The need for more affordable housing and lower taxes are common issues that local businesses voiced to Westchester County Executive George Latimer last month at the first installment of the new “Dinner and Dialogue” initiative. A partnership between the county and Manhattanville College, the program was launched to give business representatives a chance to vocalize their concerns to the county executive and pinpoint solutions to maximize their companies’ growth.
“Mid-sized companies are key to the economic vitality of Westchester County. This new program is aimed at reaching the leaders of these companies to better understand the issues that are affecting their businesses,” says Latimer.
With a lack of qualified talent being another main concern for local companies, Laura Persky, Associate Dean of the School of Professional Studies at Manhattanville College, believes the School of Professional Studies can be “a pipeline for qualified and dynamic professionals.”
“We hire local business leaders to teach,” Persky says. “We hire practitioners so that when you get a degree from here, you’re ready to hit the job.”
Laura Persky, Associate Dean of the School of Professional Studies at Manhattanville College, KeyBank’s Market President David Lewing, and Willa Brody, Director of Lifting Up Westchester’s Neighbors Home Care Services
The School of Professional Studies provides Masters programs, as well as adult undergraduate degree completion. Persky believes the initiative already “reinforces the school’s current curriculum.”
“Many students are already working, so when you learn something in class, it’s often applicable to what you’re doing the next day,” she adds.
Held in Manhatanville College’s historic Reid Castle, the program’s first event was attended by 10 companies. Each company was invited individually by the county or were corporate partners with Manhatanville’s School of Professional Studies. Lifting Up Westchester’s Neighbors Home Care Services, a home health-care service providing food, shelter, and support to the homeless community, was one of the companies invited by the county executive. Their main concern: Access to funding for community projects.
“I think this initiative gives us all a voice, on behalf of the men, women, and children that we serve,” says Willa Brody, Director of Lifting Up Westchester’s Neighbors Home Care Services. “It really helps us educate the public on the nature of Westchester’s homeless issue because of the gap between wages and the cost of housing.”
Representatives from local Westchester businesses chat with County Executive George Latimer.
KeyBank, a company recognized as being one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States, was also represented at the meeting. KeyBank’s Market President, David Lewing, describes the initiative as being “a productive exercise to solicit the business community’s feedback on what’s important to them.”
Set to kick off every other month, the program is open to local businesses of all types. To expand the program’s goal, Perksy suggests an increase in the county’s “professional development and recreational programs.”
Perksy explains, “Even though the cost of living may be high, you can still take advantage of our beautiful surroundings and all of the opportunities that exist here in Westchester.”