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Westchester CFOs honored for innovations

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Back, from left: Chuck Schwartz, Peter Ferraro Jr., Geoffrey Barsky, Chris Jones, Steve Eigen, Bob Hultgren.
Front, from left: Tiffany Lakness, Christina Villanueva, Jennifer Scheuermann. Photo by Sebastian Flores

What keeps you up at night, if you are a CFO?

That’s the question posed to honorees at the Westchester County CFO of the Year Awards on Oct. 10 at The Briarcliff Manor.

We live in an era of specialization, Bud Hammer, president of Atlantic Westchester Inc. in Bedford Hills, said of the vital work of chief financial officers.

CFOs, he said, are not just the person in charge of payroll or the nuts and bolts of financing a business. They have to be both reactive and proactive, protecting assets and identifying opportunities. They have to be innovative and to think strategically for the long term, to enable a business to grow and flourish, he said.

Nominees were judged by Andi Gray, founder of Strategy Leaders Inc.; Robert J. Chersi, executive director of the Center for Global Governance, Reporting and Regulation at Pace University; and Francis Petit, an associate dean at the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University.

The sixth annual event was presented by the Westchester County Business Journal and RSM, an audit, tax and consulting service that caters to middle-market companies.

The winners were chosen for strategic thinking and management and leadership skills that exemplify how organizations grow.

Geoffrey Barsky of Family Services of Westchester navigates difficult economic times as he oversees a $22 million budget. His organization relies on a variety of funding and donations, so cash flow is always on his mind.

Steven M. Eigen of Central National Gottesman Inc. in Purchase, a privately owned marketer of pulp and paper with 2,500 employees, said it all comes down to having the right people working for you.

Peter A. Ferraro II is CFO of a family business, Westchester Self Storage. His success is dependent on adapting to an ever-changing real estate market.

Robert C. Hultgren of Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co. has helped his Elmsford manufacturing company grow to $350 million, from $30 million, in 31 years. He worries about unpredictable business cycles.

Tiffany Lakness, co-owner of ABC Energy in White Plains, a natural gas and electricity supplier, dwells on trouble-shooting various scenarios.

Jennifer Scheuermann of the Alzheimer’s Association, Hudson Valley Chapter, worries about the availability of funds, new regulations and the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s on families, communities and the nation.

Chuck F. Schwartz of Paraco Gas in Rye Brook thinks about the challenges of structuring acquisitions and ensuring smooth transitions and successful transactions.

Christina Villanueva of United Hebrew retirement community in New Rochelle concentrates on the vagaries of health care funding, to make sure the staff has what it needs to take care of the residents.

Christopher Jones is co-founder of Durante Rentals, a Bronx-based construction equipment business, for which he has raised more than $40 million in debt capital to fund growth. What keeps him up at night?

“Not much,” he said. With a great team, great partners and a solid balance sheet, “Whatever comes our way, we’re ready for.”

Four awardees were unable to attend: Daniel Fumai of ANC, Lee Bendett of Lothrop Associates LLP, Edward Bowler of USI insurance and Sandra Stark of BMW of Mount Kisco.

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