The following State of the Chamber was delivered by Frank M. Castella, Jr. at the Chamber's monthly Contact Breakfast on January 19, 2022:
It has been an honor for me to serve as President and CEO of this organization for the last seven years and I am pleased to report the state the Chamber continues to be stronger than ever!
I would like to take a moment to personally thank and recognize Bill Francis for having served as Board Chair over the last 2 years. His continued dedication and guidance to this organization is unwavering and appreciated. I am pleased to have the opportunity to work alongside our new and returning board members, led by Chair, Scott Pawenski from Branding Pros.
In an effort to establish a Board of Directors reflective of our diverse economy, the Chamber Nominating Committee has sought individuals to serve from a cross spectrum of industries, representing both small and large employers. This year we welcome the following individuals to serve:
- From M&T Bank, Babs Ayodeji
- From Zimmer Brothers Jewelers, Jocelyn Klastow
- And Associate Board Member, from Houlihan Lawrence, Don Minichino
We also welcome to our Executive Committee, serving as Board Secretary, from Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation, Amy Dittmar.
On the digital screen, you will see a full listing of our Directors, and at this time I ask all board members of the Chamber who are present to please stand for recognition.
Please join me in acknowledging all of them for their leadership.
The value of member benefits, education, advocacy, and economic growth have always been a priority for our Chamber and will remain strategic components of our continued success this year. Member benefits have expanded. Events, resources and initiatives have grown. All of which are designed to ensure that businesses have ample opportunities to prosper and grow. Our management team will continue improving 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, while we do administer grant funded programs, we are primarily underwritten by our members – through dues and sponsorships. We are governed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors who all share a vision – to improve commerce here in the Hudson River Valley.
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 2022, under the management of Vice President Nicholas Shannon and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Rich Kleban, corporate investment in the Chamber has once again proven to be one the most impactful benefits of membership by offering a value to our sponsors that is second to none.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge the 39 returning and 10 neworganizations for pledging their support as Annual Corporate Sponsors. If you’ll once again turn your attention to the screen, and please hold your applause until the end. For those representatives with us, please stand when your company name is called, beginning with our
Corporate Leaders at the Highest Level:
Our Corporate Partners are:
- Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation
- Integrated Enterprise Solutions
- JP Morgan Chase
- And Nuvance Health
Corporate Supporters are:
- Access: Supports for Living
- DCH Wappingers Falls Toyota
- iHeartMedia of the Hudson Valley
- M&T Bank
- The Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel and Conference Center
- RBT CPAs, LLP
- Royal Carting Service Company
- Sloop Brewing Company, Craft New York and Dulcia.
- And Tompkins Mahopac Bank
Community Partners are:
- Adams Fairacre Farms
- Branding Pros
- JGS, CPA’s
- Marshall & Sterling Insurance
- Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union
- N&S Supply
- Quality Environmental Solutions & Technologies
- Rhinebeck Bank
- Rondout Savings Bank
- S & O Construction Services
- Salisbury Bank
- Stenger, Diamond & Glass
- And Ulster Savings Bank
And our Media Partners are:
- Animal Farm Foundation
- Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie
- The Community at Brookmeade
- Content Studio @Martinelli Custom Publishing
- Ethan Allen Workforce Solutions
- Fortress Financial Advisory
- Greystone Programs
- Habitat for Humanity of Dutchess County
- Hudson Cadillac-Buick-GMC
- Hudson Valley Concierge Services
- LCS Facility Group
- Mackey Butts & Wise
- Mount Saint Mary College
- Poughkeepsie Galleria
- Prager Metis
- Walden Savings Bank
- And Waverly Pest Control, Inc.
- Poughkeepsie Journal Media
- And WALL Radio
This year, we have more sponsorship dollars committed to the Chamber than any other moment in history and I ask that you please join me in acknowledging our 2022 Annual Corporate Sponsors and Partners.
What this Chamber delivers makes us very unique as far as Chambers of Commerce are concerned. Our organization is proactive and creative with our programming. Last year, a membership poll revealed that there was a desire to receive text alerts. If you are interested in receiving text notifications, we heard you and now offer this option. All you need to do is send a text to this number: (833) 814-8535, with keyword “Dutchess”, to sign up.
Whether it is our weekly email blasts, social media posts, monthly Hudson Valley Business Scene newsletter, our radio shows, website, or networking events, we are always looking for ways to spread the word about our initiatives, develop partnerships, promote and create community for our Members.
Speaking of community, one of the area’s largest community events is the Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival, now approaching its 31st anniversary. Several years ago, it was re-imagined with the intent to create a regional destination experience with the intent to generate real economic impact – one that would add exposure and value to our county, and most importantly our membership. The festival has grown substantially and last year we hosted 15,800 attendees, our website had 265,000 page views, which correlated to 57,000 hits on our membership directory – nearly a 400% increase over the year prior. This equals exposure to our membership! It also means that patrons from all over spent money with our local vendors, stayed at our hotels and bed & breakfasts, dined in our restaurants, paid sales tax that came back to the community and visitors were exposed to the beautiful and historic Hudson River Valley. We are always planning for additional festival growth and I hope you will be a part of its rising success as a vendor, sponsor or volunteer.
Last year, we recognized that one of the challenges businesses faced was staying connected with their customers, so we developed the inaugural Great Hudson Valley Scavenger Hunt, presented by KeyBank. This was just one more avenue for us to offer complimentary exposure to Members by encouraging the public to explore local businesses. It was such a success, with over 900 participants, that we will be bringing it back this year.
Events aren’t the only thing we’re known for. The Chamber provides membership with resources to support their advancement. Our online business directory, is updated daily, hence making it easy to Think Local First. We continue to educate our members on government mandate compliance, such as the implementation of a Sexual Harassment Prevention policy and training for employers. We recognize the strain this law placed on employers, so we implemented a complimentary solution for employers. Since its inception, over 10,000 employees have received this training, and it was done at no additional cost to our members which equates tour members saving $500,000 by not having to hire an outside service.
Next, I am grateful to the many members of the Chamber committees for their dedication and their accomplishments. Committees are one way members can help make a difference in the community as well as network among other business leaders. Whether it’s the
The Hudson Valley Young Professionals
the Women’s Leadership Alliance
the Annual Gala Committee
the 40 Under Forty Awards Selection Committee
the Nonprofit Committee
the Business Education Committee, 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, and lend your knowledge to strengthen the community.
On our founding principle – the Chamber is first and foremost an advocate for employers; we are the union and voice for the business community. I will also tell you, the State of New York must transform away from placing the costs of mandates, high taxation, fees and overreach on the backs of employers. According to The Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, New York is currently ranked as 49th, we also have the 48th highest individual income taxes, 46th highest property taxes, 43rd highest state sales tax, 38th highest unemployment insurance tax, is ranked last in business friendliness and is in the top five in one of the metrics you don’t want to be at the top of – and that is of people moving out of the state! 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! It is difficult to start and grow any business in this environment and we are seeing this in the lack of new business startups, businesses consolidating for survival and small businesses closing their doors or moving out of state.
Let me place this next proposed piece of legislation into perspective: Can you imagine New York State taxes rising by over 150 percent? Well, neither can we! And this is why your Chamber advocacy team is fighting to stop the state from moving to a single payer healthcare system. Do not confuse single payer with universal healthcare; it is not the same thing. Single payer is government run healthcare and New Yorkers cannot afford to pay for it. This proposal would require $250 billion dollars in new taxes with the bulk of costs being placed on employers – all while eliminating more than 160,000 jobs.
With the start of the legislative session, there is a growing push to pass the NY Health Act and it is a top priority of legislators. The law would establish a one-size-fits-all government-run health care system, eliminating all private health insurance coverage. Our solution: With less than 5% of New Yorkers currently lacking insurance, policymakers should focus on measures to provide coverage options for those remaining uninsured, and provide solutions such as association plan pooling to drive down the costs, and not mandate the largest tax increase in the state’s history – ultimately making the state a less attractive place to operate a business.
Unfortunately, the bill has enough sponsors in both the Senate and Assembly that it could pass this year. This is where we need your help. Over the last several years, the Chamber, has been working with the Realities of Single Payer, a broad coalition of employers groups that support universal coverage and to educate policymakers about the problems with the NY Health Act. As the entities responsible for paying the bulk of health care costs for your employees, your voice is extremely important.
I’m asking you to join the Realities coalition. Please consider adding your company’s name to the list of other organizations that share the goal of getting every New Yorker covered but are opposed to this specific legislation. For more information visit realitiesofsinglepayer.com.
Our Legislative Action Committee continues to be a voice on behalf of employers. The committee regularly engages with our elected officials to offer balanced solutions on issues affecting business and the economy. We partner with organizations like The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, The Business Council and others in order to remain informed and join as coalitions in order to address and advocate against illogical legislation and for reform.
We vow to reliably remind our elected officials: government cannot continue to lean on businesses for taxes, fees and mandates to fund their loose spending practices.
Now, one of the strongest assets of our Chamber is the great success of The Chamber Foundation, which is dedicated to providing scholastic opportunities for youth and the workforce. I am pleased to acknowledge the Foundation Board Chair, from the RBT CPAs LLP, Barbara Ostrander, as well as the Foundation’s board members.
On the digital screen, you will see a full listing of the Foundation Directors, and at this time, I ask all Foundation board members to please stand for recognition.
Everyone, I give you The Chamber Foundation Board of Directors.
The Chamber Foundation continues to offer signature programming, which includes:
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT CENTER
- Youth Leadership
- Leadership Dutchess
- The Executive Leadership Program
- And The Foundation’s Scholarship programing
Our Chamber and Foundation is known regionally for creative program design and we have been recognized around the state for benchmark Workforce Development Programming, led by Vice President of Workforce Programs, Katrina Gobins.
We have a resilient partnership with Dutchess County Department of Community and Family Services, led by Commissioner Sabrina Marzouka and Deputy Commissioner Theresa Giovanniello. The Workforce Connections Program continues to thrive, serving adult participants with intensive case management. All of our Workforce programming is designed to improve core employable skills – placing individuals on a career path – ultimately building a stronger and more vibrant labor force.
The Career Action Center is a partnership with the City of Poughkeepsie School District, under the leadership of Superintendent, Dr. Eric Rosser. This program has a focus on building career and workforce readiness skills as well as making the connection between students, community and employers. Going forward, we aspire to expand and bring more workforce development programming schools throughout Dutchess County, replicating this program’s success.
Additionally, we are still under contract to administer the county-wide Youth-One-Stop program which prepares participants to enter the workforce and retain employment.
In 2021, the Workforce Development Center launched a pre-apprenticeship program for young adults, specifically to teach skills for childcare assistants. We will continue and expand the programming and launch the next iteration this year.
The Center also kicked off our first summer pilot program to serve youth as part of a the Next-Gen Academy, with a focus on technology such as 3D printing, coding, and computer aided design. And this year, the program will focus on design thinking and computer science.
More great news, Katrina and her team was recently awarded a two-year Agency Partner Grant through Dutchess County government for the Next-Gen Career Academy, a youth workforce development program benefiting high school students.
Great things are coming to The Chamber Foundation, but I do need to inform you about a significant development, as Nicholas Shannon will be leaving the organization at the end of this month. Over the last 9 years, Nick has performed tremendously, as first, Executive Director of The Chamber Foundation, and in the role of Strategic Development with the Chamber. He has grown both organizations and at this time I ask you to join me in thanking and wishing well in the next chapter for Nicholas Shannon.
With a growing membership of 1200 organizations and team fully staffed at 23 professionals, what I have shared with you this morning barely scratches the surface of the value your Chamber has to offer. I am forever mindful of the many leaders and organizations that stand with us, all of which support us as sponsors, as members, are in this room each month, and regularly take part in dedicating their valuable time and talent to us. You can be certain, we will continue to raise the bar for what it means to be a Chamber of Commerce, and we will remain a leader in this region’s path to economic prosperity. I’d like to once again personally thank the Board of Directors, our management team, our entire professional staff, and especially you, our members, for your belief in me, and trust in the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce to lead the business community. This concludes the State of our Chamber and it is comforting to know we are in great hands this year, with Board Chair Scott Pawenski!