Westchester’s midsize companies, those which have between 50 and 500 employees, are being targeted in a new program by the county’s Office of Economic Development to provide access to government while letting the businesses know about ways in which the county stands ready to help them grow. The program is called ”Dinner and Dialogue” and has been developed in partnership with Manhattanville College.
Representatives of 10 midsize Westchester businesses attended a networking session in which they spoke with County Executive George Latimer and other officials, followed by dinner during which discussions continued. Subjects that came up ranged from taxes to the cost of living in Westchester and training and business development programs available through the county.
The kickoff event, which was held recently at the Reid Castle on the Manhattanville campus in Purchase, is scheduled to be followed by a second “Dinner and Dialogue” on Oct. 7, which will focus on health care.
Bridget Gibbons, the county’s director of economic development, told the Business Journal that the county had been looking for a centrally located venue for the event. Invitations to attend are sent to businesses.
“We had a conversation with Manhattanville and it was coincidence when they asked if the county would like to partner on any future initiatives,” she said. Gibbons said it was a natural fit since Manhattanville offers customized training for midsize businesses along with classes and certificate programs that would be relevant for the businesses and their employees.
“We have a good and solid relationship with our largest businesses,” Gibbons said. “We don’t necessarily have an opportunity to meet with those midsize businesses in an organized way.” There are approximately 600 businesses in the county that fit into the midsize category and over time the county wants to reach out and let all of them know “they can establish a relationship with the county executive and his senior team, to know that we are there to help, and that they can call us and, if there’s a question or problem or concern, they have a direct line to us.”
Latimer noted that the communication is a two-way street. “This new program is aimed at reaching the leaders of these companies to better understand the issues that are affecting their businesses.”
Manhattanville’s President Michael Geisler said that the college has initiatives including the launch of its Center for Design Thinking that involve the business community. “Events like this help us connect with business leaders and better understand their needs,” he said.
Laura Persky, associate dean of the School of Professional Studies at the college, said that becoming involved in the program was in the context of “Manhattanville’s longstanding commitment to partnering with and serving as a resource for businesses.” She said that its School of Professional Studies can be a pipeline for businesses that need to find dynamic and qualified professionals to add to their staffs.
One of the people who attended the event, David W. Lewing, who is the market president for the Hudson Valley and Metro New York at KeyBank, said, “I walked away from the dinner with a greater appreciation of the county executive’s commitment to growing business in our community, along with his willingness to listen to private-sector businesses’ concerns and engage in discussion about what local government can do to help address them.”