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Report
Access for Small Business Forum
February 19, 2010
Rochester, NY

On Friday, February 19, 2010, members of the Business and Labor Coalition of New York (BALCONY) staged their second Access for Small Business forum at the Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School to assist small businesses survive in a challenging economy. 
 
Attendees included BALCONY representatives and members, representatives of New York business, labor, and finance, and Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26), the keynote speaker of the event. Of particular concern was how businesses can survive the credit crunch as well as how employers can find affordable health care for their employees. Other topics included general health care, health care reform, disease prevention in the workplace, how businesses can improve their marketing, and how businesses can gain access to capital and technology such as e-commerce.
 
Event co-sponsors included: Verizon, the American Cancer Society, the NYS Health Foundation, Citizens Bank, Canandaigua National Bank, Entre Computer Services, NYS Small Business Development Center, Excellus, the Small Business Majority, Pulse Marketing Group, and New York State United Teachers.
 
The event kicked off with Tom Gillett, Director of the Rochester chapter of BALCONY, who expressed his excitement about the gathering before introducing the M.C. for the day and Director of BALCONY, Lou Gordon

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Mr. Gordon provided a quick overview of the event and introduced the two central questions of the day: "Can businesses survive the credit crunch?" and "How can businesses find affordable health insurance?"  Mr. Gordon noted that in a survey of 400 New York businesses, only 44% are able to provide health coverage while 79% say they wish they could provide insurance.  After expressing his hope that the forum would help businesses and labor to solve some of the problems they face in this tough economy, Mr. Gordon introduced the first panel of the day: Access to Health Care.
 


View the photographs from the Forum here:
Photos
View the full program from the Forum here: Program

 

 

 

ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE

 

 

American Cancer Society  Excellus  NYSUTNYS Health Foundation  Small Business Majority

Health Care Panel
Ben Geyerhahn, Dave Mack, Jim Bertolone, Eileen Wolff, Lou Gordon, Tom Gillett

aarpEileen Wolff, the Regional Director of Strategic Health Initiatives at the American Cancer Society, spoke on cost effective strategies that can help keep employees healthy and prevent disease in the workplace thus reducing the cost of health care and prescription plans and increasing productivity and good health in the long term.  Ms. Wolff argued that prevention initiatives, such as tobacco cessation programs and incentives, encouraging and rewarding physical activity and nutrition, and keeping an open line of communication regarding general health with employees is shown to increase productivity and quality of work while decreasing health problems that lead to high premiums and expensive prescription plans.  In conclusion, Ms. Wolff pointed out that the American Cancer Society also offers free resources and would happily partner with any interested employers to asses their current state, set goals, and offer support in instituting preventative measures.
 
 [View Eileen Wolff Presentation]
 
Ben Geyerhahn, the New York Project Director of the Small Business Majority, spoke about the challenges businesses face in providing health care to its employees and what different health care reform options would mean for businesses, small and large. Health care premiums in New York State are some of the highest in the nation and small businesses (those with less than 100 employees), according to a study conducted by the Small Business Majority, pay an average of 18% of their payroll just to provide health coverage. Even more daunting is the fact that health insurance costs are still on the rise. In New York the cost of health care is predicted to rise 20-30% in 2010. In order to asses what, if any, reform to healthcare would minimize these problems and give small business access to affordable health care, the Small Business Majority commissioned MIT economist Jonathan Gruber (who is involved in the Republican health care reform plan, now known as the Massachusetts plan) to conduct a scientific study comparing three popular reform options: two shared responsibility plans - play or pay, and pay as you go - and one market reform plan. The study found that either shared responsibility reform option would protect jobs and wages that would otherwise be cut to account for the rising cost of health care as well as cut health care costs in the long run, however, the study found that reform will be much easier for large businesses than for small ones due to the initial costs and loss of profit.
 
[View Ben Geyerhahn Presentation]
 
aarpJim Bertolone, the President of the Rochester and Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, discussed labor's perspective on health care reform. Mr. Bertolone has been President of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 215 for the Greater Rochester Area for nearly twenty years. He also serves on the Executive Council of the New York State AFL-CIO and the Board of Directors for the New York State Workforce Development Institute. Labor, Mr. Bertelone asserted, has supported and will continue to support a universal Medicare plan over any version of the so-called competitive model. Echoing Mr. Geyerhahn, Mr. Bertolone argued that the current competitive system is broken and unsustainable. Health care, he pointed out, costs employers nationwide about 16% of their payroll and as health care costs skyrocket, employers are forced to drive down wages and slow or eliminate growth. Even more frightening was Mr. Bertolone's prediction that by the end of this decade, without reform, a family health plan will cost $28,000, an astronomical figure that is clearly out of the price range of the average American worker. In attempting to show just how badly the competitive model has failed Mr. Bertolone pointed to a recent Harvard study that revealed that 44,000 Americans die every year from lack of coverage. In the 1990's, he recalled, Rochester had a collaborative, community rated health care system. At the end of that decade, however, at the behest of the Chamber of Commerce, the system was overhauled and a deregulated competitive model was put in its place, forcing prices to rise and quality to deteriorate over the next decade. Mr. Bertolone argued that reform is essential and that arguing against health care reform because of worries about deficit spending is like "trying to save water when your house is on fire."
 

 
aarpDave Mack, the Senior Vice President/Corporate Relations at The Lifetime Healthcare Companies, parent organization of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, spoke about the insurance company's perspective on health care reform. Mr. Mack joined Excellus in 1997 after a 34-year career in newspapers, going from a job where "nobody trusts you to one where everybody hates you," he joked. In terms of access to health insurance, the primary topic of his talk, Mr. Mack asserted that the outlook is not good. Of the 46 million Americans without health care more than half are categorized as poor or working poor by the government, therefore, if universal coverage is the goal of reform then the cost of health insurance must be reigned in, and that any other changes at this time are mere window dressing. Ultimately, Mr. Mack concluded that the worst possible outcome is no action, that the cost curve can be bent, and that insurance companies like Excellus will be willing to accept reforms as long as everyone is sharing the risk and as long as the reform is pursued on a bi-partisan basis.
 

 

 

ACCESS TO BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AND CAPITAL

                     Canandaigua Bank

NYS Small Business Development




Malcolm Richards, Susan DeVyust, Jeffrey Barker, Darlene M. Anthopoulos

 

aarpMalcolm Richards, Branch Manager of the U.S. Small Business Administration(SBA), talked to the audience about the various ways the SBA can help small businesses attain capital. The SBA is a self-funded agency of the federal government that was formed with small business concerns in mind. Mr. Richards discussed three ways that small businesses can get access to capital and grow by partnering with the SBA. First, SBA guarantees loans that private lenders are unwilling to underwrite. Second, the SBA provides small businesses with business growth and development counseling. Third, the U.S. government is the biggest buyer of businesses in the country and SBA helps small business owners looking to sell their business compete to win better contracts and works with other agencies to meet procurement goals. In contrast to Congressman Lee, Mr. Richards claimed that the stimulus bill did and does help small business. One way the stimulus bill attempted to help small business owners, he mentioned, was to increase the loan guarantee the SBA offers to 90%. This move, according to Richards, got lenders back to the discussion table and lowered banks' exposure, allowing them to lend more freely. Another way the government sought to increase lending and help small business, according to Richards, was by eliminating the borrowing fee, generally 2-3% of the original loan, altogether. It is the governments hope that the savings businesses will enjoy from this move will go back into the business and facilitate growth. Despite the recession, the SBA saw an increase of 40-50% in loan guarantees last year and had over one million individuals use SBA's counseling resources. In closing, Richards noted that $6 billion of the recovery fund went to helping small businesses. "It's your government working for you," Richards concluded.
 


 

DAnthropolousDarlene Anthopoulos, the Vice President of Citizen's Bank, spoke about how a bank like Citizens Bank determines who qualifies for a loan. Citizen's bank is headquartered out of Providence, R.I. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland, (RBS) however, it is completely independent.  Ms. Anthopolous boasted that this arrangement affords Citizen's Bank the resources of a world bank as well as the benefits and feel of a local bank. Ms. Anthopolous spoke to the fact that, in the current economic climate, banks are less willing to take risks, but that does not mean banks aren't lending altogether.  Ms. Anthropolous then introduced the two types of loans that businesses typically need: a line of credit and a term loan.  Ms. Anthropolous recommended that every business have a line of credit but cautioned that it is very important, before seeking one, to understand what the purpose of that credit is and how it may be used.  The reason being that a line of credit needs to be a revolving door, according to Ms. Anthropolous, so if the bank feels like you are going to use the credit to cover losses or other inappropriate activities they will not sign off on it.  If, on the other hand you are looking to buy equipment or real estate you are probably looking at a long-term loan that can divide payments over a longer period of time.  Ms. Anthopolous then offered advice on making the best case possible to the bank for getting either type of loan. In general, she said, banks are more likely to lend to businesses with a loyal following of customers and/or collateral, but that banks are always receptive to a well thought out business plan.  The best thing a business owner can do to make their case to the bank is to be prepared, understand exactly what they need, have a clear plan to pay the money back, and be able to express that clearly and concisely.
 



JBarkerJeffery Barker, Vice President of Commercial Services for Canandaigua National Bank and Trust, spoke about the advantages of using community banks. Canandaigua Bank is a $1.7 billion community bank that has been around since 1887. The definition of a community bank, Mr. Barker explained, is a bank owned and operated in your community, where all the decision makers, bankers, locations etc. are local. According to Mr. Barker 56% of the loans Canandaigua Bank underwrites were to people in the Rochester community. Despite the current recession, Canandaigua's commercial loans to community businesses, according to Mr. Baker, were up 5.6% in 2003 and up 8.1% in 2009.  According to Mr. Barker, in this tough economy it can be a big benefit to partner with a community bank rather than with the big banks that effectively cut off lending after the crash. In Rochester in the 1990's, Barker recalled, there was a situation where the banks decided they were not going to lend to contractors anymore. Community banks continued to lend to contractors, however, because, as local people, they were able to determine the quality of the contractors and their proposals on a one by one basis. Mr. Barker concluded by stressing the importance of communication between business owners and their banks and emphasizing that this is much easier to accomplish with a local community bank like Canandaigua.
 
[View Jeffery Barker Presentation]


 

aarpSusan DeVyustof H&R Blockspoke about how H&R Block helps businesses prepare the proper tax returns they need to get loans. Ms. DeVyust offered several tips on getting deductions and tax credits for small businesses. In order to capitalize on these credits, Ms. DeVyust told the audience, it is very important that every business keeps careful records and that they back those records up or risk losing out on the opportunity. Also, good record keeping is important because both the government and the bank will want to study them carefully before approving credits or loans. Ms. Devyust concluded by noting that H&R Block will send speakers to any business that is interested free of charge to educate them on these and other issues and to help business owners decide on a plan of action.
 
[View Susan DeVyust Presentation]


 

 ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS

 

Verizon  Pulse Marketing  Entre Computer Services

 

Tech Panel
Paul Bornemann, Marquett Smith, Jim Barolotta

 

 

BornemannPaul Borneman, VP of Consulting Services for Entre Computer Services, discussed IT solutions for small businesses. Entre is an IT services firm in Rochester providing businesses of all sizes with tech solutions, including IT management, consulting, application and web development, software licensing, and hardware acquisition. Mr. Borneman described himself as a customer of Entre for fifteen years and an employee for ten. The IT payroll at Entre is an impressive $8 million giving it plenty of resources to provide solutions to all different kinds of businesses. In a world of so many options, tech terms, and moving pieces Mr. Borneman explained that an IT consultant is a great tool and can help align business needs with the right technology to improve and grow business.
 
[View Paul Borneman Presentation]

aarpJim Bartolotta, Chief Executive Officer for Pulse Marketing Group, spoke about how online marketing can help businesses grow their customer base and their name recognition. Pulse offers marketing, advertising and public relations solutions. It has 13 employees that cover all aspects of marketing, web development, video, and videography. Mr. Bartolotta explained that internet marketing is something that every business should consider and is especially good for businesses with smaller budgets. A foundation piece of any internet marketing program, Mr. Bartolotta explained, is a good, user-friendly website. According to Mr. Barlotta, the web is the best way to reach specific targeted demographics by utilizing social media sites like facebook and twitter to reach out to customers efficiently and immediately.
 
[View Jim Bartolotta Presentation]

 


 

aarpMarquett Smith, President of the Upstate New York Region for Verizon Wireless, spoke about the ways Verizon wireless solutions can help businesses streamline communications and improve their connectivity. Mr. Smith introduced a new device to the audience called a 'My-Fi,' a light and portable wireless card that allows you to access your local hotspot along with four others. It can be used traveling and uses a password system to limit the number of users that can log on. Mr. Smith admitted that most networks have similar devices but argued that Verizon's 3G cross coverage provides Verizon customers with more coverage and fewer dead spots than other networks. Additionally, Mr. Smith noted that Verizon can help businesses find the technology solutions that are right for them through their small business plans specifically designed to provide devices, support, and services to small businesses at discounted prices.
 

 

 

Keynote Speaker
 
Congressman Chris Lee

 

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Hillary Clarkfrom the American Cancer Societyintroduced the key-note speaker of the day, Congressman Chris Lee
Congressman Leeserves on the House Committee on Financial Services and was recently named one of Politico's rookie Congressmen of the year.  A republican with over two decades experience in the private sector Congressman Lee brings to Congress a strong voice for fiscal conservatism and deregulation. Congressman Lee began his speech by expressing the wish that more members of Congress had private sector experience, as opposed to being career politicians, so that they would know how hard government can make it to be a successful businessman. In fact, Congressman Lee claimed that, since coming to the capitol, he had not seen a single bill that would help small businesses succeed. Congressman Lee believes that in order to grow out of the current recession the government needs to start setting clear goals, such as doubling manufacture in America in the next twenty years (he noted that manufacturing in Rochester had been halved in the last two decades). Additionally, Congressman Lee argued that, in a globalized economy, it is essential that government allow businesses compete with their counterparts in Europe and Asia by relaxing the rules and standards that he sees as preventing American business from excelling in the international market. If cost of sales for American businesses is more than it is in Europe or Asia, the Congressman continued, then health care reform is simply not an option business can consider in a recession. Lee went on to say that he was firmly opposed to the current health care bill and commented that it is so large it never had a chance to pass. Instead, Lee suggests that the bill should be broken up into manageable chunks that both sides of the aisle can agree on.
 
On a local note, Congressman Lee contended that there is little to no incentive for businessmen to base their operations out of New York because of the high cost of workers compensation and the small business tax the state imposes. Congressman Lee expressed his dissatisfaction with the President's plan to freeze spending in 2011 as well as his plan to allow the deficit to grow to $14 trillion. Expanding on this point, the Congressman commented, "When we start paying out in interest to other countries more than we give to Medicare or seniors, we've got a problem." Congressman Lee said he hoped to leave two legacies in Washington: one, to bring awareness to the issues facing manufacturing in this country and two, to add transparency so that voters can understand how their representatives are voting and why. Congressman Lee finished by stressing his commitment to fiscal responsibility as well as to his desire to see a currency reform bill passed that would allow American businesses to level the playing field with trading partners like China, where currency manipulation allows businesses to substantially increase profits on imports.

 

The event concluded with Tom Gillett, Director of BALCONY Rochester, who thanked the staff, panelists, and Congressman Lee for attending and expressed his hope that attendance for BALCONY forums like this one will continue to grow in order that BALCONY can continue to put on forums like this one and further their mission of finding common ground between business and labor.   


FORUM COMMITTEE

Lou Gordon, Director, BALCONY
 
Tom Gillett, Director, BALCONY Rochester
 
Hillary Clarke, Regional Advocacy Director and Federal Issues Manager, American Cancer Society
 
Mike Leary, Sr. VP of Administration, Rochester Primary Care Network

Editor: Nicholas Kapustinsky

Design: Kevin R. Weaver




For more information, contact

Lou Gordon, Director

 

BALCONY | 633 Third Avenue | 16th Floor | New York, NY 10017 | (212) 219-7777

loug@balconynewyork.com

www.balconynewyork.com

 

 

BALCONY NYC ACCESS FOR SMALL BUSINESS FORUM:  
MAY 6, 2010 at 8 a.m.

 

NY Chamber of Commerce

 

Greater New York Chamber of Commerce at Madison Square Garden Business Fair.
 
BALCONY hosts Health Care Panel.

 

 

For more information, click here: Fair Flyer

 

A Time for Change

Cornell

An International Health Care Conference

BALCONY is a sponsor of the
international health care conference


"A Time for Change:
Restructuring America's Health Care
Delivery System"


May 11-12 in New York City

Designed for health care practitioners, management and labor leaders, researchers and policymakers, the event is being organized by Cornell University's ILR School.

Click here for more information:  Cornell

 

 

 

 BALCONY MEMBERS DIRECTORY (Spring 2010)



 

 

 



BALCONY, the Business and Labor Coalition of New York, represents more than 1,000 New York businesses, labor unions, and trade associations. BALCONY seeks common ground in the public policy debate in New York to spur economic development through the adoption of business/union friendly, socially responsible common sense laws that maintain and improve the quality of life for working New Yorkers.

 

BALCONY is a 501C4
Contributions are not tax deductible.

BALCONY NEW YORK
633 Third Avenue, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10017
(212) 219-7777
www.balconynewyork.com

Director, Lou Gordon: loug@balconynewyork.com