Let's think regionally


For The Recorder

I am Jeff Brown and enjoy representing our family businesses, Brown's Ford of Johnstown and Brown's Ford of Amsterdam on the CEO Roundtable.

Our CEO Roundtable is a volunteer organization consisting of owners of various sized businesses, those who manage local operations of multinational companies, education leaders and government officials. We meet six times per year to discuss various ways to improve our quality of life. The model for our group actually came from Rochester.

Rochester successfully transitioned to a highly diversified economy of smaller businesses after losing thousands of good paying jobs at Kodak.

I was born and raised in Johnstown, graduated from Johnstown High School in 1976, and couldn't wait to get out of town. I spent four years in college in Michigan -- lots of water; no mountains -- and four years in Colorado -- lots of mountains; no water. As much as I loved the Rocky Mountains, I really missed my family and the Mohawk Valley region. Luckily for me, I had a job opening in our family business. I married another local, Nancy Baird, who was working in Manhattan but also longed to return home. We built a house in the town of Bleecker and our three daughters received great educations in the Gloversville school system.

After 35 years of doing business primarily in Johnstown, Brown's Ford was eager to take the opportunity to expand into Montgomery County 15 years ago with our dealership, Brown's Ford of Amsterdam, and again two years ago with our collision center. Today our 70 full-time and 30 part-time team members are proud to serve the various automotive needs of our customers from Fulton, Montgomery, Hamilton, Herkimer, Saratoga and Schoharie counties. Through the reach of the Internet our business continues to expand to other states as well as Canada.

Our ability to expand is a direct result of the health of our regional economy. We appreciate the efforts of our various leaders that brought in the Wal-Mart and Target distribution facilities, Benjamin Moore, Euphrates, Fage and other businesses which have created a growing customer base. I was amazed to learn that Fage is a large, successful global company that chose our area over 17 other sites in New York state as their first location in the United States. Not only are they here to stay, they are investing millions more to expand and will provide more jobs.

As we all know, Global Foundries is building a giant chip fabrication plant to the east in Malta. They are hiring thousands and will generate thousands more support jobs in a 50-mile radius. We are inside that radius. This opportunity has been compared to being in Schenectady in the early 1900s as Thomas Edison was forming General Electric. The reality is our area can compete fiercely with areas to the north, south and east of Malta for those companies and their jobs and tax revenues.

If we can all work together, we will certainly bring positive change and prosperity to our area.

More businesses equals more tax revenue which lowers everyone's taxes. While we may not all be comfortable with growth and change, we would all benefit from a dramatically lower tax bill.

Looking for an example of change that was uncomfortable but ultimately is now a resounding success? Look no further than the Fulton County YMCA. The vote to merge the Johnstown and Gloversville YMCAs was only passed by one vote. Once that difficult decision was made and accepted, our communities all came together, donating millions. Now we enjoy a magnificent facility that regularly serves more than 7,000 members.

I encourage our present and future elected officials to really come together and make our region as welcoming as possible. It is no longer Gloversville versus Johnstown but Fulton and Montgomery counties together competing against Washington, Warren, Albany, Orange, Ulster and many other counties for those Global Foundries' jobs and dollars.

Let's think regionally, work together in good faith and attract more vibrant companies to our area. They will bring in much needed revenue, lower our taxes, and provide some good jobs for our kids so we don't have to travel or move to see them.

The CEO Roundtable is comprised of business leaders in Fulton and Montgomery counties who gather regularly to discuss local issues in the hope that by taking a leadership position these issues can be resolved in a manner that is positive to the business community and the community at large.