• 2019 State of the Chamber Address. Presented by Chamber President and CEO, Frank Castella Jr.

    It has been a privilege for me to serve as President and CEO of this organization for the last four years and I am pleased to report the state the Chamber continues to be as strong as ever!

    Value of member benefits, education, advocacy, and economic growth have been our focus over this past year and will remain strategic components of our continued success in 2019.  Our management team will endure to improve targeted outreach, foster member connections and involvement, and yet again increase the impact our Chamber has on this community.

    The Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce is an independent organization, primarily funded by our members.  We are governed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors comprised of business leaders who have a shared vision to improve commerce in the Hudson Valley.  I would like to take a moment to personally thank and recognize Jeffrey Senft for serving as Board Chair in the last year.  His continued dedication and guidance to this organization does not go unnoticed and is greatly appreciated.  I am pleased to have the opportunity to work alongside our new and returning board members, led by 2019 Chair, Jen Dunn.

    In an effort to establish a board of directors reflective of our diverse economy – our Nominating Committee has sought individuals to serve from a cross spectrum of industries, representing both small and large employers.  This year we welcome to serve on the Board of Directors:

    • From Ulster Savings Bank, Valerie Belton
    • From Rhinebeck Bank, Philip Bronzi
    • From Impact PR & Communications, Filomena Fanelli
    • From MidHudson Regional Hospital, Joline Frey
    • And from Whalen Architecture, Stephen Whalen
    Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in thanking them for their leadership.
    To all who have volunteered, sponsored, or otherwise supported the Chamber this past year, on behalf of the entire business community, I THANK YOU!  
    Looking at sponsorship for 2019, under the management of Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President Rich Kleban, corporate investment in the Chamber has once again proven to be one the most impactful benefits of membership and continues to be a driving force behind the Chamber’s influence.
    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge the 45 returning and new organizations for pledging their support as Annual Corporate Sponsors.  If you’ll turn your attention to the screen on my left and please hold your applause until the end, beginning with our Corporate Leaders at the Highest Level:
    • Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation
    • Health Quest
    • and KeyBank.
    Corporate Partners:
    • Bonura Hospitality Group
    • DCH Wappingers Falls Toyota
    • Hudson Valley Audio Visual
    • iHeart Media of the Hudson Valley
    • Integrated Enterprise Solutions
    • M & T Bank
    • Poughkeepsie Galleria
    • The Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel and Conference Center
    • Poughkeepsie Journal Media
    • RBT CPAs
    • Rose & Kiernan
    • And Royal Carting Service Company
    Corporate Supporters:
    • Adams Fairacre Farms
    • Branding Pros
    • D'Arcangelo & Company, CPAs
    • Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union
    • Marshall & Sterling Insurance
    • N & S Supply
    • Quality Environmental Solutions & Technologies
    • Rhinebeck Bank
    • Riverside Bank - a Division of Salisbury Bank and Trust Company
    • S&O Construction Services
    • ServiceMaster Restore by NEST
    • SRDD Law/Stenger, Roberts, Davis & Diamond
    • Talex Media
    • TEG Federal Credit Union
    • And Tompkins Mahopac Bank
    Community Partners:
    • CareMount Medical
    • Fortress Financial Advisory
    • Greystone Programs
    • Hudson Cadillac-Buick-GMC
    • Judelson, Giordano & Siegel CPA’s
    • Mackey Butts & Wise
    • Meyer Contracting Corporation
    • MidHudson Regional Hospital
    • Mobile Life Support Services
    • Rondout Savings Bank
    • The Arc of Dutchess
    • And Ulster Savings Bank
    And Media Partners:
    • ABC Go Digital
    • Fox Oldies 98.9
    • And WDST Radio Woodstock
    At this time, I ask the representatives from all of our Annual Corporate Sponsors and Partners with us this morning to please stand, so we can thank you for your substantial support.  
    We are in constant communication with our membership and reacting to the ongoing needs of local businesses and organizations.  This Chamber is also proactive and creative with our programming, and we continue to bring new technology and resources to our association. In the last several years we have re-engineered our Membership Department to be the conduit for members to effectively make connections, receive referrals, expand continuing education and improve ease of access to the tools that enable businesses to spend their valuable time focusing on their organization.
    Our events continue to see an increase in financial sponsorship investment, higher-than-ever attendance, and added superior value.  As a result of your feedback, we have changed our practices – giving our events greater visibility, creativity, ease of registration, and improved venue rotation – all to enhance the member experience.

    Balloon Festival
    Four years ago, we reimagined The Hudson Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival with the intent to create a signature destination event, generating real economic impact, adding exposure and value to our county.   Now in its 28th year, the festival and it’s website traffic has grown substantially – from 5,000 attendees and 10,000 page views only four years ago – to nearly 35,000 attendees and over 400,000 unique balloonfesthv.com visitors. Our social media reach for the festival generated more than 5.5 million impressions.
    The significance is in the correlation to exposure and economic impact for our members.  A prime example: the volume of traffic to our membership directory amplifies in parallel.  A few revealing statistics on the festival:
    • 64.2% of attendees were from outside of the Hudson Valley, while 19.7% were from out of state, and 1.2% out of country.
    • Attendees from out of County was 85.1%!
    • And those staying overnight at paid lodging is estimated at 584 people in 324 rooms.
    • Dutchess Tourism used their economic impact software to translate this into real dollars and has estimated $101,000 in sales taxes collected, 1,135 jobs supported and directly links to an infusion of $2.65 million dollars into our economy.    
    People from all over the world attended, spent money with our local vendors, stayed at our hotels and bed & breakfasts, dined in our restaurants, and were exposed to the beautiful and historic Hudson Valley. The feedback from our balloonist rated our festival within the top five in the country and they now love to come here.  We are planning for growth in 2019 and I hope you will be a part of its rising success. 

    The Chamber strives to provide our members with resources to support their advancement. Our online business directory, is updated daily, hence making it easy to Think Local First. Our Events Calendar sees over 2,400 weekly page views and promotes over 1300 Chamber and Community events annually. We continue to work to ensure that our members are prepared to stay in compliance with new federal and state laws, such as the implementation of sexual harassment prevention in the workplace. We have a model policy for employers on our website, so they can easily download and deploy accordingly.  The Chamber will also offer online employee training for our members, to ensure they have ease of access to stay in compliance with New York State law, which states that all businesses regardless of size, fulfill employee training implementation by October 9th of this year. Visit the expanded “Business Resources” page on our website for more information on this policy, for our government guide, and other resources pertinent to companies and employees.

    Thanks to a partnership with Poughkeepsie Journal Media, every Monday the Communications Department of the Chamber publicizes business news by means of the Hudson Valley Business Scene which is printed in the Poughkeepsie Journal Newspaper.  Submit your news item to the Chamber and it may be published not only in the Journal, but also on our website and in our monthly Bottom Line newsletter, once again adding an exceptional value to being part of the Chamber of Commerce. We are currently exploring an expansion of this outreach in 2019 – to increase distribution throughout the valley, digital demand, and extend its shelf-life. We look forward to sharing more information as we work together to establish our member news as the Hudson Valley’s prime source for business news.  At this time, I ask at this time that you join me in recognizing and show your appreciation to the team from Poughkeepsie Journal Media and General Manager Jim Fogler for their continued partnership. Thank you Jim and Poughkeepsie Journal. 

    We always look to build relationships and foster connections, which gain exposure for the Chamber and its supporters.  This year we will partner with Talex Media and Tom Langan to develop several promotional videos to professionally highlight the value of membership. 

    Not to be taken lightly, but Ribbon Cuttings are an opportunity for our business community to come together and support one another.  It’s a chance recognize a milestone occasion that is often very emotional and overwhelming for a proprietor.  Just yesterday, we officially welcomed a new anchor restaurant, Farmer’s and Chefs, into the City of Poughkeepsie with over 50 supporters in attendance. While we perform nearly 100 of these events in the course of a year, each and every one, is special.  For those of you who have been a part our ceremonies, you know it one of the business owner’s proudest moments and achievements of their professional career.  Going forward, to help memorialize the occasion, Tony D’Aquanni and Scott Pawenski of Branding Pros will be providing an engraved plaque, placed into a shadow box with their signed ribbon and will be presenting this display, at each ribbon cutting ceremony.  This is an example of a detail and special touch that sets our organization apart.  Thank you Branding Pros and Scott and Tony for this partnership. 
    I am grateful to highlight the work of our Chamber committees. The Hudson Valley Young Professionals continue to expand programming – including two major fundraising events – raising over $12,000 to benefit The Chamber Foundation, First Friday’s in Poughkeepsie and a family in need!
    The Health & Wellness Committee strives to improve the lifestyles and wellness of our community, through introductory yoga classes, personal self-defense courses and the sixth installment of its popular Run Local First Team Training program. This year for the first time, the committee will be presenting a Fun Run as part of the popular Dutchess County St. Patrick’s Parade. 
    Whether you volunteer for our Women’s Leadership Alliance, Gala, 40 Under Forty Awards Selection Committee, Nonprofit, Business Education, or any of the 27 Chamber or Foundation committees – we thank you for your commitment.  For those of you not involved at the committee level, I can tell you firsthand it is one of the most rewarding aspects of membership, a great way to build relationships, network, lend your knowledge and strengthen the community. 

    On our founding principles, the Chamber is first and foremost an advocate; we are the union and voice for business.  I will also tell you, New York's business climate must transform to encourage growth.  According to The Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, New York currently ranked as 49th, we are also have the 49th highest individual income taxes, 47th highest property taxes, 40th highest state sales tax, and 31st highest unemployment insurance tax. These figures point to New York State having the highest cost of living, as well as the highest cost of doing business in the nation!

    Census data shows New York, over the past year, has lost more residents than it has gained, losing more than one million people since 2010.  We recognize this trend is unsustainable and must be addressed.  Our Legislative Action Committee continues to be a voice on behalf of businesses and regularly meets with our elected officials to offer balanced solutions.  We partner with organizations like The Business Council of New York to keep us informed, address and advocate on state, local, and federal issues.  We are working with developers and local government to streamline the planning and development process. 
    We will strive to be a proponent for improving the business environment here in New York.  We will continue to advocate for the best interests of the business community.  We will also be a constant reminder to our elected officials; government cannot continue to lean on businesses for taxes, fees and penalties to fund loose spending practices.  A full listing of our legislative initiatives can be found on the Chamber’s website.

    One of the strongest assets of our Chamber is the great success of our 501C3 nonprofit extension, The Chamber Foundation.  Under the leadership of Executive Director Nicholas Shannon, the Foundation’s Board of Directors are dedicated to providing scholastic opportunities for youth and the workforce.   I am pleased to acknowledge the Chair, from Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation, Amy Dittmar, as well as the Foundation’s newest board members:
    • From Gold’s Gym, Kim Kenyon
    • From The Poughkeepsie Galleria, Jessica Pecchia 
    • And from Dutchess Community College, Michael Roe
     The Chamber Foundation offers signature leadership and mentorship programming, this includes:
    • Youth Leadership – with 80 high school sophomores and juniors, enrolled.
    • The last Leadership Dutchess class raised over $45,000. September marked the programs 30th anniversary.
    • The Leadership Connections Mentorship Program expands with secured funding through the Dyson Foundation, the County of Dutchess, as well as corporate supporting sponsor, Royal Carting Service Company.
    • The yearlong Career Achievement Mentorship Program graduated 14 participants.
    • The Executive Leadership Program is a high-level continuing education series – in its second year with a cohort of 21.
    • Since its inception, The Foundation’s Scholarship Program has awarded over half a million in funding to students.
    • Hudson Valley KidVenture saw over 7,000 attendees this past year and is now expanding to a new home at Dutchess Community College.
    • The ATHENA Leadership Program has recognized more than 100 honorees – for their professional excellence, community service, and advocacy of women’s leadership.  Today, we announce for the first time, The Chamber Foundation, with backing from the Women’s Leadership Alliance, will be attracting women from all over the world to the Hudson Valley, as we partner with ATHENA International to present the 2019 International Women’s Leadership Conference, right here in Poughkeepsie, this upcoming October.  I would like to thank our event Co-Chairs; President and CEO of Dutchess Tourism, Mary Kay Vrba and from MidHudson Regional Hospital, Gloria Cukar for leading this conference committee.
    The Chamber Foundation is known regionally for creative program design, but our Chamber of Commerce has been recognized around the state for benchmark Workforce Development Programming, led by Workforce Program Manager, Anne DeMuro.

    We have a strong partnership with the Department of Community and Family Services, led by Commissioner Sabrina Marzouka and Deputy Commissioner Theresa Giovanniello.  The Workforce Connections Program continues to thrive, serving over 120 adult participants – improving core employable skills and placing them on a career a path – ultimately building a stronger and more vibrant workforce. 

    The Career Action Center is a partnership with the City of Poughkeepsie School District, under the leadership of interim Superintendent, Dr. Kathleen Farrell.  Students accessed the Center over 2,600 times in the last academic year.

    The potential to expand elements of this valuable student resource, led us to partner with the Hyde Park Central School District and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Greer Rychcik, to offer a comprehensive Career Fair for FDR High School students. We continue to explore opportunities to further assist other districts with scholar advancement across Dutchess County.

    Nearly 1400 members strong and a staff of 25 full-time employees, what I have shared with you this morning barely scratches the surface of the value your Chamber has to offer.  We are undeniably a driving force in the local economy.  I am forever mindful of the many business leaders and organizations that stand with us in creating the best place to live and work, all of which are on this banner behind me, in this room each month and regularly take part in dedicating their valuable time, talent and treasure to this organization.  Rest assured, we will continue to raise the bar for what it means to be a Chamber of Commerce, and will remain as a front-runner in this region’s path to economic success. I’d like to once again personally thank the Board of Directors, our management team (Audra who is celebrating 18 years with the Chamber in 2019, Rich, Nick, Anne, Nancy and Jean), the entire professional staff, and especially you, our members, for your belief in me, and faith in the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce to lead the business community.  Thank you!  

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