Past Events, Spring 2017
SUNY BEST 2/2/17
By: Orlatih Mccaffrey
February’s SUNY BEST event gave area professionals and community members the opportunity to discuss best practices and the future of sustainability in the Southern Tier.
SUNY BEST representative Laura Holmes said sustainability often makes people think of energy, but community sustainability is a much broader term.
Jeff Smith, who moderated the talk and serves on the board of Endicott Proud, stressed that sustainability takes on different contexts depending on the location. He said that although challenges including poverty and aging infrastructure exist regionally, the key to overcoming them is effective collaboration between community members.
An example of this collaboration, he said, was SUNY BEST itself, which was attended by over 60 community members.
John Saraceno, Jr., a sustainability manager at Keystone Associates, spoke of the path he helps companies take to actively engage in sustainability management, or the ongoing measurement of an entity's operations and how they impact the community and environment. He named improved insulation, the use of LED lights and on-site energy production as just a few ways in which companies can decrease both their own utility costs and the environmental costs to the community.
“When a company is socially responsible, they create better employees, better families and that leads to better communities,” he said.
Also contributing to the establishment of more stable communities through sustainability is VINES (Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments), a Binghamton nonprofit that aims to provide Broome County with a sustainable, healthy and affordable food supply. Since its creation in 2007, VINES has implemented a number of programs aimed at increasing Binghamton’s sustainability, including 20 urban farms throughout the city and a popular summer youth employment program.
Amelia LoDolce, VINES’ executive director, said one in seven Broome County residents is food insecure.
“It’s not just about food access, although that’s incredibly important,” she said. “Community gardens and urban agriculture have the ability to revitalize neighborhoods, create healthy people and support self-sufficiency.”
Dr. George Homsy, an assistant professor of public administration at Binghamton University, spoke about the relationship between sustainable efforts and the local governing bodies by which they are regulated. His research focuses on how local governments deliver planning and economic development services in regard to issues of sustainability.
“Local officials are starting to realize that we can save money by doing good for the environment,” Homsy said. “If all the streetlights are updated like they have been in Binghamton, over the long-term, the link between the environment and the economy becomes more evident.”
Homsy has taken a neighborhood-level approach to exploring sustainability possibilities in order to prioritize an aspect of sustainability that is often left out — social equity. For the past two years, much of his research in Binghamton has been through the Neighborhood Heritage Project.
“We want to work with local residents to understand what’s happening in the community, make a plan of action and act on it,” he said. “We’ve been working with students, getting them out into community and trying to learn the stories and the local knowledge of people.”
One of the talk’s attendees, David Gower, a board member of Green Resource Hub of the Finger Lakes, an Ithaca-area nonprofit that aims to expand the marketplace for sustainable living in local communities, said he enjoyed the forum for discussion that SUNY BEST provides.
“[Professor] Homsy’s talk I thought was really good and something new and pertinent,” he said. “It’s key to understand what’s going on at a local level."
Breaking Down the Silos 1/19/17
One of the most successful ways to grow the ecosystem of entrepreneurship is through networking and creating connections, especially within a geographical area. For years, our office, as well as other economic and entrepreneurial agencies in the area hosted their own separate monthly networking events.
After a discussion this past summer between our own Laura Holmes and Stacey Dunkin, the Assistant Director of The Agency, the idea of combining events and leveraging the pre-existing, albeit disconnected, networks to help grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The first event was held on September 13, 2016 at the Water Street Brewing Co. in downtown Binghamton.
With help from local organizations, over 70 people attended the event. Since then, attendance has grown to over 100 attendees. This event has made real connections between local businesses allowing them to take advantage of amazing opportunities that our area has to offer. At our October event at the M&T Bank in downtown Binghamton, a local small business was able to take out a small business loan from M&T, something they didn’t know they could do.
This month’s evening of networking once again had over 100 attendees and was hosted by Fahs Construction and catered by The Colonial. For more information on next month’s event please visit our Event’s Page.
SUNY BEST 1/5/17
By: Travis Clines
Suzanne McLeod the superintendent of the Union-Endicott School District compares innovation in K-12 education to poetry.
“I was an English teacher, so the best example of innovation I can give you is poetry,” said McLeod at the January edition of SUNY BEST. “Poetry is taking words that exist and recombining them in different ways, setting them up with different phrasing and using different punctuation to come out with completely different meanings.”
McLeod spoke to an audience of over 100 at Tiger Ventures, located in the Linnaeus W. West Primary School in Endicott, N.Y. The theme of this month’s BEST meeting was Innovation in K-12 Education. McLeod said the purpose of Tiger Ventures was to be an alternative high school that focuses on the six to 10% of students that are behind on receiving their regents diploma.
“We have opened it this year with just eighth and ninth graders. We are committed to the kids here at Tiger Ventures earning a regent’s diploma,” she said. “This is not a watered down program, they do regents coursework, they have clubs, sports, electives and foreign language.”
The program also features a makerspace for the students as well as startup space for local companies to use with the only stipulation being they mentor the students. The District Superintendent of BOCES, Allen Buyck talked about New Visions, a full-year program for seniors that offers a non-traditional program at various off-site locations.
“I think all of us are talking about adding a fourth “R”, which is relevance,” he said. “‘Why do I need to know how to calculate slope?’ Well if you’re using it on an actual project it clicks and they don’t think so much about learning a concept, they’re actually seeing how it will apply to their future.”
Tonia Thompson, interim superintendent of Binghamton City Schools stressed community partnerships in her talk. She told the audience of their issue retaining students in the early childhood programs. It took working with the community to discover the issue wasn’t with the program.
“It wasn’t because they didn’t want to come, it was because they couldn’t stay in their homes,” she said. “When you talk to our early childhood providers you find out the main reason for disenrollment in programs is eviction.”
Since then the school district has begun working with local partners on a program that removes unsafe houses from the area in an effort to decrease the eviction rate.
Jason Andrews said the region is suffering from a nostalgia for the past instead of looking toward future potential. The superintendent of the Windsor School District stressed the need for a job pipeline to prepare students for careers in the area. Two opportunities he focused on were Willow Run Foods, which is looking to hire near 50 people and Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc., which is looking to hire more than 450 people in the coming years.
He said the pipeline would work as a collaboration between business and education to make sure graduating seniors would have the skills hiring companies were looking for.
“If we can see in our community that we have these issues then the question has to be ‘What are we going to do collectively?’” Andrews said. “We’re really good at that blame game. It’s much harder to work to really get specific about it and come to the table. To me this isn’t about innovation it’s about collaboration.”
For more information on Tiger Ventures please visit here.