Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More Than a Competition

Alignment, Assets, and Acceleration are three words that come to my mind when I think of economic development. We can grouse about the “Great Recession” and the substantial economic hits our region has taken over the past two decades, or we can turn our attention to the future and do something about it.

The Governor’s current Regional Economic Development Council competition is something that warrants our attention and effort. The Governor has created ten regions across the state with councils charged with developing a strategic plan to guide economic development priorities for the next five years. The regions will compete for state funding with $40 million awarded to the top four plans and the remaining $40 million divided among the other six regions.

I am honored to be a member of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council and share the mindset of my fellow council members – we are in it to win it. But beyond the initial $200 million, the plan will guide proposals from our region for another $800 million of available state aid dollars. The real victory will be in having a cohesive plan for the entire six-county region.

I chair the vision workgroup, and that experience has reinforced the importance of alignment, assets, and acceleration for me. Our region comprises six counties – Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie, Otsego, Herkimer, and Oneida. The notion of aligning economic development priorities across six incredibly diverse and loosely connected counties will certainly be a challenge. Yet this process frames a larger discussion for everyone and challenges us all to think bigger than our current daily perspectives. The alignment of regional priorities has the potential to create new dialogue and opportunities that might not happen otherwise.

Through community participation meetings in Cooperstown and Utica (more are scheduled), I’ve been reminded of the many assets of this region and the diverse resources that serve as tremendous building blocks for an overarching economic development strategy. It’s important to keep our lens wide when considering economic development priorities that can account for all the assets and maximize their potential throughout the region.

The final theme for me in this process is acceleration. The regional approach to this initiative is fast-paced, as we began our work on August 11 and must have a plan submitted by November 14. In the meantime, we have multiple processes simultaneously under way, including community town hall meetings to gain insight from all corners of the region. By developing priorities that align the region around the assets that currently exist, our work and progress can be accelerated much more than if we were six counties working independently, leaving the alignment to chance.

They say the formula for success=preparation + opportunity.  I believe this plan will prepare our region to take advantage of opportunities, whether it’s this current round of funding or future opportunities.

When I think about this region as a whole, I’m reminded of the phrase, “Attitude determines your Altitude,” but perhaps that’s a title for a future a future blog post.

For more information on the Regional Economic Development Council initiative, please visit http://nyworks.ny.gov/content/mohawk-valley.  

If you have any comments on this post, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Campus Dining Options

If you have any comments on this post, please email me at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001 ... never forget

A flag flies over a firetruck on MVCC's Utica Campus during the "Tribute to 9/11" event on September 1.

Like most Americans older than our current college freshmen, I remember exactly where I was at 9:00 a.m. on September 11, 2001.  I was in my office and my assistant said, “Hey, did you hear a plane crashed into the World Trade Center?” In disbelief, we thought it was a terrible accident. Then, three minutes later she shouted, “Another plane crashed into the other tower.” Even though we lived in Omaha, Nebraska, everything closed down by noon, and I remember, like most everyone, being glued to the television all afternoon and well into the night – knowing the world had changed, but changed in ways unknown to us at the time.
Exterior aluminum sheathing from the World Trade Center is on display as part of the "New York Remembers" exhibit on MVCC's Utica campus.

Those memories have become even more vivid for me as the 10th anniversary of the attacks arrives.  MVCC is fortunate to have our Utica Campus selected as one of 30 sites around New York state to host a 9/11 exhibit of artifacts from that tragic day. The six artifacts, which include a piece of glass from one of the towers, a fragment of one of the airplanes that struck the buildings, and a piece of aluminum from the center’s fa├žade, is on view from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday in the lobby of the IT Building through the end of September. Every time I’m in that building, I have to pause and reflect – it’s powerful to have such an exhibit right here on one of our campuses.

Lt. Mickey Kross (Retired) of the New York Fire Department speaks during the "Tribute to 9/11" event in MVCC's IT Theater on September 1.

 Beyond the exhibit, we were also able to host a program by the Maynard Fire Department that allowed our community to connect with the memory of the attacks in a more personal way. The packed theater on our Utica Campus allowed the 450 or so people in attendance to hear from two heroes who were at the World Trade Center the morning of September 11, 2001.  Lt. Mickey Kross (Retired) of the New York Fire Department shared his story of helping people from the burning wreckage of the North Tower of the World Trade Center when the building suddenly collapsed, trapping Kross, the firefighters, a police officer and an office secretary under tons of debris in Stairwell B. Miraculously, all were able to escape. It’s one thing to watch videos and see photographs of the devastation of that day on television and online, but it’s another to hear a first-hand account from a true hero.

Staff Sergeant Kevin Hughes, USMC, speaks during the "Tribute to 9/11" event in MVCC's IT Theater on September 1.

We were also joined that night by another hero and MVCC alumnus, Staff Sergeant Kevin Hughes, USMC. Hughes, who was a Wall Street investment banker and tank commander in the United States Marine Corps Reserves, was in his Deutsche Bank office in the South Tower of the World Trade Center during the attacks. He not only got out of the buildings safely, but was among the first U.S. troops to enter Iraq at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, where he conducted combat operations securing areas up to and including the Presidential Palace in Baghdad. The humility of these men and their courageous stories reinforced for me the magnitude of the attacks and the wars that have followed since.

Hughes and Kross lay a wreathe at the September 11 Memorial on the Parkway in Utica, across the street from MVCC.

In these challenging economic times, it’s easy to take an isolationist perspective – focus on ourselves and let the rest of the world deal with itself. I believe an even more aggressive approach to understand our world, and our place in it, is what’s necessary.  The 9/11 exhibit and activities of the past few weeks have reinforced the significance of MVCC’s commitment to diversity and a global view through our DGV graduation requirements and our increasing commitment to international education. Expanding our own understanding of our world through education and experience is one of the best long-term defenses against ever having an attack such as September 11, 2001, happen again. As Asst. Chief Jared A. Pearl, of the Marcy Fire Department, said just before introducing 11-year-old bagpiper, David Nicola, to close the ceremony, “never forget…we must never forget.”

This bench was crafted by members of the Welders Among Communities club at MVCC as a memorial to the first responders and victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It is on display in MVCC's IT Lobby until the end of the month.

If you have any thoughts or comments on this post, please contact me at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Serving Students

If you have any comments on this post, please contact me at presblog@mvcc.edu.


(MVCC President Randall J. VanWagoner:)

For the past four years, I've been writing on my blog every week, trying to share reflections and insights from the incredible experiences that I've had the good fortune to experience here at the college.

You may have noticed recently I have been trying to use the power of video to bring those experiences to you in new and creative ways. And this week is no different.

I'm here at the fifth annual Student Barbecue sponsored by Student Congress right here at our Utica campus.


(John Coleman:)

My name is John Coleman, I'm the president of Student Congress, and this is the Welcome Back Barbecue, this is our opportunity to meet and greet new students, and be able to interact with them, and being able to interact with administration, and being able to show them that students mean a lot more than being numbers.


As an administrator, too much of my day is spent in meetings, so the opportunity to be able to get out and interact with students in an informal way, like the Student Barbecue presents, it's just the highlight of my day. So now, I'm off to the Rome Campus, for the Student Barbecue there, again, as part of the Welcome Week activities here.

Have a great week.