St. John Fisher College Launches Efforts to Support Rochester’s Family Businesses
October 19, 2018
St. John Fisher College’s School of Business is launching an effort to support the unique needs of family businesses in Rochester. The College kicked off its new initiative at the inaugural Family Business Dinner and Program on Thursday, Oct. 18.
“St. John Fisher College has a rich history of educating students who go on to successful careers working in and often leading family businesses,” said Dr. Gerard J. Rooney, the College’s president. “This new initiative enables us to capitalize on the strength and reputation of our School of Business to serve as a resource for family businesses in Western New York and beyond.”
Dr. Rama Yelkur, dean of the School of Business, who brings experience directing a similar program while serving as dean of the College of Business & Management at Saginaw Valley State University, will guide the initiative, which began in spring 2018 with a survey of local family business leaders.
“Research shows that family-controlled business dominate both global and regional economies, and Rochester’s economic landscape is no different. However, we noticed that there are not easily identifiable resources available for family-owned businesses in our region,” she said. “From the survey, we found that transition or succession planning, family governance, and next generation training are the foremost needs. When we compared those concerns against the expertise of our robust, global faculty, we knew Fisher would be the right institution to offer support and resources.”
In the coming year, Yelkur said the School’s faculty will host webinars, workshops, and networking and social events, exploring topics including tax planning, transition planning for baby boomers, family risk analysis, educating the next generation members, and more. Additionally, the School plans to form peer groups that bring together owners and managers who share similar characteristics within their organizations. There are plans to create collaborative partnerships across New York, including with the Smith Family Business Initiative at Cornell University.
Yelkur pointed to the strengths of the School’s current programs as well as new curriculum being developed that will educate students on the needs of family businesses. Undergraduates also have the opportunity to take Family Business Management, a course that addresses the special issues that arise in family enterprise.
“Our students will advise family firms or are members of family owned businesses themselves, so we’re working to develop a strong understanding of the unique needs of these economic engines,” Yelkur explained.
The School’s efforts will be guided by its Family Business Steering Committee, co-chaired by Yelkur and Randy White, J.N. White. Committee members include Teagan White, J.N. White; Bill Shaheen, Whitney and Company; Vic Salerno, O’Connell Electric; Peter Messner, Messner Company; Heather Williams, The OSC Charitable Foundation; John Williams, OSC, Inc.; Kaitlin Hildebrandt, Leo J. Roth Corp.; Tom Roth, Leo J. Roth, Corp.; Carmelo Calascibetta, Cam’s Pizza; Tony Monaco, Rochester Colonial Manufacturing; Andrew Brady, The XLR8 Team, Inc.; Bill Masucci, Royal Asset Management; Phil Carl, Water Street Management; David Pritchard, Gorbel, Inc.; Wayne Holly, Sage Rutty Co.; and Dr. Carol Wittmeyer, School of Business.
Wittmeyer, who also serves as a visiting associate professor and interim associate dean of the School, said the investment in family business is also a direct investment in the community.
“Many institutions and programs are engaged in entrepreneurship and incubators, but there’s not a regional educational institution that is supporting the soft side of the needs of family-owned businesses, which are a huge asset to the community,” she said. “Family-owned firms impact job growth and provide a strong tax-base.”
For more information about the family business initiative, call the Office of the Dean of the School of Business at (585) 385-8446.