Member Spotlight: 19 IDEAS

To celebrate our members and their accomplishments, we have started a Member Spotlight blog series.

This month, Partnership Member 19 IDEAS, Inc. shares information about digital marketing, starting your own business and the value of participating in our Executive Exchange program.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Katie Krawczyk, Partner and Communications Director of 19 IDEAS, to learn more about why they’re proud to be a Partnership member.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Katie. As a marketer myself, I was eager to learn more about the history of your company and how you got started here in Buffalo.

A: My background is primarily in government. I worked at Empire State Development as Director of Communications previously and eventually decided to launch my own business in May 2011.

Katie Krawczyk headshot

Katie Krawczyk

About a year after I started 19 IDEAS, I hired my first employee. It was the two of us for awhile, and in January 2014, we hired Amber Rampino as our Creative Director to lead our design team. At the same time, Dan Gigante became my partner and 19 IDEAS’ Digital Director, leading up our web and mobile app development team. I lead up our Marketing and Communications team, which includes public relations.

Q: That’s great. What is your mission statement?

A: We have more of an internal mantra: “work with purpose.”

Q: I love that.

A: We’re a full-service marketing communications agency specializing in graphic design, web and app development, and public relations. The “work with purpose” mantra points to caring, on a personal level, about the work that we do.

We care about this community and love to take on work that helps those in the community in some capacity, whether it’s working with area nonprofits or companies that are trying to make a difference in how they service their clients and/or audiences.

We feel passionately about Buffalo because it’s our home, but we also recognize the strength of building communities period – whether that is here or elsewhere. Everything we do is really to help people serve their communities and clients in the best way possible.

We are small but growing. We started 2014 with four people and ended the year with eight, and now we’re at twelve. The end of this year, we are on par to have sixteen team members.

Q: Congratulations!

A: Thank you. I think people resonate with our model. We focus on the strategic side of marketing and helping our clients execute strategic marketing and communications plans.

19 ideas logoWe really look at marketing from a holistic perspective. We look at everything a client is doing from a marketing and communications perspective, be it design, development, media relations, advertising, or digital marketing.

We want to help them implement a marketing and communications strategy that not only fits their needs, but helps grow their bottom line and reach their intended audiences.

Q: That’s great. I know that you recently joined as a Partnership member a few months ago. What inspired you to get involved?

A: The Executive Exchange program inspired me. I adore Michael Cardus; I am a big fan of his. He is truly the best practitioner around in terms of organizational development and really helps business owners think through problems with workforce, growth, management, processes, etc.

The program itself intrigued me, and knowing Mike was leading it… I was completely sold. It was a one-two punch that I couldn’t say no to.

I think the icing on the cake for joining was the idea that it was sort of like group therapy for business owners. Not only is it facilitated by an expert in this field, but it is the idea that I can confidentially kick around some ideas with other business owners and get their feedback on what I’m doing with my company and where we’re headed. That kind of feedback from your peers and folks that have a different perspective from yourself is invaluable.

Additionally, knowing that I can lend my own perspective to potentially help a peer who is going through some challenges. The two-way conversation was really appealing.

Q: I’m so glad to hear that. I’m sure it is incredibly insightful to be able to brainstorm solutions to problems with people who have similar experiences. Speaking of solutions, what types of solutions do you think the Partnership might be able to provide to 19 IDEAS? Are you currently facing any challenges?

19 Ideas team1

From left to right: Amber Rampino, Katie Krawczyk and Dan Gigante of 19 IDEAS play golf at Larkin Square.

A: Workforce development is a hot issue for a lot of employers. We might not have the same challenges that a manufacturing company has, but we still have challenges of filling our positions with the right kind of talent that our clients need and for the type of work we want to be doing.

To me, this boils down to finding the talent that fits with your company. Also, being surrounded by my peers and other managers in business is so valuable.

Q: I couldn’t agree more. The networking opportunities are tremendously valuable. Have you had any recent accomplishments that you’d like the community to be aware of? For example, you mentioned the growth you’ve experienced in this past year.

A: The growth is definitely exhilarating. It’s scary and exhilarating, and not a day goes by when I don’t feel the pressure of owning my own business. Every day I think about the twelve families that I am responsible for, but at the same time, we have such an incredibly talented team that I am inspired by them and the work we do daily.

We have purpose behind the work we are doing and that gives us a cause. At the end of the day, I know that we’re doing this for the greater purpose of the businesses and organizations that make up this community.

I am also excited about the type of work we’re doing. We have a really great digital team and are doing phenomenal stuff in terms of digital marketing. We have a handful of app ideas that we are excited to build and bring to market.

Q: That’s so exciting!

A: It really is. I also was recently recognized as the April 2015 Woman in Leadership Honoree by the NYS Women Inc, Buffalo Niagara Chapter, and we also received an award from PRSA’s Buffalo Chapter for our media relations work for 43North.

In 2014, we had over 380 pieces in earned media that we received with just a two-person team. We had tremendous national and international media coverage for 43North which helped put a spotlight on Buffalo’s startup community.

We are so excited to be able to work with area entrepreneurs who are brimming with ideas and energy – it’s contagious.

19 ideas cover photoQ: You’re so right. I remember being at the 43 North finals and feeling the energy in the room. So, are there any special projects you’re working on that you want to share or give a teaser on?

A: We’ve got a lot of terrific projects underway, a few re-branding projects and digital projects that are exciting. But we’ve also got some very exciting PR accounts that we’re working on with national reporters. It’s all great stuff that I’m really proud of.

Q: As I’m sure you’re aware, our members benefit from the ability to work together in various capacities such as collaboration or procurement. Do you have any opportunities to do business with fellow Partnership members?

A: Yes, absolutely. 19 IDEAS has the capacity and capability to help any organization expand their marketing efforts – specifically in the digital and public relations fields.

19 Ideas team 2

The teams from 19 IDEAS and 43North smile as they prepare for the launch of Year Two of world’s largest business idea competition!

We have a PR team comprised of people with national media experience, so we are really able to provide a full range of marketing opportunities to our clients. We provide robust digital marketing strategies to our clients that often go hand-in-hand with a strategic PR plan.

Ultimately, we feel passionate about providing creative, holistic solutions for our clients that take into account all aspects of marketing and communications not just one thing over another.

Q: Are there any other current opportunities for employment or involvement with your firm?

A: Yes! We are hiring for a UX (User Experience) Designer and a Front-End Developer and a Full-Stack Developer and also another PR Specialist with specific experience in earning national media.

We are also happy to bring on for-credit interns with graphic design, development, PR or general marketing communications experience.

Q: That’s great! It seems like there’s a lot to come for 19 Ideas and I can’t wait to continue to see the work you create. What’s the one thing you’d say you’re most looking forward to benefiting from as a member of the Partnership this year?

A: It really is the learning and networking opportunities. I really look forward to continuing my involvement with Executive Exchange, meeting others who care about the community and hearing what they’re doing to make the area a better place to work and live.

Interested in being a part of our Member Spotlight blog series? Contact our Digital Marketing Manager, Julia Jornsay-Silverberg.

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Nearly 400 local companies offer to supply SolarCity

Since our State of Logistics event on June 18, 395 local companies have submitted their products and expertise to SolarCity through our Supply Chain Intake form.

The construction of SolarCity’s Buffalo-based plant has been exciting news for the region.

Not only will the plant bring 1,000+ jobs to the region, but thanks to our work with the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, local companies have the chance to submit applications to our Supply Chain Intake form in order to be considered as a part of the facility’s supply chain.  

Vinayak Gupta (Vice President of SolarCity) and Dottie Gallagher-Cohen (our President & CEO)

Vinayak Gupta (Vice President of SolarCity) and Dottie Gallagher-Cohen (our President & CEO) at our State of Logistics event

“We’re committed to not only building a production facility, but also developing a strong local supply chain in Buffalo,” said Vinayak Gupta, Vice President of Supply Chain at Solar City.

“The response we’ve received from companies in the region is outstanding. Buffalo businesses have stepped up and we’re actively working to find local suppliers who meet our facility’s needs.”

(More information about Mr. Gupta’s presentation can be found here.)

Through the intake form, companies across Western New York detailed their ability to provide raw materials, component parts and fabrication, or services to SolarCity. 

The information gathered is allowing SolarCity to determine which local companies meet their unique supply chain needs.

Currently, our team at the Partnership is in the process of sending the completed intake forms we’ve received so far directly to SolarCity for review.

Companies who submitted their information will receive a response by the end of September.

We will continue to forward intake forms to SolarCity, and are pleased that so many businesses are interested in supplying SolarCity.

Do you want to take advantage of this unique opportunity to be a part of SolarCity’s supply chain?

I encourage you fill out the Supply Chain Intake form here.

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$15 minimum wage will ripple beyond fast food industry

The decision to drastically hike the hourly wage for fast food workers in New York to $15 an hour will ripple well beyond the fast food industry and will do nothing but further disadvantage businesses and job opportunities in this state.

The higher wages will be phased in over the next several years, with workers earning $15 an hour by end of 2018 in New York City, and by July 2021 in the rest of the state.

While advocates for a $15 an hour wage attack big corporations, this decision is going to directly impact small business people who own and operate fast food franchises in our community and throughout New York State.

With a $15 an hour minimum wage, employers will be looking at a staggering $18,000 per job, per year increase.

Wage Schedule for Fast Food Workers Outside of NYC:

Wage schedule for fast food workers outside of NYC

Given the economic realities of the Upstate economy, the belief that Western New York employers can afford to pay $15 an hour for entry level, low-skill positions is a misguided fallacy.

As a result, consumers will see higher prices, employees will face job cuts in favor of less expensive automation, young people that are looking to enter the workforce will have fewer opportunities, and some fast food restaurants will close altogether.

“The people you’re going to squeeze out of those jobs are low-education, low-skilled workers just entering the workforce, who absolutely need first-job experience more than anybody else, often in poverty, often urban,” said Greg Biryla, Executive Director of Unshackle Upstate.

The Governor’s decision to impanel this Wage Board established a process that was downright hostile to small business owners and employers across New York, and was an unprecedented step.

In the nearly 90 years that the Wage Board statue has been on the books, it has never been used to set a minimum wage above what has been set by the State Legislature.

Historically, Wage Boards have been used to establish mandatory hourly pay for those making less than the minimum wage, such as tipped workers.

The decision to raise the minimum wage in New York should rest with the elected members of the New York State Senate and Assembly.

Given that increases have recently been enacted, the Legislature has a history of acting on this issue when its members believe it is necessary and prudent.

Instead of pushing for $15 an hour for entry level, low-skill jobs, this state needs to focus on adopting basic reforms that will generate new opportunities in key jobs sectors.

New York State needs to incentivize job creation by encouraging existing businesses to stay and grow in New York instead of fleeing for more business-friendly states, and implement a coordinated workforce development initiative that will effectively train low skill workers for the good, paying jobs currently available in our community.

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Energy Council work touches all business sectors

The Partnership recently established an Energy Council to better unite members around key energy policy impacting Buffalo Niagara’s business community.

We know that all businesses have energy needs. For some businesses, the cost of those energy needs is a big factor on their bottom line.

energy graphicHowever, the drivers of high energy costs can usually be traced back to government policy.

The Partnership’s Energy Council is working to create a meaningful dialogue around how policy being developed at both the state and federal level can be advanced to support local economic and business development. 

The Council has identified key advocacy priorities, including:

  • Fast-tracking elimination of remaining section of 18-a utility tax
  • Supporting upgrades to New Yorker’s aging electric power grid
  • Better positioning Buffalo Niagara as an energy supplier to points east
  • Supporting development of New York’s natural gas transmission system
  • Ensuring strong private sector participation and consideration in development of New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV)

The Council is also focused on:National Grid New 132 x 40

  • Alerting Partnership members of new and pending energy regulations and programs, and how they may directly or indirectly impact their business
  • Pushing to increase transparency of how energy program dollars are being spent, and the true costs of energy for local employers
  • Making sure municipal planning and local smart growth initiatives incorporate utilities and other energy providers

Sponsored by EnergyMark, LLC and National Grid, our Energy Council meets quarterly.

Its current members include representatives from local utilities, energy providers, renewable energy firms and energy efficiency consultants.

Energymark 211 x 54However, the Energy Council is just not for energy companies; it is intended to serve as an opportunity for all businesses to better understand critical energy issues, and be a part of pushing for pro-growth, commonsense energy policy and regulation that will help spur economic investment in Buffalo Niagara. 

We are currently looking for new companies to join the discussion.

Click here to view our 2015/16 Action Agenda, and please contact me to learn more about the Energy Council and how you can get involved.

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Strengthen your career path with BN360

To better ourselves as young professionals, we need to take steps to grow our network and strengthen our career path.

Taking these steps often means putting yourself in a situation you have never been in before. Maybe it is attending a professional development event or seeking a mentor.

Whatever it is, taking action to develop connections is the first step to success.

The second step is finding a community to support your growth and development.

Our BN360 Spotlight Professionals for 2014-2015

Our BN360 Spotlight Professionals for 2014-2015

Amping up for its eighth season this September, BN360 is a community comprised of young professionals that offers over ten professional development and social networking events each year.

From happy hours to professional development seminars, the programming has something for everyone.

Game Changers: This series includes some of the most talkedabout topics in our region, from developing our waterfront to breweries, entrepreneurship and tourism in Buffalo. Join us to experience up close and personal discussions with those who are changing the game in our community.

Skills for Success: This series was created to provide leadership training and skill development to young professionals. Attendees learn about the tools available to help achieve personal and professional goals, and walk away with an understanding of best practices from local experts.

YPs networkingBN360 Gives Back: Giving back to our community is critically important in order to continue the growth and development we have seen in recent years. Not sure how to begin? In this networking series, we connect you with the region’s non-profit organizations to learn about opportunities to volunteer, donate, and join a board.

Board 101: Learn the ins and outs of being on a board and how to get the ball rolling. Local experts will assist you in finding the best way to turn your passion for a cause in to a way of giving and involvement with an organization you believe in.

Happy Hour for a Cause: Our biggest social networking event encourages you to make new connections while benefiting a local non-profit. The proceeds of each happy hour go to support their efforts and causes.

With over 500 members, and a network that grows rapidly each year, now is the time to get involved with BN360.

young professionals networking at last year's Kick Off event

young professionals networking at last year’s Kick Off event

Cultivate your professional skills, learn about Buffalo’s biggest industries, give back to your community and network with other young professionals who want the same as you: success.

I encourage you to join us at our next event to see what we are all about!

Register today to attend our happy hour at Pearl Street Grill and Brewery in support of B Team Buffalo.

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Cars sharing Main Street: transforming downtown Buffalo

I recently blogged about the tremendous impact that Buffalo Urban Development Corporation’s (BUDC) Downtown Buffalo Infrastructure and Public Realm Framework is having on downtown Buffalo.

The framework, intended to serve as a guide for strategic infrastructure development downtown, targeted specific investment nodes including the Main Street Investment Corridor.

Given the public support and tremendous impact that the project has had on downtown’s revitalization, we feel strongly that the Cars Sharing Main Street initiative should be made a top priority for the community.

The first phase of the Cars Sharing Main Street program, completed in 2009, covered the 700 block. Phase two, which returned cars to the 600 block, was recently completed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Completed street on the 600 block

Right now, there is work underway to bring cars back to Mohawk Street.

Acquiring funding for Cars Sharing Main Street has been a collaborative effort between the federal government, New York State and the City of Buffalo.

Thus far, $21 million has been spent on the first three phases.

The effects of the Cars Sharing Main Street initiative goes well beyond returning cars to the street.

Sidewalks, lighting, bike lanes, metro rail platforms and many street-scape features have been added or improved as a part of the program.

Furthermore, spin-off development in these areas is evident, with the promise of an improved street-scape that is helping to spur redevelopment in the 500 block.

The project has improved access throughout downtown and is beautifying our city’s most significant street.

Main Street is becoming a more attractive, sought out destination thanks to the program, and plans call for the initiative to span down the entire street, all the way down to Canalside.

Unfortunately, funding for the project, particularly at the federal level, has become more difficult to come by.

New sidewalk at 710 Main Street

New sidewalk at 710 Main Street

Competition for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, which helped drive the third phase of the project, has become even more fierce.

Currently, stakeholders are seeking a TIGER grant for work from Exchange to Scott Street at the southern end of the project area.

While a competitive package has been put together to request the necessary funding, the next phase of the project hinges on the support and backing of stakeholders and the community at large.

Local businesses, community members and elected officials understand the power that a renewed Main Street has to enhance the quality of life and opportunities for downtown, the city, and our entire region.

It is critical that stakeholders continue to come together to help push this regionallyimportant project to its completion and advocate for solutions to the funding challenges we face.

While we’ve made a great deal of progress thus far, there is still more work to do in order to see Car Sharing Main Street to its completion.

Let’s get creative and get Cars on Main Street so that we can continue to rebuild the rest of downtown.

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SolarCity: bringing jobs to Buffalo

Did you hear that SolarCity plans to create 1,460 jobs in Buffalo Niagara?

As the SolarCity factory continues to grow, area educators and training providers are working with SolarCity and the Department of Labor to host job fairs and recruitment sessions.

While most of the hiring is planned for 2016, the company will start to fill the first 100 to 200 jobs this fall.

The jobs being created by SolarCity are expected to have varying educational requirements.

solarcity logoAbout 70 percent of the jobs, especially for the plant’s technicians and operators, are expected to require a two-year degree or a high school diploma or the equivalent.

The majority of the jobs have a focus on math and analytical skills, including:

  • Engineers (Electrical, Mechanical, Chemical)
  • Operations/Production Mangers
  • Quality/Safety Managers
  • Process Operators/Technicians
  • Engineering Technicians
  • Procurement/Supply Chain
  • Logistics/Material Handlers
  • Management/HR/Accounting/Admin

To streamline the application process, the NYS Department of Labor (NYSDOL) will be pre-screening candidates.

solar city rendering

solar city rendering

After candidates apply online, they will be given TABE (a basic literary and math test used for placement,) manual dexterity screening as well as a clean room* overview.
[*SolarCity has a clean room environment which requires employees to wear sterile suits and prohibits employees from smoking in the area.]

Some candidates may be referred to area training providers for pre-literacy/pre-manufacturing training.

These training providers will act as pipeline suppliers for up skilled workers for manufacturing companies throughout Western New York.

NYSDOL will be hosting information sessions at career centers throughout Western New York, and community and faith based organizations are strongly encouraged to attend.

Candidates are encouraged to start applying online, as pre-screenings will begin in August 2015; the majority of hiring will begin in the last quarter of the year.

If you are interested in a career at SolarCity, I encourage you to visit their website

You can also search for manufacturing jobs on the New York State Department of Labor Jobs Express Website.

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10 tips for networking and business development

Whether managing a member referral roundtable, facilitating a mentoring program or managing a council, throughout my eight years working with the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, I have found networking and business development are critical skills that have enabled me to succeed in my role.

As the Regional Chamber of Commerce, everything we do at the Partnership is about our members.

We spend a great deal of our time networking and developing relationships to get to know them and their business needs.

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Tramont networking with Partnership members at the 2015 Spring Open House

As an expert networker, I have developed10 simple tips and techniques for networking and business development:

  1. Prepare: Ask yourself: what is the purpose of the event? Who are the attendees? Will there be facilitated networking or a program? Don’t be afraid to ask to get answers to these questions. Many organizations like the Partnership provide event descriptions and attendees lists which help you make the most of the event.
  2. Remember your business cards: I have forgotten them to many times to mention! I now keep a large supply in the glove compartment of my car. Now, if I forget to bring cards, it’s just a short walk to the parking lot.
  3. Set a goal: What types of people are you hoping to meet? As the facilitator of the Partnership’s CanAm Council, I am interested in meeting people who want to do cross border business or attend our upcoming “Unleashing the Power of the MegaRegion” event to connect with business leaders on both sides of the border. Going into the event with an understanding of the types of people you want to meet will help you walk away with valuable connections.
  4. Ask a question: Considering asking a question that will help you to meet your goal. For me, that starter question is: where are you currently doing business?
  5. Take notes: Carry a pen to write a brief note on the back of each business card. Right after you meet someone you want to keep in touch with, jot a quick note down to jog your memory of the conversation. This is a quick and simple trick to remember points of interest or discussion for follow up.

    Jessica Balke, Ann Evanko, Janine Tramont

    Power UP! attendees networking (from left to right:) Ann Evanko, Jessica Balke and Tramont

  6. Follow up: Call or email within a reasonable time frame of meeting. Reference where you met and why you are reaching out. Is it to provide information, to invite the person to coffee to continue your conversation or to send follow up information discussed?
  7. Connect on social media: Find new contacts on LinkedIn and Twitter and invite them to connect with you. This is a quick and easy way to stay connected.
  8. Be thoughtful: if your contact has an upcoming event, send them a quick note wishing them well. It’s okay to get a bit personal. We all have lives outside of work, just remember to keep it brief, simple and appropriate.
  9. Think before you act: Don’t be overly aggressive in your outreach. I keep one rule in mind: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should! Slow down, think about how you like to be approached, and do the same.
  10. Cultivate relationships: Always think about developing a relationship, as personal relationships are what make us successful! Listen to people, stay engaged and value the connections that you build.

To learn more about Unleashing the Power of the MegaRegion or to share your tips for networking and developing business, email me!

About the author: Janine Tramont is the newly appointed Manager of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s CanAm initiative. Janine has an 8 year history working for the Partnership, and brings a wealth of experience and value to the member experience.  In her new role, Janine serves to facilitate and manage the Partnership’s CanAm Council and Buy Local Initiative.

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Mark your calendar: upcoming manufacturing events

In accordance with the expansion of our Manufacturers’ Council, the Partnership is introducing several new manufacturing events in the next several months.

We encourage you to mark your calendar today for:

Cross-Council Mixer: 8/11

This networking event is open to all members of our five councils, as well as anyone interested in learning more about each group.

Attendees will get to know the members of our CanAmEnergy, Development AdvisoryManufacturing, and Logistics and Transportation councils!

Members of our Manufacturers Council after April's meeting (from left to right): Susan Witt (Dream It, Do It Program Coordinator for Erie & Niagara Counties), Matthew Smith (Council Chair and Moog, Ops. Project Engineer, Commercial Aircraft Group), Barrett Erbe (Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Economic Development Associate) and Steve Davis (Tapecon, Vice President of Operations)

Members of our Manufacturers Council (from left to right): Susan Witt (Dream It, Do It Program Coordinator for Erie & Niagara Counties), Matthew Smith (Council Chair and Moog, Ops. Project Engineer, Commercial Aircraft Group), Barrett Erbe (Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Economic Development Specialist) and Steve Davis (Tapecon, Vice President of Operations)

If you have already signed up for a council, this is a great opportunity to connect with colleagues and learn about the work of the other groups and how it relates to the work of the council you are involved with.

Manufacturing Kickoff: 10/6

The Kickoff represents the first meeting of our new Manufacturers’ Council and will feature presentations from the National Association of Manufacturers and Niagara University’s economics department.

We will also unveil the results of our Manufacturer Survey and outline our top priorities for the 2015-16 season, thanks to feedback from our council members.

This is a great opportunity for those considering joining the council to see the group in action.

I encourage you to stay up to date with us on social media and our blog, as we will be unveiling more information on each of these events in upcoming months!

For any questions about joining the council, please contact me.

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BN360 Spotlight Series: utilizing loan repayment programs

When we get a chance to scroll through our Facebook feeds, there seem to be many links to blogs and articles proclaiming the “top things 20-somethings want in the workplace.”

While sometimes valuable in content, these articles often fail to mention one huge hurdle that prevents millennials from participating in the local economy: massive student loan debt.

According to Bloomberg Business, the percent yearly increase of the average cost of higher education has, for decades, outpaced the rate of inflation.

As the cost rises, more and more Americans are making the choice (at as young as 18-years-old) to take out loans.

360SpotlightPros-HEADSHOTS10

BN360’s July Spotlight Professional: James Kennedy

Outstanding student loan debt not only hurts our economy by limiting the disposable income of young professionals, it also limits the purchasing power of the parents of these students, who may have taken out their children’s loan in their own name.

In 2013, it was estimated that about 70 percent of graduating seniors left undergrad with student loan debt.

The interest accruing on these loans ranges from 6.8 percent to 8.75 percent.

My wife and I graduated in 2011 and she received her master’s degree shortly after.

Ours is not a unique story: we lived at home before marriage to save money for our wedding, are waiting to have children until we pay off some of our debt, and are paying 1.4 times the cost of our mortgage in student loan payments per month.

None of these points make us unique among young professionals.

In fact, many of our friends are finding ways to balance a $900/month mortgage payment with a $1000/month joint student loan payment, most of which is paying off interest.

When I interviewed to work for Senator Gillibrand’s Office, there were many factors that made the prospect attractive. The Senator is well respected among her constituents and colleagues, and her office has a reputation for assisting New Yorkers in cutting through bureaucratic red tape.

What made the job even more attractive was a recruitment tool that federal offices can use to attract talented individuals to jobs in public service.

The Federal Student Loan Repayment Program allows federal offices to repay small portions of federally insured loans in the employee’s name.

While I did not become eligible for the program until my second year working for Senator Gillibrand’s office, each month I am able to make a choice: pay the same amount to my loans as I did without the repayment program and pay the principal off more quickly, or pay less on my loan and put the money I save back into the local economy.

Programs like this work in the private sector as well. There are businesses in WNY that offer student loan repayment to attract and retain talented recent grads.

Anyone would appreciate a higher salary and hourly rate, but if your goal is to attract high-end young professionals, offering a student loan repayment program is an excellent option for regional businesses.

From the employee’s standpoint, knowing that your employer wants to help you pay off your loans earlier is incredibly engaging and motivating.

My challenge to young professionals: Ask your employer if they offer student loan repayment programs. Similarly, when you are interviewing for a job, ask the interviewer if the company offers programs like this. The more candidates we have asking about these programs, the more likely it is that regional companies will make them a priority.

My challenge to employers: Talk to your employees about their student loan debt. Most importantly, consider offering student loan repayment programs to your employees.

It is repayment (and similar types of) programs that encourage home ownership and local spending.

About the author: Jim Kennedy is the Western New York Regional Director for the Office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Jim serves on the organizing committee for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of the Tonawandas and the Junior Achievement of WNY Young Professionals Board.

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