January 2017

Each year I look forward to the Strictly Business Forum. It is a morning of conversation with people who are at the top of their game. We invite representatives from every segment of the regional economy – people who are making the decisions that will shape our future.

I’ve always been struck by the enthusiasm and candor our guests bring to the table and this year was no exception. Discussions centered around the issues facing all businesses, but this year we added new questions: What makes you optimistic about the future of business in the North Country? What concerns you? I believe you will find the answers interesting.

As the morning drew to a close we wrapped up the Forum with Garry Douglas and his insight about what happened in 2016 and his predictions for the new year. And then we surprised three North Country stars.

Mike Carpenter took the podium to honor a man who has been a fixture in the Plattsburgh business community for decades. Bob Smith, of Nine Platt Hospitality Group, owner of Best Western Plus and the Ground Round Restaurant, is a doer. If there is a problem that needs wise counsel, Bob is there and he gives unselfishly of his time and talent to work toward a solution. Mike also lauded Bob for his willingness to offer advice on the sometimes difficult issues facing family businesses.

Betsy Vicencio chose to honor Paul Sands, former general manager of WPTZ, Channel 5, and a driving force throughout the merger of CVPH Medical Center and the University of Vermont Health Network. During his tenure at WPTZ, Paul was known for his insightful editorials and his closing line, “That’s my opinion; what’s yours?” Paul will soon leave the area for retirement on the east coast of Florida. We couldn’t let him go without offering our appreciation for all he has done for the North Country.

And then it was my turn to pay tribute to a longtime friend and an unsung hero. John Homburger, Vice President of Business Affairs at SUNY Plattsburgh has made an immeasurable contribution to the university and to the community. Through good times and bad, it was John who was charged with understanding complex financial situations and making everything work. John will retire in June of 2017. We wanted to send him off with the thanks of the business community and his friends and admirers.

In this issue of Strictly Business we present you with the highlight of our 27th annual Forum. I believe the more we know about what our fellow business leaders are thinking, the better prepared we will be to make informed decisions. And that will be good for business.