Its mission is to bring schools and businesses together to provide opportunities for youth to have a stronger workforce.
The Wyoming County Business Education Council (BEC) named Jeff Fitch, owner of Signlanguage, as its 2017 Outstanding Business Partner in Education at its annual breakfast meeting held at the Byrncliff Resort & Conference Center, Varysburg.
Signlanguage opened in the summer of 1986 after Ron Bouchard, Dave Caito and Fitch discussed and made samples of what they thought would be a unique type of sign for Western New York. Jumping at the opportunity, the trio began producing sandblasted and carved redwood signs.
The company’s first big sign produced – a 3- by 8-foot beauty – was purchased by Byrncliff.
By 1989 the business had increased so much it allowed Fitch to work full time.
“Nobody starts a business to win awards or to be recognized,” Fitch said. “We are in business to make a profit and stick around a few years… then it became five, then 10, then 15, and now it’s like ‘Wow! I’ve been digging holes for 31 years.’ “
In other business matters:
One of the BEC’s biggest highlights of the year was providing a Junior Achievement program at Warsaw Central School as a 6:30 a.m. class, says Executive Director Linda Leblond.
“The kids are there that early in the morning and they are intent to learn,” Leblond said. “We had a record number of Junior Achievement programs this year. Each of our schools are recognizing the importance of the Junior Achievement.”
The program is a self-contained business educational program that meets New York State education standards, officials say.
“Because of the endless number of volunteer in the county to step up to the plate, we’ve been able to expand our Career Days to include agribusiness this year. More than 1,500 students were able to participate.”
In addition to the volunteers, Marquart Farms donated 700 bags of potato chips for the participating students.
“We are fortunate to have those days and volunteers,” Leblond said.
And the success of the Junior Achievement Program was seen recently when Leblond was getting things organized for the annual meeting. The center pieces on the tables were flower boxes with a chalkboard front. Positive, inspiring words were written on the board. The idea came about from doing mock interviews years ago where members of the BEC asked students to name five adjectives to describe themselves.
“My niece came to visit me in the office and asked about the flower boxes. So I told her,” Leblond said. “She asked what kind of words and I said positive words. Then I asked her, ‘If I were a boss and you came to me for a job and I asked you to give me five words to describe yourself, what would they be? She said 'honest.' And I asked her for another one, and she said 'dependable.' So I said ‘You’re on a roll. I need 23 more.’ And she did it. She came up with them and wrote them on the boxes. And it give me great pleasure knowing that what we are teaching…the kids are getting it.”
Third-grade students at Letchworth Central School have been learning about city management in the Our City Program. Third-grade teacher Tyler King heads the program that helps students learn why things are where they are in a city, town or village.
In addition to learning about city planning, economics was a big part of the program.
“The kids played a game similar to the game of Life,” King said. “They have bank accounts and learn how to balance a checkbook and pay bills. It gives them a glimpse of what their parents take care of on a regular basis.”
They children also had an opportunity to have a business model for a restaurant, for example, and they also learned how news is spread in today’s world.
Older students were given an opportunity to create a business plan and pitch it to “potential investors.”
Gipsie Prickett decided on a school store called The Hive, and Madeleine Goulet developed a plan for a hotel and waterpark combination called Slide City.
The Perry High School students developed the concepts and presented their ideas to a panel of five investors. At the end of their presentations, participants of the meeting cast their votes for the best business idea.
Other accomplishments of the BEC include:
• College preparatory opportunities for high school students;
• Professional development for teachers; and
• Collaboration with Marquart Trucking, Gainesville, to offer a BOCES program at its facility.
BEC Board of Directors:
• Business members include: Jeffrey Fitch, owner of Signlanguage; Sonia Dumbleton, of Five Star Bank; Rachell Becht, human resource and safety manager at Koike Aronson Inc.; and Steve Hull, human resource director at Morton Salt;
Education members include: Julia Reed, superintendent at Letchworth Central School; Jessica Hibbard, Genesee Community College; Ben Halsey, superintendent at Pioneer Central School; Joseph Englebert, superintendent at Warsaw Central School; Daryl McLaughlin, superintendent at Perry Central School; and Kathleen Schuessler, superintendent at Wyoming Central School; and
• Members-at-large include: Donald O’Geen, Wyoming County District Attorney; Andrea Aldinger, director of Wyoming County Youth Bureau/Office of the Aging; Roxanne Dueppengiesser, Cornell Cooperative Extension; Brent Hastings, Town of Eagle supervisor; and Vanessa Zeches-McCormick, Town of North Java supervisor.
2017-2018 Slate of Officers are:
• Julie Donlon, assistant superintendent at Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, president;
• Brianna Stone, branch manager of Tompkins Bank of Castile, Warsaw branch, vice president;
• Bryce Thompson, superintendent at Attica Central School, treasurer; and
• Connie Almeter, director of nursing at Wyoming County Community Hospital, secretary; and Norbert Fuest, Apple Tree Consulting Services, past president.
“One thing that hasn’t changed has been the support for the BEC,” Donlon said. “The BEC was established in 1980. Since then, this countywide agency has ensured programs can flourish because the programs can now cross county lines. With the increase in students participating, the programs can continue to grow.”
Currently, the BEC has more than 250 members, which include business members, financial support and volunteers.
And who won the vote for the best business idea? Slide City.
For more information on the BEC visit http://www.wycobec.org/ or the office in the Ag & Business Center, 36 Center St., Warsaw.