Choosing an individual to be named Person of the Year is never easy, but selecting one business leader who stood out in this strange and remarkable year proved to be a thankless task. In both Westchester and Fairfield County, there were a surplus number of business professionals whose achievements helped to cauterize the chaos created in 2020’s pandemic and redirect the region back into a growth pattern.
For 2021, the Business Journal is paying tribute to 10 men and women who stand out in their respective industries for their intrepid and intelligent leadership skills and for an indefatigable spirit aimed at success. Our Persons of the Year have changed the region for the better, and as we head into 2022 we are grateful to have them working among us to secure a better and brighter tomorrow.
Nicholas Coriano was running the Bridgeport-based business startup consultancy Cervitude before he was hired in April as vice president of East Coast operations at 3DX Industries Inc., a Ferndale, Washington, company focused on 3D printing applications that specializes in the additive metal manufacturing and plastic printing segments. In October, he was back in Bridgeport to open 3DX Industries’ first East Coast office at the University of Bridgeport’s Bauer Hall Innovation Center. He is in talks with the university for the creation of an additive manufacturing degree program, and he told the Business Journal that one of his 2022 goals is “recruit other companies to come and be a part of this ecosystem for additive manufacturing. We can create another manufacturing hub back in the United States.”
Margaret Feeney is in a unique position to see the future of the region’s high-tech sector. She is the director of the UConn Stamford Technology Incubator Program — more commonly known as TIP Digital — which launched earlier this year in collaboration with the nonprofit StamfordNext. The program offers startups in the data science space a variety of perks, including lab and office space, participation in educational and networking events, access to UConn’s research facilities, and input from industry mentors and UConn’s entrepreneurs-in-residence. Under Feeney’s direction, a new wave of data sciences startups is establishing their presence, with 23 companies in the program’s first year cohort. Rarely has one person like Feeney been in a position to help so many startups grow in such a short period of time.
Susan Fox is widely respected for the leadership role she continues to play as president and CEO of White Plains Hospital, where she successfully guided its growth and enhanced its medical capabilities. Fox also plays a prominent role in the county’s business community, most visibly as the new board chairman of the Westchester County Association. She has been active outside of the hospital as chairperson on the Board of Directors of Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association, a member of the Board of Visitors of the Columbia University School of Nursing, a board member of the Healthcare Association of New York State, and chair of the American Hospital Association (AHA)-Regional Policy Board, among other organizations.
Wilson Kimball is being highlighted not only for her influence on the direction of development in Yonkers, but also for her promoting the importance of safe, comfortable, affordable housing for current and new residents. Kimball currently heads the Municipal Housing Authority for the City of Yonkers. She previously served as the city’s commissioner of planning and development. Before that she had been senior vice president of operations for the Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City Authority in New York City. She formerly was counsel to former New York First Lady Libby Pataki advising her on policy issues, including economic development, women and children’s health and tourism.
Greg King is CEO of the Tarrytown-based cryptocurrency-focused investment product provider Osprey Funds. Formerly the digital asset subsidiary of Fairfield-based REX Shares, Osprey Funds spun off as an independent entity in March and has zoomed through 2021 with offerings, including the Osprey Polkadot Trust, the Osprey Solana Fund and the Osprey Polygon Fund — the latter is the first U.S. fund to invest exclusively in MATIC, the native token of the Polygon network. Last month, King announced the launch of the Osprey Alpha LLC, a division to activly manage funds for institutions and high-net-worth investors; Osprey Alpha will debut its inaugural product, the Osprey NFT Fund, in early 2022. King has also become a sought-after thought leader in financial media, offering insight on the fast-growing world of digital assets.
William S. Null was selected not only for his activity as an attorney but for the roles he plays in the nonprofit and business communities. Null is a partner at the White Plains-based law firm Cuddy & Feder. He has been a regular presence in front of government agencies, helping guide to approval numerous real estate developments. Null also is one of the 16 founders of The Westchester Bank, a prominent financial institution in the county. He has been active with the Westchester Chapter of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, White Plains Hospital Center, Gilda’s Club Westchester and the White Plains Bridge of Friendship Foundation.
Howard Saffan is one of the very few people who can take credit for changing a city’s skyline. As the developer and principal of the Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater, he spearheaded the effort to repurpose the former Bridgeport Bluefish baseball stadium into a 5,700-capacity venue that hosts major music acts. Working in a public-private partnership with the city of Bridgeport and LiveNation, Saffan persevered through an endeavor that hit more than a few potholes, including Covid-related construction delays that drove up the endeavor to a $30 million-plus budget. Nonetheless, the July 28 opening concert by REO Speedwagon and Styx was a sold-out hit, and he is looking to 2022 with plans to host “in excess of 75 events” next year, including some 40 concerts — with 13 already booked.
Bill Taibe is something of an icon in Fairfield County’s restaurant scene. As the owner of For the Food Restaurant Group, he is the driving force behind three of Westport’s most popular eateries: The Whelk, Don Memo and Kawa Ni. And while the pandemic created havoc across the restaurant industry, Taibe not only weathered the storm but came out of the Covid-induced chaos with a fourth restaurant, The Norwalk Art Space Café. In view of his ongoing achievements and a lifetime of culinary honors, as well as his extensive volunteer work within the Westport and Weston communities, Taibe was honored as the Connecticut Restaurant Association’s 2021 Restaurateur of the Year.
John Visentin took the leadership reins as CEO and vice chairman at Norwalk-headquartered Xerox Holdings Corp. in May 2018 when the company was unwinding from an aborted merger with Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings. This year, Visentin reinvented Xerox with an innovative restructuring that created three businesses focused on software, financing and innovation. He also secured a new partnership with the U.S. Navy to focus on 3D printing research to create metal parts and equipment for the Navy and Marine Corps, and he wrapped up a trio of acquisitions that expanded Xerox’s operations across North America. Visentin is rarely visible in the media, but in his quiet way he has steered Xerox into what promises to be an exciting future.
Michael Zarin of the White Plains-based law firm Zarin & Steinmetz was selected not only for his activity as an advocate for numerous development projects in Westchester but also for his activity as a proponent of responsible actions regarding the environment. In addition to serving on the New York State Bar Association’s Environmental Section and being co-chair of its Land Use Committee, Zarin taught a course at the New York University Real Estate Institute entitled dealing with environmental problems in real estate transactions. He has been a guest lecturer at the Pace University School of Law Environmental Master’s Program. In business, one of the corporate boards on which he serves is at TCI Inc., the largest PCB decommissioning and recycling company in North America.
Compiled by Phil Hall and Peter Katz