible, especially when the competition isn’t looking.

In Ms. Stefanik’s case, Mr. Alcivar said it was about making extensive trips across the 21st District, going door to door and meeting constituents in person at a time when political activity was at a lull.

“She used that quiet time when nobody was paying attention to build a grassroots presence that was unmatched by other candidates in the race,” he says. “Building a grassroots presence on the ground for any campaign is vital at the outset.”

Mr. Alcivar added that this plays into the “customers first” attitude of a business. A solid relationship with constituents, he says, becomes groundwork needed for each part of the campaign to work, from the digital to the fundraising teams. Without it, success could be harder to grasp.

“Any good campaign will listen to and learn from voters,” he said. “That information then allows for a campaign to build and make informed decisions about how to spend resources, where to spend time and reach voters who might not otherwise participate in the process. If you don’t invest in that early, just like if you don’t invest in R&D early, you won’t be able to monetize the campaign.”

Mr. Alcivar and Mr. Pileggi agree that high above all other components of a campaign is the vision of the founder. And depending on what that vision is, it can make or break a campaign.

For Ms. Stefanik’s first run two years ago, Mr. Pileggi said it ultimately boiled down to her desire to connect with voters individually and the commitment to traveling thousands of miles over the course of a year for their feedback.

Looking back on 2014, Mr. Pileggi recalls naysayer arguments that driving around, knocking on hundreds of doors in a district as big as NY-21 would be a poor way to run a campaign. But Ms. Stefanik’s campaign did it anyway.
“And it paid off,” Mr. Pileggi said.

Brian Molongoski is a Johnson Newspapers reporter who covers politics for the Watertown Daily Times. Contact him at 661-2347 or bmolongoski@wdt.net

May 2016 Cover Story: Economic Development

Securing a stronger future for the north country

COR Development’s Mercy Health Center Redevelopment project is set to begin its first phase of construction this summer on 30,000 square feet of commercial space and 108 apartments. Overall, the project will house 168 units and a community center on the grounds of the former Mercy Hospital in Watertown. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Business.

COR Development’s Mercy Health Center Redevelopment project is set to begin its first phase of construction this summer on 30,000 square feet of commercial space and 108 apartments. Overall, the project will house 168 units and a community center on the grounds of the former Mercy Hospital in Watertown. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Business.

Despite workforce challenges, regional economic development continues to power positive growth across Northern New York

By Karee Magee, NNY Business

A rural and historically challenged region where economic development was often stagnant, the Great Recession dealt a significant blow to New York’s north country as its counties saw a spike in unemployment and manufacturing jobs disappear, including about 600 from Jefferson County alone. [Read more…]

March 2016 Cover Story: Women in Public Service

Women answer the call for public service

Sharon A. Addison, 52, was appointed Watertown city manager in 2012 following a 27-year career with the National Security Agency, Fort George G. Meade, Md.

Sharon A. Addison, 52, was appointed Watertown city manager in 2012 following a 27-year career with the National Security Agency, Fort George G. Meade, Md.

From county and city managers to district attorneys, an assistant
attorney general, state lawmakers and the youngest woman ever
elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, north country women have blazed a progressive — and impressive — trail in public service.

By Norah Machia | Photos By Justin Sorensen

There are many women in the north country who provide invaluable leadership in the public sector as a result of their strategic skills, energy, knowledge and commitment. [Read more…]

Higher ed, tourism important drivers for St. Lawrence Co.

Daniel N. Valyou, facility manager for a blade test facility at Clarkson University, talks about how wind turbine blades are stress tested at Clarkson’s Center for Advanced Materials Processing  in August. Jason Hunter/ NNY Business

Daniel N. Valyou, facility manager for a blade test facility at Clarkson University, talks about how wind turbine blades are stress tested at Clarkson’s Center for Advanced Materials Processing
in August. Jason Hunter/ NNY Business

With five colleges and universities and more than 200 rivers and streams, growth in St. Lawrence County is in some ways about finding a way to market these assets.

Patrick J. Kelly, St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency CEO, said installing adequate broadband infrastructure is a key to economic development. Slic Network Solutions Inc. secured $33 million in federal stimulus money in 2010 to install 660 miles of fiber-optic cable in St. Lawrence County and 136 miles in Franklin County. In August, DANC received $250,000 from Empire State Development to install six miles of fiber optic cable in Canton and Rensselaer Falls, which will connect to a system that Slic operates there.

“One of the most important things is the development of broadband,” Clarkson University President Tony Collins said, noting broadband’s role in business development since so much can now be done remotely. “We’re reaching the point where it’s not the hindrance to development that it was even two years ago. It makes us more reliable and that’s a huge advantage.”

In addition to redevelopment efforts at industrial sites like the former General Motors powertrain plant in Massena and Star Lake’s former Jones & Laughlin Steel Co., Mr. Kelly said identifying potential relationships between higher education and economic development is significant to the county’s future development strategy. [Read more…]

Lewis County: Maintenance of existing assets key

Growth in Lewis County, which tallied its population at 27,224 according to 2012 U.S. Census estimates, has historically been a story more fraught with the travails of manufacturing days gone by.

In 2013, the county lost about 70 manufacturing jobs with the closing of Interface Sealing Solutions in Croghan and Harrisville Dry Kiln plant.

“Manufacturing is very difficult in this county — we just hope to maintain what we have,” Richard H. Porter, executive director of the County of Lewis Industrial Development Agency, said.

Nonetheless, Otis Technologies, Lyons Falls, was last month awarded a $39.2 million Army contract to supply weapons cleaning kits through Sept. 23, 2016, which the company says could result in additional jobs.

The most active new development in the county are wind projects at Roaring Brook, slated for completion in the spring, and the Copenhagen Wind Farm, slated for operation in late 2014 or early 2015. Neither project, though, will create more than 10 jobs after construction, Mr. Porter said.

“We’re fighting to survive,” Mr. Porter said. “We’re not located close enough to Fort Drum for it to impact the county.”

Maple Ridge Wind Farm, a prominent 12-by-3 mile stretch of land off Route 177 through the towns of Martinsburg, Lowville, Watson and Harrisburg peppered with 195 wind turbines and built about seven years ago, has also been a success story for the county. It has the capacity to produce enough power for 96,000 homes. The project also brought more than $55 million into the local economy, creating roughly 400 construction jobs and 35 full-time local jobs. In addition to millions in annual tax payments landowners involved receive $1 million in annual revenue.

Agriculture, particularly dairy, will always be the county’s top industry and is stable; the local foods movement gaining traction doesn’t necessarily create jobs, but helps retain agriculture jobs, Mr. Porter said. He added that infrastructure limits Lewis County’s ability to grow, particularly the fact that it doesn’t have much excess capacity for water and sewer.

-Leah Buletti

The push for sustainable growth: With plenty of assets to market, many agree north country should diversify for future economic development

From the vibrant lake and riverfront destinations of Sackets Harbor and Clayton, to sprawling new housing developments cropping up across Watertown to the bustling commerce on Arsenal Street, Jefferson County’s growth over the past two decades has been noticeable and transformative. While the narrative follows a somewhat different line in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, business owners, educators and economic development officials paint a picture of vibrancy in the tri-county region, and pin hopes on entrepreneurship, education and natural resources as future drivers. Though Jefferson County is the fastest growing in the state in terms of population, its progressive growth over the past 25 years could be bounded in the future by a struggle to attract new businesses because of New York’s historically unfavorable business climate and uncertainties over troop levels at Fort Drum.

Crews work on Interstate 781, also known as the Fort Drum connector road, in March 2012. The limited access, four-lane highway opened to traffic Dec. 6, 2012. Until its completion, the post lacked direct access via an Interstate highway. The project was in the works for several years. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Business

Crews work on Interstate 781, also known as the Fort Drum connector road, in March 2012. The limited access, four-lane highway opened to traffic Dec. 6, 2012. Until its completion, the post lacked direct access via an Interstate highway. The project was in the works for several years. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Business

Tied to post

Few could deny that Fort Drum is to credit for much of Jefferson County’s transformation. It has left an indelible mark since the Sept. 11, 1984, announcement that the north country would become home to the 10th Mountain Division, with about 29,000 people arriving to live and work on or near post by 1988.

Since fiscal year 1988, the post has injected a staggering $18,345,535,016 into the local economy, as of the most recent economic impact statement officials released in March for fiscal year 2012. That report credits the post with $1,441,992,825 in economic impact for the north country in fiscal 2012, accounting for the presence of about 19,000 soldiers and 20,000 family members.

But with two opposing forces — federal sequestration threatening cuts on one hand and September’s announcement that Fort Drum was one of five sites chosen by the Missile Defense Agency as a potential East Coast missile defense site — the looming question is whether the county’s economic development can continue or if the area has arrived at somewhat of a tipping point. [Read more…]

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