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Business Council honors 2017 Hall of Fame businesses

Montefiore Health System, DeCicco & Sons, Valerie Wilson Travel among companies recognized.

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The Business Council of Westchester recognized six businesses with its Hall of Fame ceremony Tuesday night.

About 680 people attended this year’s annual awards at the Glen Island Harbour Club in New Rochelle.

The Montefiore Health System received the first award of the night. The Business Council recognized the health system for the group’s rapid expansion in the county. Those expansions include hospitals in New Rochelle, Nyack, Cornwall-on-Hudson, Mount Vernon and White Plains.

Honored with the Women in Business title was Valerie Wilson of Valerie Wilson Travel.

“I opened Valerie Wilson Travel 35 years ago with a little tiny dream to make a few people happy,” Wilson said. As she recounted in a video before her speech, the travel firm has since grown from a boutique agency to a $300 million company and the 33rd largest travel agency in the country.

Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty was recognized for entrepreneurial success. CEO Marsha Rand said that the company is the largest family owned real estate company in Westchester.

Leason Ellis LLP, a White Plains intellectual property firm, was recognized for small business success. Yuval Marcus, a partner at the firm, described the risk the company took launching a professional services firm during the financial crisis in 2008. But it paid off: the firm has grown from two to 30 attorneys in its nine years.

“Having the firm based in White Plains has enabled us to recruit highly skilled attorneys who live in the county, and take advantage of the cost of real estate to keep our cost structure low,” Marcus said.

Levitt-Fuirst Associates LTD, an insurance agency based in Tarrytown, was recognized with the Family Owned Business Award. The firm’s co-presidents noted in their highlight video that the firm is rare in that much of the insurance business is controlled by large companies.

The final award of the night went to DeCicco & Sons. The Westchester grocery chain received the Chairman’s Recognition Award.

“As a Westchester local business, we are as local as they come,” said John DeCicco Jr., one of five DeCiccos across two generations that lead the company.

DeCicco told the story of how the company grew from one store in 1984 in Pelham to the six total today in the county, plus one in Putnam County.

“We’ve made it our home,” he said.

Before the awards, Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino spoke, noting that Westchester has avoided the population decline seen in much of the state. He credited that to the business and educated workforce in the county.

“Westchester is a very smart place to do business,” Astorino said. “We are the intellectual capital of America,” crediting a high percentage of residents with advanced degrees, strong schools, health care and low-crime rate.

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