Jackson Mora, SUNY Martitime College Apprenticeship Program

Five years of hard work culminated in the form of a diploma, a happy family and a higher paycheck for Jackson Heights resident Walter Mora last week, after he graduated from the SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx’s apprenticeship program.

The program, run by non-profit Oriska Jobs and Career Center, aims to afford disadvantaged communities career opportunities and training in fields such as plumbing, electrical work and steam fitting, among other trades. Read more

Owner has plans for former Waterbury Felt Mill in Oriskany

After 200 years of serving as the economic engine for the village and surrounding region, the abandoned Waterbury Felt Mill might see life once again. The old River Street wool mill, which once employed more than 300 people in Oriskany, has been deteriorating since it abruptly closed about a year ago.

The property was purchased in a September tax auction by businessman and developer James Kernan, an Oriskany native who plans to refurbish the approximately 500,000-square-foot facility into a modern industrial complex that architecturally complements the community he’s dubbing “Waterbury Square.”

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Crowds line up for tours of historic factory

ORISKANY — Local businessman James Kernan is spearheading the revival of the former felt mill on River Street, but first Kernan is spearheading a different sort of revival. On Saturday, dozens of visitors came to former Waterbury Felt Factory to tour the building and get a close-up view of some village history — that previously most had only seen from the outside.

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Businessman wants to breathe new life into old felt mill

ORISKANY — Businessman James Kernan wants to spearhead the revival of the former felt mill on River Street. He bought the complex earlier this year at a county tax foreclosure auction and is now proceeding with redevelopment plans.

“We will retain the historic elements that make this a landmark property,” he said. “Such as the bell that over a century ago rang every day for the community. At the same time we will modernize the facility so it can house jobs for the 21st century.”

Read more at: http://romesentinel.com/county/businessman-wants-to-breathe-new-life-into-old-felt-mill/QBqnjE!kUVYngCYqQp5Tg91ScYiHg/

Solving Chronic Unemployment by Creating Minority Entrepreneurs

From Huffington Post

The U.S. government is looking for solutions. It requires that a certain percentage of its contracts be awarded to minority firms, but this can create its own set of problems and often times doesn’t live up to its intention. Large public works projects, for example, require that 9 percent of the budget be awarded to minority firms, but more often than not, large developers would rather anticipate fines then assume the risk of hiring an unknown, unbonded, minority firm that may not perform the work on time or within budget. (read more)

The Obamacare Challenge: Recruiting and Retaining Employees Without Reducing Profits

Rewarding your best employees with healthcare benefits used to be standard operating procedure, but the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, is challenging this practice.

Employers should be concerned about the regulatory and cost burdens associated with the Affordable Care Act, but these concerns must not distract from the most important element of running a profitable business: recruiting and retaining good employees. The struggle to balance the competing pressures of containing costs, streamlining paperwork and rewarding your best employees has just increased significantly.

Providing equal healthcare coverage to all employees will be costly. Since ACA mandates coverage of preexisting conditions and removes coverage caps, insurance companies must account for this new risk and that can only push prices up. ACA burdens employers with increased regulatory paperwork. The House Ways and Means Committee points out that the Empire State Building could be built 18 times using the hours wasted on ACA regulations. This forces employers to spend resources on regulatory paperwork that have nothing to do with their core business. All this can make employees seem like a secondary factor in running a business.

Many employers may consider no longer offering healthcare and just paying the penalty. This may seem like a reasonable option if you consider the penalty is $2000 per employee, excluding the first thirty employees. But employers offering healthcare benefits and receiving a tax deduction today will discover that the penalty is not tax deductable.

Employers no longer offering Healthcare would also avoid the administrative burden of calculating the number of hours each employee worked a month and adjusting benefits accordingly. In 2013, employers are required to keep a six month record showing the average number of hours an employee worked a week in order to determine how many qualify as full time. With such onerous burdens placed upon them, employers may feel justified in sending their employees out into the wilderness of the health exchanges being made available in October.

Certain employers will keep many workers below the required 30 hours a week to ensure they are not considered full time and, that way, are not required to receive healthcare coverage. These choices, which many companies today are considering, create more hardship for the employee. Employees stand to see their hours and wages reduced while the burden of finding and purchasing healthcare is hoist upon them.

Employees forced into the health exchanges will not be happy.  The healthcare exchanges are most likely going to be confusing and, according to early actuarial estimates, not nearly as affordable as the Affordable Care Act implies. Many employees will feel abandoned by their employers and this can kill their motivation to make their employers profitable.

Employers would be wise to seek out alternatives that help provide healthcare to their workers. Retaining talent in a competitive environment is always challenging. Keeping employees focused on their jobs is easier when they are not distracted by the pressures of providing for their own healthcare. Providing employees with secure benefits also makes it harder for competing companies to lure away good talent.  The employer’s challenge is to find a balance between rising costs, increased paperwork and employee retention.

Jim Kernan is former CEO of Oriska Insurance and the Executive Director of the non-profit employment development agency, Economic Cornerstone, and a director of United Services Administration


This Op-Ed has been featured on over 100 websites, including:

Economic Cornerstone Announces the “Economic Opportunities for Distressed Communities Project”

For Immediate Release
Date: February 15, 2013
Contact: Daniel Odescalchi

Oriskany, NY – The Economic Cornerstone Corporation (ECC) today announces its new initiative designed to create job opportunities within disadvantaged communities long suffering from chronic unemployment and underemployment. The initiative, called the “Economic Opportunities for Disadvantaged Communities Project,” focuses on maximizing the benefits of the equal opportunity requirements on public works projects in the construction industry.

“The Economic Opportunities for Disadvantaged Communities Project is modeled on a very successful program spearheaded by the predecessor of the Oriska Jobs and Careers Center,” said ECC President Jim Kernan. “That program succeeded in delivering jobs to minority workers, helped general contractors successfully subcontract work to minority businesses and mentored these companies to ensure on-time and on-budget completion of projects. It also guaranteed the work through bonds to protect the minority business and the general contractor. Everyone won.”

The ECC initiative addresses the issues that often impede the ability of a disadvantaged business to compete, thus creating jobs in communities plagued by chronic unemployment. By forming a coalition of private companies and not-for-profits, ECC can seamlessly link disadvantaged workers to paid apprenticeships with established contractors and ensure that minority businesses qualify for surety bonding and are mentored for the duration of the job.

“Public works projects demand a certain portion of work go to minorities even though they lack the skilled workforce. This invites fraud and results in fines and even prison sentences for general contractors,” Kernan added.  “Our program acts as a Road map for small, minority-owned businesses to successfully compete and win public works projects and for large project managers to meet minority requirements while staying within the law. Combined, it is a powerful tool for job creation in communities that desperately need them.”

Unemployed workers who qualify and contractors interested in partnering with the ECC can reach them through their website: www.economiccornerstone.org. The ECC a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to solving problems facing contemporary society. For more information visit www.economiccornerstone.org or call 845-453-2528.