January 2016

or the first time in 26 years I did not attend the Strictly Business Forum held in December of 2015. Recovery from surgery kept me away, but the event went on without a hitch. The participants were as insightful and enthusiastic as ever. The moderators kept the conversations moving and we now have a great issue for you to peruse.

I normally move from table to table during the Forum so I have a good feel for the mood of the crowd. This year I needed to carefully read each table’s discus- sions to understand where people were coming from. Let me give you a brief overview of some of the highlights.

Plattsburgh Mayor Jim Calnon spoke about cooperation with the surrounding towns — an encouraging sign. Deena Giltz-McCullough’s enthusiasm for all the area was infectious. Andy Wylie’s comments about the need to expand oppor- tunities for young families is just what we need if we are going to stabilize and then increase our population. Patrick Bowen explained the up side of lower gas prices and the down side of the lower value of the Canadian dollar.
Richard LePage of Nova Bus was upbeat about doing business in the U.S. Tracy Vicory-Rosenquest shared the new focus of her business – Conroy Organic. Senator Betty Little talked about job readiness. Rowena Ortiz-Walters, the new dean of SUNY Plattsburgh’s School of Business & Economics, emphasized her commitment to increased enrollment and student retention in our area.

Bob Smith expressed concern about the move to increase the pay of servers which, he emphasized, will result in price increases. David Coryer urged changes in the curriculum of elementary and high schools that will better meet the needs of the 21st century workforce. Linda Brienza’s understanding of solar energy was fascinating as was Devi Momot’s commitment to cyber security for businesses large and small.

The need to focus on increasing enrollment at SUNY came up again with John Homburger. Increased competition from other schools and a decrease in the number of students of college age is taking its toll, but according to John we can count on SUNY Plattsburgh to take on the challenge. The new Executive Director of Behavioral Health Services North, Mark Lukens, gave us an insight into the myriad services his agency provides. Bob Parks made me laugh when he referred to June’s Dannemora prison break as the Press-Republican’s “Super Bowl”.

Bill Owens explained the benefits to our area of the Buy America Act. Nicki Mars lamented the difficulty of finding skilled technicians in our area. And then there was Garry Douglas’ message of regionalism, regionalism and regionalism.

Again this year participants in the 26th annual Strictly Business Forum were proud of what has been accomplished, guardedly optimistic about our future and committed to do the hard work to make good things happen. And that’s good for business.