Representatives of numerous firms – ranging from the world leader in mobile phone sales to a myriad of biotechnology and green technology operations – agree: Westchester County is a great place to do business. Their stories speak to the area’s far-reaching appeal for cutting-edge companies.
A 102,000-square-foot, purpose-built structure in White Plains is the four-year-old home of Nokia, the biggest mobile phone supplier in the world. More than 350 people work at the company’s vibrant North American headquarters, handling an array of tasks from financial and investor relations to sales and marketing.
“In 2004, we decided that we wanted to create a new office with easy access to the creative and financial resources of Manhattan,” says Bethany Davis Swanson, Director of Workplace Concepts and Strategy. Two years later, the plan became a reality.
Meanwhile, Nokia also had eyes on the base of potential employees that could help a growing company. “We have been able to take advantage of the skilled talent in the area, hiring those with expertise in everything from software design and new media to marketing and sales,” Swanson says.
In addition, quality of life opportunities are readily available to employees and their families. “They enjoy the beauty and family atmosphere of the surrounding communities, as well as the proximity to the urban scene,” Swanson says.
“For all of those reasons, Westchester definitely works for us.”
2. Aureon Biosciences
Dr. Charles J. DiComo, Vice President of Operations & Corporate Compliance Officer for Aureon Biosciences, says Westchester’s prime appeal for his company was space availability and access to New York City.
“City access is critical to major clinics and academic institutions, and the willingness of the county to work with starting and growing firms is extremely valuable,” DiComo says. Also, “here you can access the technicians, MDs, PhDs, as well hospitals and labs that you require.”
Aureon was able to get zoning issues “easily and satisfactorily resolved” before shaping raw space in Yonkers into something that worked perfectly for the requirements of his life-sciences-focused company. “Clearly, no standing office structure was going to provide me with room for a vivarium where I could house 10,000 mice!” explains DiComo, whose facility is involved in prostate cancer research among other projects. “In Westchester, I was able to find the space I needed, and the county helped me create something unique which was absolutely essential to my business.”
During the past 18 months, Aureon has added 60 to 70 people to its workforce.
Pictured here: Leonard Schleifer is the President and CEO of Regeneron, New York State’s largest biotechnology company.
Pictured at top: Bethany Davis Swanson is Director of Workplace Concepts and Strategy at Nokia, the biggest mobile phone supplier in the world.
Regeneron, which according to Founder, President and CEO Leonard Schleifer is New York State’s largest biotechnology company, houses about 1,000 of its 1,300-member staff at its Tarrytown facility. Recognizing that biotech firms are good for the tax base, Westchester created a welcoming business and regulatory environment. “They provided incentives to us and others to stay and expand here,” he says.
Regeneron started in New York City but moved to Westchester in 1989 and has since made strides treating blindness associated with retinal diseases, lowering cholesterol as it relates to gout, and researching cancer. “People in Westchester understand the importance of health, and they want the hospitals, physicians and medical centers that can provide top-quality health care,” Schleifer says. “That puts the county in a fine position to recruit companies dedicated to discovering drugs that can achieve those goals.”
He adds that biotech companies need to be able to draw critical talent in a variety of disciplines, including lab people, chemists, clinical scientists and even business experts. “Westchester, with its immediate proximity to the New York City metropolitan area, allows us to do that.”
Also vital, according to Schleifer, is having a desirable place where people want to live. Whether in Westchester itself, nearby Rockland or Putnam counties, or Connecticut, “you can attract people who are directly influenced by the availability of good schools, access to cultural and sporting events, and a whole host of other lifestyle factors.”
4. Mercury Solar Systems
Mercury Solar Systems President Jared Haines says his message of using energy powered by the sun to create electricity and heat water gets a very positive reception in Westchester.
“Green businesses like ours generally do best in a business and residential community that appreciates what we are trying to do,” Haines says. “We also want to be where residents and businesses are sufficiently affluent to be able to buy our products and services. Pre-paying for electric does ultimately result in great discounts, but first it requires a significant up-front payout. Fortunately, Westchester is home to, and the business location of, individuals and companies that recognize the value of these investments, and are willing and able to make them.”
Now in its fourth year, Mercury is one of the East Coast’s largest solar integrators, not to mention “New York State’s largest installer” and one of the most active in Westchester, having done more than 70 percent of county installations.
Having started out in New Rochelle before moving to Port Chester last year, Haines recalls the county taking an active interest as the company weighed options of relocating to the Bronx, northern New Jersey or Connecticut. Laurence Gottlieb, Director of Westchester County’s Office of Economic Development, won him over with “incentives and encouragement” and then followed up by helping to provide networking opportunities with critical business leaders. “That’s something that could have taken years to do on our own,” Haines says.
“We are also encouraged by efforts of the State of New York, which is going to make some positive changes to its energy portfolio,” he notes. “This, in turn, will improve opportunities for Westchester businesses, as well as for homeowners to improve their energy and cost efficiencies well beyond what it is today.”
5. Robison Oil & Comfort Solutions
Westchester’s largest full-service oil company, 90-year-old, Elmsford-based Robison Oil and Comfort Solutions, has spent the last two decades focusing on increased energy efficiency and resource conservation. “Westchester County wants a 20 percent reduction in energy expenditures by 2020,” says Robison President David Singer. “We are determined to do our part to make that happen.”
Implementing relatively new technologies related to solar power and geothermal solutions often requires cutting-edge thinking. “A lot of what we do involves increasingly sophisticated work skills,” Singer notes. “Fortunately, the county is a base for high-level workers.”
Like Haines at Mercy Solar Systems, Singer is finding that many of the approximately 20,000 Robison customers are very interested in reaping long-term savings with alternate energy strategies, even if it means paying more up front. “That proves to be good planning for them, their community and their planet,” says Singer.
He’s also quick to add, “The Westchester economy is such that customers can afford to stay in their homes. People aren’t walking way from their mortgages in Westchester as they are in many other parts of the U.S. That means that, as times improve, the prospects for this county will look even brighter.”
[ Resource Box ]
Look here for more information about organizations mentioned in the “Industry Spotlight” section: