Business Council awards Westchester Business Champions

By John Golden

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From left, Anthony Justic, Business Council of Westchester chairman-elect; William McGrath, Pace University senior vice president; Hiroji Iwasaki, CEO of Kawasaki Rail Car; Marsha Gordon, Business Council president and CEO;   Dr. Steven Safyer, president and CEO of Montefiore Health System;  David Ring, managing director of  First Niagara Bank; and Stephen J. Jones, Business Council chairman. From left, Anthony Justic, Business Council of Westchester chairman-elect; William McGrath, Pace University senior vice president; Hiroji Iwasaki, CEO of Kawasaki Rail Car; Marsha Gordon, Business Council president and CEO; Dr. Steven Safyer, president and CEO of Montefiore Health System; David Ring, managing director of First Niagara Bank; and Stephen J. Jones, Business Council chairman.

Westchester County’s largest university, a Japanese subway and railroad car manufacturer and a Buffalo-based bank expanding its presence in this region were named winners this week of the quarterly Westchester Business Champion Awards by The Business Council of Westchester.

The awards to Pace University, Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. and First Niagara Bank were presented Monday at the Business Council’s Leadership Conversations Series at Manhattanville College.

Business Council President and CEO Marsha Gordon conferred the award on her alma mater, Pace, for its important role in the county’s economy. The county’s 13th-largest employer, Pace contributes $64 million annually in direct and indirect spending in Westchester, she said.

Pace officials last fall began construction on a $100 million consolidation project, the first phase of the university’s master plan to transform its 200-acre Pleasantville campus and move school operations there from its Briarcliff Manor campus.

Kawasaki Rail Car since 1987 has operated its U.S. corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility in the former Otis Elevator plant in Yonkers. The company this year was approved for a $500,000 state grant by Empire State Development directors to assist its $25 million purchase of its plant in the iPark Hudson complex.

Kawasaki Rail Cars CEO Hiroji Iwasaki said the company employs more than 400 workers. Half of its Yonkers employees are in administrative positions, according to the Business Council.

Accepting the award in Purchase, Iwasaki recalled as a high school student in Japan seeing photos of New York City subway cars covered with graffiti. “I said, OK, this is where we need to be” as a passenger car manufacturer.

Iwasaki said the Yonkers plant currently has contracts to produce up to 676 cars, “so we have a huge backlog.”

First Niagara Bank entered the Hudson Valley region and Connecticut’s Fairfield County in 2012, rapidly expanding its presence as a commercial lender and financing several major real estate developments, Gordon said when presenting the award to the Buffalo-based bank. David Ring, First Niagara’s managing director of enterprise banking, said the bank has made $1.3 billion in loans in this market.

First Niagara has 26 bank branches in the region, including five in Westchester communities. The bank recently announced it will move its tristate regional headquarters to Tarrytown from Nyack.

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About the author

John Golden
The Business Journal’s senior writer, John Golden directs news coverage of the county and Hudson Valley region as Westchester bureau chief. He was an award-winning upstate columnist and feature writer before joining the Business Journal in 2007. He is the author of “Northern Drift: Sketches on the New York Frontier,” a collection of his regional journalism.

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