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28 People You Need to Know to Do Business in Westchester

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(L to R) Jaime McGill, Thom Kleiner, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Natasha Caputo
Photo by Stefan Radtke. Makeup by Ashley Corcello, Salon Posh

If you want to do business in Westchester, make sure you’re within the proverbial six degrees of separation of these heavy-hitters.

By Amy R. Partridge & Duke Ratliff

Photo courtesy of Ben Boykin II

Photo courtesy of Ben Boykin II

Who: Ben Boykin II
What: Westchester County Legislator
Why: The four-time county legislator and longtime CPA with corporate stints at Deloitte and RJR Nabisco has devoted himself to nonprofit organizations for more than 30 years. If you hear a hint of a Southern accent when he speaks, it’s a reminder of just how far he’s come from being born a North Carolina sharecropper’s son — and why he’s so civic-minded.

He is a four time county legislator, a longtime CPA, and a veteran corporate exec.

Noam Bramsom

Photo by Stefan Radtke

Who: Noam Bramsom
What: Mayor, City of New Rochelle
Why: Mayor Noam Bramson has overseen zoning changes and fast-track permits, leading to an expansive downtown development plan, including new residential towers and retail, plus upgraded parks and playgrounds. Next on his agenda? Perhaps it’s renaming the city Newer Rochelle… Newest Rochelle… or even the New New Rochelle!

Natasha Caputo

Photo by Stefan Radtke

Who: Natasha Caputo
What: Director, Tourism & Film, Westchester County
Why: When you see a familiar Westchester locale in a movie, TV show, or commercial, chances are it’s thanks to Natasha Caputo. She oversees everything that is related to attracting and servicing filmmakers to the area, including promoting its diverse locations. Film production generates more than $30 million a year for the county — as well as cool bragging rights.

Heidi Davidson, PhD

Photo by John Vecchiola

Who: Heidi Davidson, PhD
What: Chairman of the Board, Business Council of Westchester (BCW)
Why: Because Marsha Gordon can’t run Westchester entirely by herself, other top execs at the BCW are in-demand for their expertise and insights — none more so than Heidi Davidson, PhD, who was elected as BCW’s chairman in 2020. Davidson, who is also CEO of marketing-and-communications consultancy Galvanize Worldwide, has earned high praise for initiatives that include the launch of BCW’s Data Exchange and for helping to keep BCW members virtually connected throughout the pandemic.

Jan Fischer

Photo by Stefan Radtke

Who: Jan Fischer
What: Executive Director, Nonprofit Westchester (NPW)
Why: Anyone who thinks the nonprofit sector flies under the radar in Westchester hasn’t met Jan Fisher. As head of Nonprofit Westchester, the well-networked Fisher works hard to ensure that the impact, capacity, and visibility of the nonprofit sector in Westchester County remains high. Throughout the pandemic, NPW served as a key resource for its nonprofit members, which provide vital services to residents and comprise a large employee base throughout the county.

She works hard to ensure the visibility of our nonprofit sector.

Jon A. Dorf

Photo by Stefan Radtke

Jonathan B. Nelson

Photo by Stefan Radtke

Who: Jon A. Dorf & Jonathan B. Nelson
What: Partners, Dorf & Nelson
Why: Paying more than just lip service to the importance of a diverse and inclusive workforce, Jon Dorf and Jonathan Nelson run the first law firm in the U.S. to receive Gender Fair Certification. Dorf, Nelson, and their team of lawyers not only enjoy a progressive workplace but also serve up top-notch counsel to a wide range of local corporations and entrepreneurs, with sought-after practice areas ranging from commercial real estate and intellectual property to labor and medical-malpractice defense.

Tim Foley

Photo courtesy of Tim Foley

Who: Tim Foley
What: CEO, The Building & Realty Institute of Westchester & the Mid-Hudson Region
Why: A resurgence of respect for Westchester’s essential industries may well be one of the pandemic’s silver linings. Leveraging this momentum to advocate the interests of the region’s building, realty, and construction professionals, newly promoted CEO Tim Foley plans to continue leading the BRI by focusing on smart growth, affordable housing, and common-sense sustainability.

Bridget Gibbons

Photo by Toshi Tasaki

Who: Bridget Gibbons
What: Director of Economic Development, Westchester County
Why: As director of economic development, Bridget Gibbons is focused on helping businesses prosper in Westchester County. She’s headed the Element46 business incubator program, incentivized foreign corporations to open offices in the county, and most recently helped launch the county’s Economic Development Strategy, Recovery and Development Plan. Gibbons knows that post-pandemic businesses in the county are increasingly incorporating technology and digitalization to make their companies more competitive. Can you say, “advanced manufacturing”?

She has headed a business incubator and incentivized companies to come here.

Martin Ginsburg

Photo by Toshi Tasaki

Who: Martin Ginsburg
What: Founder & Principal, Ginsburg Development Companies (GDC)
Why: Toss a rock along the shores of the Hudson River, and there’s a good chance it will land on property either owned, developed, or enhanced by Martin Ginsburg, whose GDC has been building prestigious residential developments in Westchester and Rockland for more than 50 years. Ginsburg also recently opened The Abbey Inn & Spa in Peekskill (ranked one of the best new hotels in the country by USA Today in 2020) and has continued to be an advocate for helping the Rivertowns improve their waterfronts.

Marsha Gordon

Photo courtesy of Business Council of Westchester

Who: Marsha Gordon
What: President/CEO, Business Council of Westchester (BCW)
Why: Here’s a tip for any newcomer to the Westchester business community: Talk to Marsha Gordon. Whether it’s healthcare, labor, hospitality, or general business, BCW’s president and CEO knows the ins and outs like no one else. Her status was confirmed yet again last year, when she was named to Westchester County Executive George Latimer’s Reopening Task Force.

Anne Janiak

Photo courtesy of Women’s Enterprise Development Center

Who: Anne Janiak
What: Founder & CEO, Women’s Enterprise Development Center (WEDC)
Why: Helping women “roar” a little louder has been Anne Janiak’s calling for her entire career. Since 1997, Janiak has served as founder and CEO of WEDC, a White Plains-based nonprofit microbusiness-development organization that helps women achieve economic self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship. With advice, training, and capital for entrepreneurs, Janiak’s WEDC has helped countless women launch, maintain, and expand small businesses in Westchester.

William Harrington, Esq.

Photo courtesy of Bleakley, Platt & Schmidt

Who: William Harrington, Esq.
What: Chairman, Board of Directors, Westchester County Association
Why: One of the reigning elder statesmen of Westchester’s business and legal community, William Harrington may indeed know everyone in the 914 (or at least it seems that way). As partner and head of the Litigation and Toxic Tort/Complex Litigation Practice Groups at prestigious law firm Bleakley Platt & Schmidt, Harrington knows his way around a legal brief. His steadfast service to the WCA has helped invigorate the local think tank on such important issues as workforce development and promotion of the healthcare sector.

Thom Kleiner

Photo by Tom Artin

Who: Thom Kleiner
What: Executive Director, Westchester-Putnam Workforce Development Board
Why: Westchester County is open for business, and Thom Kleiner is focused on expanding all opportunities to make the county a destination for commerce. He’s also responsible for developing the policies and outreach efforts to maximize employment opportunities for residents of Westchester and Putnam counties.

He is focused on making the county a destination for commerce.

Janet Langsam

Photo courtesy of ArtsWestchester

Who:  Janet Langsam
What: CEO, ArtsWestchester
Why: A force in the Westchester arts scene (some say she is the Westchester arts scene) for more than two decades, Janet Langsam headed up the Restart the Arts program earlier this year to help artists and organizations get back on their feet in the post-pandemic environment. The result: $1 million in state funding for area arts organizations.

Some say she is the Westchester arts scene — and has been for more than two decades.

Louie Lanza

Photo by Ken Gabrielsen

Who: Louie Lanza
What: Owner, Hudson Hospitality Group
Why: For residents of Northern Westchester, Peekskill is an entertainment destination. With its mixture of galleries, restaurants, and performance spaces, it’s a suburban entertainment cocktail, and Louie Lanza, owner of numerous Peekskill properties — many of which house the city’s most popular restaurants and entertainment venues — is the straw that stirs the drink.

George Latimer

Photo courtesy of Westchester County Government

Who: George Latimer
What: County Executive, Westchester County
Why: From reducing property taxes and improving the airport to banning gun shows, promoting diversity, and leading the post-pandemic recovery, George Latimer performs a high-wire balancing act to rival the most accomplished tightrope walker. So far, he’s received plaudits and positive reviews for his administration’s actions on business development, with efforts like an incubator program for new businesses and funding for COVID relief. (We only wish he let the circus come to town!)

Jaime McGill

Who: Jaime McGill
What: Executive Director, Yonkers Industrial Development Association
Why: You may have heard that there’s a lot of new development going on in Yonkers? (If you haven’t, we’re not sure what to say.) As ED of the Yonkers IDA, Jaime McGill has her fingers on the city’s frenetic pulse — and its purse strings — when it comes to funding incentives for projects with dizzying dollar figures, such as the $181 million Teutonia Buena Vista residential complex and a $177 million waterfront conversion project, among others.

There is a lot of development going on in Yonkers. She has her finger on the city’s pulse — and its purse strings.

Ross Pepe

Photo courtesy of Construction Industry Council

Who: Ross Pepe
What: President, Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley (CIC) and President, Building Contractors Association of Westchester & the Mid-Hudson (BCA)
Why: If you build it in Westchester, Ross Pepe is probably involved in some way. As head of both the CIC and BCA, as well as executive director of the Construction Advancement Institute of Westchester & Mid-Hudson, his legendary influence spans a 50-year career in the local building trades. Seek him out for wise counsel on any building, construction, or industry labor-relations matters.

Deb Milone

Photo by Howard Copeland

Who: Deb Milone
What: President, Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce (HVCC)
Why: Northern Westchester small-business owners know that Deb Milone has got their backs: In the decade since becoming its president, Milone has helped increase the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce’s membership rolls from 324 to more than 520 and has acted as a strong business advocate for them throughout the pandemic. Her leadership helped the Chamber nab a “Chamber of the Year” honor in 2015 from the Business Council of New York State.

Tom Roach

Photo by Stefan Radtke

Who: Tom Roach
What: Mayor, City of White Plains
Why: White Plains Mayor Tom Roach, who has run the New York City Marathon in under three hours, will be the first to tell you that Downtown redevelopment is a marathon, not a sprint. So far, he’s clocked in with major enhancements to Downtown, improvements to the city’s financial outlook, and spearheaded important environmental and sustainability initiatives.

He knows that Downtown redevelopment is a marathon, not a sprint.

Michael Romita

Photo courtesy of Westchester County Association

Who: Michael Romita
What: President/CEO, Westchester County Association (WCA)
Why: Michael Romita was a scratch golfer when he was a student at Tufts University, and his first year as the head of Westchester County Association started in the rough —just as the country shutdown due to COVID-19. Romita has led the WCA’s call for a recovery plan by focusing on healthcare, affordable housing, sustainability, and expanded digital connectivity. Fore!

Mike Spano

Photo by Stefan Radtke

Who: Mike Spano
What: Mayor, City of Yonkers
Why: Since taking office in 2012, Mayor Mike Spano has led a waterfront rebound, and Westchester’s largest city has attracted FedEx, Target, MGM, and Lionsgate, along with legions of hipsters taking up residence in the Y-O’s influx of new luxury buildings. (There’s even the hype about Yonkers as the “sixth borough” of New York City.) So when do we get to see Mayor Spano riding one of those electric scooters he keeps talking about?

Andrea Stewart-Cousins

Photo by Stefan Radtke

Who: Andrea Stewart-Cousins
What: New York State Senator
Why: Lots of “Will she or won’t she?” speculation about running against scandal-plagued Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary has swirled around State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers. (She flatly says she is not planning to run.) Regardless, she still wields impressive power as the state’s senate majority leader and top Democrat not named “Cuomo.” She has overseen transformative legislation on issues including healthcare, gun rights, and immigration, among others.

She wields impressive power as the state’s senate majority leader.

Geoff Thompson, Elizabeth Bracken-Thompson & Dean Bender

Photo by Stefan Radtke

Who: Geoff Thompson, Elizabeth Bracken-Thompson & Dean Bender
What: Partners, Thompson & Bender
Why: Is it really an official Westchester business event if either Liz, Geoff, or Dean isn’t hosting, serving as panelists, or at least in attendance? We’re not sure. Arguably the best-known and most-connected trio in the county, these PR partners have built Thompson & Bender into a powerhouse firm, with big-name clients that include the City of Yonkers, Business Council of Westchester, Cross County Center, and Simone Development.

John Tolomer

Photo courtesy of The Westchester Bank

Who: John Tolomer
What: President & CEO, The Westchester Bank
Why: If there is such a thing as a local banking legend, John Tolomer is it. He has helmed The Westchester Bank since its humble 2008 beginnings in two double-wide trailers in Yonkers. He led the bank through the Great Recession shortly after its founding and this year oversaw his now-thriving bank’s distribution of more than $85 million in PPP loans to help businesses survive the pandemic.


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