The Chronicle-Express recognized for economic development coverage

John Christensen
Finger Lakes Economic Development Center CEO Steve Griffin (left) with Chronicle-Express employees Cheryl Maslyn, Karen Morris, Candy Scutt, Gwen Chamberlain, and John Christensen.

At the annual meeting of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center (Yates County’s sole economic/industrial development agency), the 2016 Willie Taaffe Memorial Yates Award was presented to The Chronicle-Express newspaper. The annual award is given to individuals and organizations “For dedicated service promoting economic & community development in Yates County.” Steve Griffin, CEO of FLEDC, stated that when he meets with other EDO/IDA executives, they complain about the negative relationships they have with the press.

“I keep hearing how economic development organizations struggle with their local media partners. More often than not, the media will try to find the negative in the story thinking there must be some ulterior motive behind any incentive given to a new or expanding business. I have always found that amazing as we have the opposite relationship in Yates County. All of our local media partners fully support our (FLEDC) efforts and positively report any new developments. When asked how that happens, I tell them that we simply talk to them. We believe our media outlets are partners in what we are trying accomplish here. And there is no doubt that they have helped us quiet the pessimists.

“While all our local media outlets are great partners, we wanted to especially recognize one of them this year. The Chronicle-Express has been a major part of this community for a very long time (having at least one building named after them). They not only do a fantastic job covering our developments, but are a major employer themselves in the community. When they show up at our monthly board meetings, there is never any sense of dread, it’s simply, ‘Good morning John.’”

“The news media rarely gets any congratulatory recognition. They seem only to be mentioned when they report something negative in someone’s opinion. We don’t say thank you enough to them.”

The award was accompanied by a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from U.S. Congressman Tom Reed, and a New York Sate Legislature Proclamation from State Senator Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.

In her acceptance remarks, Editor Gwen Chamberlain said, “We don’t get into this business for the ‘thank yous,’ and we certainly don’t go into to it to make a lot of money, but it’s the right thing to do, and it’s nice to be recognized by the community.”

The Community Award was presented to KanPak, the dairy product packaging company that has been rapidly expanding in the Horizon Business Park that is administered by the FLEDC board, and is a major employer in Yates County. The Community Award is given “For providing a major stimulus to the economic development in Yates County.” KanPak’s General Manager, Bryan Bartee, accepted the award for the entire KanPak team.

Former FLEDC Board Chairman Jim Long, of Longs’ Cards & Books, was presented with a plaque commemorating his years of service to the board.

Griffin opened the meeting with a moment not of silence, but of jubilation in memory of the late CEO of the Yates County Chamber of Commerce, Mike Linehan, for all the promotion and support he gave to business and community events during his career.

Griffin then outlined the financial health of FLEDC, with total assets of $7,554,434 and combined net assets of $7,048,353. Fifteen businesses paid off their loans in 2016, and FLEDC currently has 100 loans out with only two being considered at risk.

Bill Strassburg, Vice President of Strategic Planning for Wegmans Food Markets was the guest speaker, who stressed the importance of local agriculture in their stores, now spread over six states. He stated, however, that 98 percent of organic products are grown and shipped from the West Coast, and he stressed the need for more organics being produced here in the Northeast.

Griffin also introduced FLEDC’s newly hired Economic Development Specialist, Steven Brown, who replaces Kari DeWick, the outgoing Community Development Director, who has taken a job with Lyons National Bank as a loan originator in Penn Yan. Brown comes to FLEDC after years in Russia where he built a food company, Solntse Mexico, Russia’s only tortilla factory and Mexican food distributor. When Griffin mentioned the difficulty in negotiating permits and planning permissions in New York State, Brown asked him to imagine the difficulties in running a successful Mexican food company in Russia as an American, while speaking no Spanish and little Russian. Needless to say, Griffin is confident in Brown’s abilities and business acumen.