11:45am

Wed September 14, 2011
Who's who

Finger Lakes economic council: Who's in charge

The Innovation Trail is taking a look at the members of the governor’s regional economic development councils. Here’s what we found.

Methodology

Our reporters brought back short biographies of the folks behind the councils, including campaign contributions in the 2010 gubernatorial election (courtesy of public filings at the State Board of Elections).

The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), at our request, retrieved data about the state lobbying expenditures of council members’ employers from a database that they created using Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) information. The also retrieved the party enrollment of council members, where available, from a database that they compiled based on FOIL’ed information (that’s accurate as of October of 2010). Bill Mahoney of NYPIRG was instrumental in pulling this information together.

See an error, or want to add more? Let us know.

And without further ado, here’s who’s who in the Finger Lakes.  

Regional Co-Chairs

Joel Seligman has been the president of the University of Rochester since 2005 and a member of Eastman Kodak’s board of directors since 2009. He’s also said to be one of the country’s leading experts on securities law. At his day job, Seligman presides over the Rochester area’s largest employer. The U of R is also the sixth largest private employer in the entire state. Seligman also sits on the board of governors of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which is the largest non-governmental regulator for securities firms doing business in the U.S.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by the University of Rochester in 2010: $150,964
  • Registered Democrat

Danny Wegman is the CEO of the grocery chain that bears the family name. Wegmans is a much beloved upstate institution that was founded in Rochester in 1916. Wegmans Food Markets has 77 stores, generates an estimated $5.6 billion in annual sales and consistently ranks near the top of Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. This year the company placed third - one better than Google. Wegmans is the second largest employer in the Rochester area. Danny Wegman is a voting member of the University of Rochester Board of Trustees. According to campaign finance records, Wegman donated $35,000 to Andrew Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $35,000 - Cuomo
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by Wegmans in 2010: $1,282,834
  • Unable to determine voter registration

General Members

Robert Sands is the CEO of Constellation Brands, one the largest wine and spirits companies in the world. Sands was appointed CEO in 2007 after serving as president since 2002. Sands is the son of Constellation founder Marvin Sands, and the brother of Constellation chairman of the board, Richard Sands. The spirits company has come a long way since it began selling bulk wine as Canandaigua Industries Company in 1945. In recent years, Rob Sands has further cemented Constellation as the leading distributor of “premium” wine and spirits. Among other boards, Sands sits on the New York Fed advisory board that provides “high-level, financial and economic intelligence from an upstate New York perspective.”

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

Christine Whitman is the chairman, CEO and President of Complemar, Inc. Complemar is a Rochester-based company that makes packaging and marketing materials. Here’s a company-endorsed TV news story that the predecessor to YNN put together a few years ago. Outside of Complemar, Whitman is also a big time investor. As managing partner of CSW Associates, she handles a portfolio of equity investments. She sits on the boards of a number of tech companies. She’s the vice chair of the Rochester Institute of Technology board of trustees. Whitman has also been involved with the Rochester Angel Network and RIT’s high-tech incubator. She’s given a few thousand dollars to Democratic candidates over the last decade. 

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • No party affiliation

Augustin Melendez is the chief diversity officer at Eastman Kodak. He was elected as a vice president of the company earlier this year. As diversity officer, Melendez is in charge of “Kodak’s global inclusion strategy.” He’s been with the photo giant since 2000. Before that, he held senior human resources positions at Paychex and the Rochester City School District.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by Kodak in 2010: $89,068
  • Registered Democrat

Bradley MacDonald is a vice president at Brunner International Corp. Brunner makes heavy duty brake shoes for tractor-trailers. The manufacturer is based in Medina, almost exactly half-way between Rochester and Buffalo. Their website is currently being renovated. Before leaving office, Congressman Chris Lee visited the Brunner plant. MacDonald told Lee that Brunner was “known around the world for our product.” According to the Medina Journal-Register, Brunner employs about 350 people.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Tom Macinski is the president of Standing Stone Vineyards. The Hector-based winery has won accolades from Wine Spectator magazine for its Rieslings and Chardonnays. Standing Stone is a member of the statewide coalition of liquor store owners known as The Last Store on Main Street Coalition. The group is fighting proposals to allow wine sales in New York grocery stores. As Gannett’s Jon Campbell has pointed out, that could put him at odds with council co-chair Danny Wegman.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Charles Cook is president and CEO of Liberty Pumps Inc. Liberty Pumps makes - you guessed it - pumps: specifically, “sump, sewage and effluent pumps for the professional trade,” according to the company website. For the fifth year in a row, Liberty Pumps was recently named to the Inc. 5000 - a list of the fastest-growing companies in America. The company introduces itself in its corporate video with a quirky, vintage vibe. According to Batavia’s WBTA AM 1490, Cook is the sole representative of Genesee County’s business community on the council. He told the radio station that the state should bring back its Empire Zone program.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

Kirsten Werner is president and co-owner of Diamond Packaging. Werner runs the Henrietta-based business with her sister, Karla Fichter. Diamond recently won an industry award in the category of “Most Difficult Application of Foil Stamping/Embossing on a Folding Carton.” The winning product: “packaging created for Coty’s Beyoncé Heat, a sensual, sexy, and sophisticated fragrance that embodies the soul of Beyoncé’s persona.” Werner is a graduate of the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business. She’s a member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, according to the Rochester Business Journal. Also according to RBJ, Werner is a competitive sailor who coached skiing for 10 years.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

Tyrone Reaves is president of TruForm Manufacturing Inc. According to the company website, the Rochester-based manufacturer specializes in “low- to mid-volume, low- to medium complexity products involving precision sheet metal fabrications, weldments, enclosures, and mechanical assemblies.”

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Democrat

Anne Kress is the president of Monroe Community College. Since being named MCC President in 2009, Kress has taken an active role in the Rochester community. She’s sits on the boards of the Rochester Business Alliance, Greater Rochester Enterprise and the United Way of Greater Rochester. Kress has been an administrator in higher ed for over 20 years, previously in Gainesville, Fla. She’s a member of one of SUNY’s Innovation Teams and runs a pretty active Twitter feed over at @MCCPresident.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • No party affiliation

Robert Brown is the business manager of Laborers Local 435. According to one local construction trade group, Brown has been a “potent force in the construction industry for over 30 years.” Last year the Rochester City School District named a high school after him. He’s been hailed for helping many young Rochesterians get a start in the construction trades. He and Tyrone Reaves are the only African-American members of the council.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

William Destler has been the president of the Rochester Institute of Technology since 2007. RIT bills itself as one of the nation’s leading career-oriented universities and is a powerhouse in engineering and technology. Destler came to RIT after more than 30 years at the University of Maryland, where he was once an assistant professor of electrical engineering. Most impressively, Destler is said to be “one of the world’s foremost collectors of antique banjos.” He maintains a website that documents his collection. Someone has made an animated GIF of “Destler rockin’ it out on the banjo!” Destler even recorded a folk album back in 1973. He’s rumored to be big in Korea.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by RIT in 2010: $109,972
  • No party affiliation

Hilda Rosario Escher is president and CEO of the Ibero-American Action League - a Rochester-based advocacy organization that provides human services to members of the local Hispanic community. Escher has been with the agency for over 30 years, after moving to Rochester from her native Puerto Rico. Escher sits on a number of boards, including the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Center for Community Health. Her daughter, Melisza Campos, is running for reelection as a Rochester City School Board commissioner.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Democrat

Theresa Mazzullo is CEO of Excell Partners, an economic development initiative undertaken by the University of Rochester and the State of New York. Excell’s goal is to help local high-tech startups commercialize their ideas. Mazzullo is a former banker who managed $1.5 billion in retirement plan assets for EPIC Advisors, Inc. She’s also the chair of Monroe County’s industrial development agency (COMIDA), and sits on a number of other boards. Mazzullo is a board member of both the U of R’s Memorial Art Gallery and the local material sciences company Cerion Energy.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Pamela Heald is president and CEO of Reliant Community Federal Credit Union. After 15 years with the eight-branch credit union, she was named CEO in 2007. Heald is a charter member of the Lioness Club of Sodus and a board member of the Sodus Chamber of Commerce.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

John Noble is the president and owner of Synergy, LLC. He’s also the founder of Linwood Management Group, which is the management team that runs Synergy. In all, Noble is in charge of 15,000 cows on farms located in New York and Wisconsin. According to his company bio, he’s also president of Noblehurst Farms Inc. When he’s not being a major force in the New York dairy industry, he sits on the Cornell University Board of Trustees and the board of the Erie-Niagara Insurance Cooperative. The New York Farm Bureau recently pointed out that Noble, Tom Macinski, Rob Sands and Danny Wegman are the four “food industry leaders” included in the Finger Lakes regional council.  

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Mark Peterson is president and CEO of Greater Rochester Enterprise, the organization tasked with wooing businesses to the Rochester area. Looking for 238 acres with low-cost hydropower available? How about 776,000 sq ft with Empire Zone benefits? If so, GRE is the place for you. Peterson is an economic development expert who’s been with the organization since 2005. He also serves on a number of community boards. Bonus fact: Peterson is a past-president of Irondequoit’s Bishop Kearney High School.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Conservative

Sandra Parker has been president and CEO of the Rochester Business Alliance since 2005. The RBA is the regional chamber of commerce for the nine-county Greater Rochester area. Parker was also instrumental in the creation of Unshackle Upstate, a coalition of groups lobbying for pro-business policy change in Albany. Aside from being one of the leading voices for the Rochester-area business community, she serves on a number of boards. The list is long and includes RIT, the Bank of Castile and the Center for Governmental Research.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by RBA in 2010: $168,701
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Cynthia Oswald is president of the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce. Since 2004 she’s led the chamber’s business development efforts.  Oswald sat on ex-Congressman Chris Lee’s Small Business Committee and, at one point, was a member of the United States Chamber of Commerce’s Council on Small Business.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Steve Griffin is the CEO of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center (FLEDC) - which is what Yates County calls its industrial development agency. Before heading up Yates County’s IDA, Griffin was a vice president at the Economic Development Center (aka IDA) in Genesee County. Before that he worked in the tech sector in the Washington, D.C. area. According to his FLEDC bio, Griffin was in charge of sales and marketing as the Internet startups were acquired by larger companies.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Elected Officials

The regional council also includes a number of local elected officials. The “electeds” serve in an ex-officio capacity and are considered non-voting members of the council.

They are:

  • Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks
  • Chairman of Genesee County Legislature Mary Pat Hancock
  • Chairman of Wayne County Board of Supervisors James Hoffman
  • Chairman of Ontario County Board of Supervisors Theodore Fafinski
  • Chairman of Livingston County Board of Supervisors James Merrick
  • Chairman of Orleans County Legislature David Callard
  • Chairman of Wyoming County Board of Supervisors A. D. Berwanger
  • Chairman of Yates County Legislature H. Taylor Fitch
  • Chairman of Seneca County Board of Supervisors Laverne Lafler
  • Mayor of Rochester Tom Richards
  • Batavia City Council President Marianne Clattenburg
  • Arcadia Supervisor Dick Colacino

For the membership of the other councils in the Innovation Trail's coverage area, check here.