PLATTSBURGH — Bling Fling went beyond the theme and guests’ attire at the North Country Chamber of Commerce annual Awards Dinner, as the winners themselves provided sparkle aplenty.
2013 BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake was named 2013 Business of the Year.
Trudeau Institute President, Director and CEO Dr. Ronald Goldfarb welcomed the award, citing the dedicated and talented staff there.
“On behalf of the entire Trudeau Institute, I’m extremely pleased we have received this distinction and honor,” he said. “It is gratifying that we received this from the chamber, as we respect the great work they do.”
Announcement of the biotech research facility’s most recent success came in November — that it will partner with Clarkson University and New York state to develop better ways to deliver health treatment.
The state plans to invest up to $35 million in the next five years in support of research and development collaborations between Trudeau and Clarkson, with the first $5 million awarded as part of the third round of Regional Economic Development Council awards in December.
Goldfarb said it is exciting to guide the collaboration between two such renowned institutions, which will leverage Trudeau’s expertise in immunology and and infectious diseases and Clarkson’s in engineering, science and entrepreneurship.
He is grateful for the support Trudeau Institute has received through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council and its co-chairs, Chamber President Garry Douglas and Clarkson President Dr. Tony Collins.
“They understand Trudeau Institute has a lot to offer the North Country,” Goldfarb said.
Trudeau has been identified as one of the council’s priorities, a status that is aiding in securing and expanding its place as an anchor of the biotech cluster that has developed in and around Saranac Lake, officials say.
That can only help the local economy, as more businesses that provide well-paying jobs come to the area, local officials point out. The money recirculates through communities and supports countless other businesses.
Trudeau Institute was also awarded $1.2 million in the first round of council awards in 2011. That money helped keep the institute in Saranac Lake and pave the way for its future growth.
Goldfarb said he is pleased to head the institute at a time when its future in Saranac Lake has been secured and positioned for growth. He said he never agreed with the view that it needed to relocate to further its development.
“I’m personally thrilled we are able to stay in Saranac Lake and prosper,” he said.
Goldfarb said that while people around the globe recognize Trudeau Institute’s world-class reputation, he is now working to make it more apparent to people throughout this region. He is actively seeking opportunities to make appearances to spread that word.
2013 JOE BORNSTEIN BUSINESSPEOPLE OF THE YEAR
Stephen and Victor Podd of Northstar Private Capital LLC and Rouses Point-based Powertex received the 2013 Joe Bornstein Businesspeople of the Year award.
“We were very surprised, obviously,” Stephen said.
The brothers formed Northstar Private Capital in March, shortly before they agreed, in April, to acquire the former Pfizer research facility in the Town of Chazy.
Rebranded as North Star Technology Center, the nearly 400,000-square-foot facility is under renovation for multi-tenant use as office, research, industrial, warehousing and distribution space.
Stephen said the chamber was instrumental in helping them decide to acquire the property, as were the County of Clinton Industrial Development Agency and its executive director, Erin Hynes.
The chamber has also been helpful as they identify potential tenants, Stephen said, and assists them in explaining the resources the region has to offer.
The move by the IDA to form Clinton Industrial Development Acquisition LLC allowed the company to acquire the facility in the summer of 2012. Empire State Development supported that with a $1.2 million grant for continued maintenance and marketing of the property, which helped keep the facility in excellent condition.
Stephen said his initial thoughts as he toured the property were how impressive it was and how it would be a shame to see it demolished if they didn’t act quickly.
“The infrastructure that is in place at the Chazy facility is world class. It is also extremely adaptable,” he said.
‘QUALITY JOBS TO COME’
Keeping the facility on the tax rolls is key for the Town of Chazy and Chazy Central Rural School.
The Podds are also pleased to work toward a goal of bringing quality jobs back to the Chazy area, Stephen said, although it is clear that will take time.
“We certainly didn’t view it as a short-term process,” he said.
The space has been listed on the website for Start-Up NY, which provides tax breaks for businesses to start, relocate or significantly expand in affiliation with colleges and universities.
The Podds feel the Chazy facility could provide readily available space for such ventures in conjunction with SUNY Plattsburgh or Clinton Community College, although designations of tax-exempt status are expected later this year.
The global marketing firm Binswanger is assisting in locating potential tenants for the space. The company has expertise in marketing large facilities located in small communities and has worked on other Pfizer properties.
Stephen said they are already in negotiations with some potential tenants and that Binswanger officials continue to deliver more contacts.
‘HARD WORK, DEDICATION’
The Podds are also looking at placing some of their out-of-state Powertex manufacturing operation at the site.
Their father, the late Victor Podd, started Powertex in Alburgh, Vt., in 1977 and moved the headquarters and manufacturing to Rouses Point in 1983.
It has been a leader in innovation in the bulk-packaging industry since that time, Stephen said.
“That is evidenced by our constant innovation in product design and performance,” he said.
Victor said their competitors have closed or moved overseas more than 15 years ago.
“We’re the last manufacturer in our sector in North America,” he said.
The Podds said many of their employees have been with the firm for 20 years or more, and the longevity and success of the company is a testament their work ethic.
“This is not only a recognition of us but our entire Powertex and Northstar team, as well,” Stephen said. “Their hard work and dedication is what has made us successful.”
SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
Parker Family Maple Farm, on Slosson Road in West Chazy, was chosen as the 2013 Small Business of the Year.
Owner Michael Parker said the entire family was excited by the recognition, especially given how many worthy businesses exist in the North Country.
“The more you think about it, the more you realize what an honor it is,” he said.
His father, Earl Parker, said his grandparents, Adolphus and Amelia Parker, first built a home on the property in 1884 and then bought 60 acres to start a dairy farm and maple-sugaring operation in 1889.
The original farm had 800 to 1,000 taps. This year, they expect to process sap from about 45,000 taps.
Earl said they still use the original sugarbush, which is referred to as the “home bush.” Kristina Parker-Wingler said that shows what a sustainable resource maple trees are when managed properly.
They decided several years ago to discontinue the dairy farm, as there isn’t enough land for an operation that would support three families, he said. And so they concentrated exclusively on maple production.
They have also moved into equipment sales and service, focused on industry giants such as Leader Evaporator and CDL. The Parker Family sugar house is featured this year on the cover of CDL’s catalog.
They now provide installation of tubing systems to bring sap from the taps to collection areas.
“We have everything you need,” Michael said.
The Parkers have installed a wood pellet-fueled evaporator, which is expected to save about 50 percent of the $30,000 they spent on fuel oil for the old unit each year. It is also another way to buy local and keep more money in the community.
The Parkers have been chamber members for more than 20 years. They said they appreciate the chamber’s efforts, especially in its recent promotion of agri-tourism.
“They have taken agri-tourism and made it shine in this region,” Kristina said, including in other sectors such as apples and vineyards.
The chamber has also been highly supportive of Maple Weekend events that take place regionally each March.
“That has grown exponentially,” Kristina said.
2013 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PARTNER OF THE YEAR
Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST) President and CEO James McKenna was named the Economic Development Partner of the Year.
McKenna said he was clearly surprised by the recognition. He said he has enjoyed working with the North Country Chamber for many years, and its leadership in advocacy for the region has been outstanding.
“I want to say I appreciate this, but I really want to say ‘Thank you,’” McKenna said
Chamber President Garry Douglas said McKenna is being recognized for several reasons, including more than 10 years of formal partnership between the North Country Chamber of Commerce and ROOST.
It was the first group to join with the chamber to establish the partnership model that has since grown to agreements between the North Country Chamber and 13 area chambers and business organizations and created a regional alliance with more than 4,200 members.
The chamber also recognizes McKenna for his “outstanding leadership” in the strategic development of tourism in the North Country. That includes his active leadership of the Tourism Development Working Group of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.
Finally, Douglas cited McKenna’s leading role in advancing tourism efforts in this region from a past concentration only on marketing to a new and more exciting focus on destination development.
VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR
City of Plattsburgh Historian John Krueger, who was previously director of the Kent-Delord House, was named 2013 Volunteer of the Year.
“I’m very surprised, I’m very grateful,” he said. “There’s nothing like being a cheerleader for the history and cultural heritage of this area, and I love doing it.”
Chamber Executive Vice President Jody Parks said Krueger has a wealth of knowledge about the region’s history.
As a retired University of Vermont professor, his love of learning and enthusiasm to share his knowledge has made him an invaluable member of the Adirondack Coasts Strategic Planning Committee, Beach Development and Discovery Center Committee, Adirondack Coast History Committee, Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration Weekend group, Lake Champlain Basin Program, Adirondack Coast Cultural Alliance and more.
“The chamber staff jokes that John is there so often, he should have an office in the building,” Parks said by email.
Kristy Kennedy, vice president for marketing of the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau, has had the pleasure of working with Krueger for several years.
“John brings knowledge, energy and levity to every meeting, and he has a quote for everything,” she said by email. “He lives and breathes the history of the Adirondack Coast. We are lucky to have him on our team.”
The chamber celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. Parks said Krueger was the first person they thought of to emcee the celebration event.
“Putting together a list of chamber’s accomplishments, challenges and projects for the past 100 years was a daunting task,” she said. “We couldn’t have done it without John’s help.”
Parks said Krueger brings history to life and looks forward to a bright future for the region.
“Thank you, John Krueger, for all you do.”
Email Dan Heath:email@example.com