Photo by Toshi Tasaki
White Plains resident Marsha Gordon, the 57-year-old president and CEO of The Business Council of Westchester (BCW), could be on this list for her near business-celebrity status alone. After all, being the head of the 1,000-member organization—which helps grow businesses, advocates for Westchester’s economic interests, and acts as an information resource for the business community—is her passion. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s visibly passionate.
Just watch her work a room. At events, it’s not unusual for Gordon to know not only the names of most everyone present, but of their wives, husbands, and kids. She calls herself a “business catalyst,” better known as a major networker. She has many causes. Currently, it’s seeing that a new Tappan Zee Bridge receives funding, and that female and minority entrepreneurs have the tools to grow and compete in the county, and that businesses care about sustainability and energy efficiency.
But obviously being a top-notch leader is about more than networking. It’s networking with purpose—with members in mind. “We are very results-oriented,” says Gordon. Being president and CEO, she’ll tell you, is about “being able to identify the people, the businesses, and the resources to connect those elements and get results.”
“She will bring out your best,” says Peter Herrero, owner of NY Hospitality Group in White Plains and a Business Council board member, recalling Gordon encouraging him to cater a corporate event that took him out of his comfort zone. He says taking on BCW’s first annual Rising Stars-Westchester’s Forty Under Forty event at Gordon’s urging introduced his catering company to a much broader—and more lucrative—market of corporate clients. “I did it for Marsha, but I wound up learning how to network,” he recalls. “She will teach you the importance of being in the right place at the right time.”
Her ability to gather the right people has a scale effect, it seems—call it economies of who you know. “It’s not about one leader,” says Gordon. “It’s about finding all of the leadership in the county and in the region to bring people together to build a great economic agenda.”
“She’s great at initiating things and then letting them have a life of their own,” says Herrero. “Take her Green Business Challenge. She’s welcoming someone who sells a light bulb all the way up to a Fortune 500. She can put everyone in a room and find the common denominator.” The Westchester Green Business Challenge is a public-private partnership between the Business Council and the county government that “scores” businesses based on their sustainability efforts and shows them how to boost their rating. Businesses with the highest scores are given awards at events hosted by Gordon.
Dani Glaser, CEO and founder of Green Team Spirit, a sustainability consulting company in Croton-on-Hudson, works with BCW on the Challenge. Says Glaser, “She’s taken on a real leadership role by introducing green initiatives to her membership and Westchester businesses at large.” And again, the scale effect is taking hold. According to Glaser, largely due to Gordon’s success here, the Westchester Green Business Challenge is becoming a model for other localities nationwide as well as Canada looking to implement similar go-green incentive programs.
What’s more, Gordon is directing a team working to reverse Westchester’s youth flight. The Business Council is conducting studies and running focus groups to find out what will attract and retain young people in the county. She’s taking her cause to colleges, businesses, and the Village of Ossining, which is looking to attract young people to its downtown.