C&S Companies: LEEDing by Example

‘We have to change some behaviors; the earth is our life-support system.’

By Martha Conway

New York enacted the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019 – one of the most aggressive climate laws globally – requiring the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and by at least 85 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels.

Some of those goals are 85-percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2050, 100-percent zero-emission electricity by 2040, 70-percent renewable energy by 2030 and 22 million tons of carbon reduction through energy efficiency and electrification.

C&S Companies make it their mission to help companies meet or exceed these ambitious goals.

Office Principal and Sustainability Leader Tim Hughes said C&S Companies is a multi-disciplinary engineering, architecture and construction firm having more than 450 employees representing all engineering and architectural disciplines and having expertise in all commercial markets.

“Anything that gets built, we can design,” Hughes said.

The green team

Hughes said when green and sustainable design and construction peeked their heads into the building trades, C&S was on the cutting edge and green thinking resonated with him.

“I knew it wasn’t a fad, it just made sense” he said.

Hughes said C&S strives to reduce negative impacts in internal operations and client projects across all markets. Employees formed a ‘green team’ to make changes internally. They overhauled systems in their own properties and sought landlord cooperation in the rest. The overall effort resulted in examination and reduction of their own footprint, demonstrating they can help clients go green, too.

C&S started purchasing recycled materials and reducing or eliminating use of potentially hazardous materials and single-use items.

“What we landfill is important, and we need to overcome our consume-and-dispose mindset and be resource-efficient with water, energy and materials,” Hughes said. “A lot of materials contain toxins, carcinogens and other things that affect human health and the endocrine system.”

C&S installed heat recovery systems, sensors and LED light fixtures. The main complex in Syracuse is LEED-certified in operation and maintenance. They began the transition to a non-carbon alternative energy source; solar offsets 25- to 30 percent of their energy costs, and they will see payback in about four years. Electric vehicle charging stations were installed and air travel impacts are offset via the Good Traveler carbon offset program.

“To encourage clients to build more intelligently, C&S models environmentally responsible design and construction,” Hughes said. “That includes materials, energy and transportation. To keep climate change in check, we must reduce carbon. We have to change behaviors; the earth is our life-support system.”

Hughes said the objective is to look past short-term goals and build a better building up front to save over the entire lifecycle of the project.

C&S gets all engineering disciplines involved, providing a comprehensive, integrative, whole systems perspective in the planning and design process to identify synergies, interdependencies and avoid potential unintended consequences and create solutions that balance all project and societal goals.

“Eighty percent of existing buildings will be here in 2050, so they have to be addressed,” Hughes said, explaining retrofitting existing spaces is challenging. “Regardless of how you feel about global climate change, the evidence is here: we’re depleting our resources and degrading the ecological systems that provide for our quality of life.”

Energy efficiency

Managing Engineer Ben Tashjian said energy efficiency is achieved through a number of services. An energy audit is performed on existing buildings, focusing on controls upgrades, mechanical equipment replacement with energy-efficient equipment, envelope upgrades and LED lighting conversion.

“C&S is a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority-approved FlexTech consultant,” Tashjian said. “The FlexTech program provides matching funds – or better, sometimes as much as 75 percent of some projects – for a variety of energy-efficiency studies and schematic design services for existing buildings.” These savings apply to many sectors including higher education, healthcare, and municipalities.

He said FlexTech allows clients to get more for their money and can offer more in-depth analysis. Energy modeling creates a more 3D view of buildings, simulating energy-consuming items and allowing engineers to remove items to calculate savings for each component.

“We want to help people stop, think and make smarter choices for energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions,” Tashjian said, explaining that C&S can help entire communities capture data and meet governmental standards for efficiency demanded by the CLCPA. “The only way to do that is no fossil fuels.”

“Analysis helps the client and the team by having input from all possible disciplines,” Tashjian said. “With this approach, we wind up with a much better project for our client.”

He said C&S can help clients secure funds to meet their sustainability goals.


“Airports, by nature, are composed of large facilities, buildings and infrastructure that support the traveling public and aircraft operations,” said Senior Consultant Kailey Eldredge. “That doesn’t mean they need to be an energy drain or massive source of emissions; there’s much that can be done when it comes to planning, designing and building to really help airports achieve sustainability goals and reduce impacts to the environment. They are assets to the public and contributors to social sustainability.”

C&S introduces operational efficiency to the triple bottom line definition of sustainability – because airports are unique in their operational needs and their focus on the safety of the public.

“COVID-19 had a massive impact on airports and airlines,” Eldredge said. “In a way, it’s really opened airports’ eyes to their role in public health.”

C&S also helps airports implement rating systems and certifications to meet their planning, design, and construction goals.

“We make a great effort to promote stakeholder engagement in every project we do, whether it’s a runway extension or airport master plan,” Eldredge said, echoing her colleagues on the importance of an integrative, whole systems view and multidisciplinary involvement from the start. “It’s something we’ve continued to do successfully, even during COVID.”

“We make sure we’re providing the highest and best value to every client,” Eldredge said. “Sustainability shouldn’t be a burden. We want to establish balance between benefits and cost-efficiency.”

“The earlier you conduct engagement focused on your organization’s goals and where you can make sustainable decisions, the easier it is to implement strategies. The further along in a process, the more costly it is to make changes that benefit a project and the organization as a whole.”

“Not just the big projects, and not just the ones that are pursuing LEED or fancy certifications, but every project, every decision you’re making is going to benefit you in the long run.”

Industrial Process


Principal Engineer Carey Merritt said industrial clients’ main focus is conserving energy, usually done though modifying processes that capture waste energy or replacing energy-using equipment with more efficient equipment.

“Replacing boilers and ventilation systems with energy-efficient units or adding smart controls that minimize run times during off-peak times are examples of how we have helped clients in the past,” Merritt said. “In addition, we look for sustainable building practices like passive solar, low-E windows and doors, tighter building envelopes and smart BMS system when we have the opportunity to design new or get involved with substantial renovations.”

Occasionally, we design in the renewable energy sector, he said.

“We recently finished a complete overhaul of an early 1900s small hydroelectric plant on the Owasco river in Auburn.”

“We use our energy managers, LEED architects and controls engineers to help project teams build sustainable methods into the design process. Oftentimes, we will perform energy-use analysis up front, which can be used to drive building-related decisions.”

“We also leverage our construction and operations team members to bring practicality into our work.”

Carbon management

Senior Principal John Trendowski said the first key to a carbon management program is to determine the source of carbon owned and operated by the facility (Scope 1), the electricity usage (Scope 2) and all other sources of greenhouse gases not controlled by the owner (Scope 3).

“Once the carbon sources are identified, we research how the sources can be reduced – if not eliminated – in a reasonable timeframe and cost.”

He echoed Tashjian that C&S can help identify funding opportunities through federal, state, and local governments or third-party companies.

The carbon management program should provide a realistic schedule of projects to reduce greenhouse gases over a certain period and identify potential obstacles that could affect a project. As a facility reduces the combustion of petroleum-based fuels, it also reduces criteria pollutants and potentially hazardous air pollutants.

C&S services parallel the components of a carbon management program:

  1. Greenhouse gas inventories to determine existing baseline conditions
  2. Sustainability plans detailing goals and steps to reduce greenhouse gases
  3. Integration of carbon-reduction strategies into potential projects and evaluation of alternatives
  4. Mitigation project design, including plans, specifications, bid services and construction management
  5. Funding source identification, including preparing grant applications and securing funding to offset the capital costs of projects
  6. Assist clients in obtaining management approval, incorporate sustainability into all facets of the organization and train staff, as necessary

“The bare truth is, humanity is tasked with resolving these issues within the timeline identified by the science if we want to avert the worst of the predicted consequences,” Trendowski said. “C&S continues to rapidly evolve their knowledge and approach to help those responsible for building and operating infrastructure to achieve their missions while addressing these broader impacts within their economic constraints.” 

For more information, contact C&S Companies at 877.CS.SOLVE (toll-free), contactus@cscos.com, facebook.com/pages/CS-Companies, twitter.com/C_SCompanies or linkedin.com/company/c&s-engineers-inc-. For more information on NYSERDA’s FlexTech Program, visit cscos.com/2020/09/nyserda_incentive/.

Chatfield Green Roofing: Growing Opportunities

By: Tami Scott

Bob Parker can attest to the old adage that perseverance really does pay off.

As the founder of Skaneateles Falls-based J&B Installations, which specializes in commercial roofing, Parker established another company 25 years later. The subsidiary, Chatfield Farms, was launched in 2006, about a year after J&B Installations worked on a green roofing project at SUNY Cortland. That operation involved using XeroFlor, a pre-vegetative roofing system that at the time was grown in Canada and nowhere else in North America. The product piqued Parker’s interest, and he consequently offered to be a grower at his farm in Elbridge if an opportunity became available.

“I kind of kept bugging him and bugging him,” said Parker, referring to the XeroFlor representative based in North Carolina. “And finally I met with him about a year later and became a grower for XeroFlor because they had a lot of projects coming up in the states.”

Originally developed about 45 years ago in Germany, XeroFlor has since gained substantial recognition throughout Europe, North America and Asia. And in the 10-plus years that Chatfield Farms has become a grower, its participated in numerous high profile projects, the Jacob Javits Convention Center among them.

“The Javits Center is our biggest roof grown out of the Elbridge field,” said Parker, who has good reason to feel a particular pride for this accomplishment. “We had almost a half million square feet of green roofing on the ground.” The Jacob Javits Convention Center roof size is 294,000 square feet, the largest green roof in New York City and the second largest in the nation. Only Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan beats it with a XeroFlor green roof installation of 10.4 acres, the equivalent of eight football fields. That was installed in 2003.

Benefits of Green Roofing

The benefits of green roofing are immense. For instance, green roofing significantly reduces stormwater runoff and improves water quality. Traditionally the roofing system is smooth, which causes water to run to the drain as fast as it hits the flat surface. Green roofing slows down the rate of water heading to the drains and subsequently wastewater treatment plants, and consequently reduces the need to build more plants.

“The green roof allows the water to stay on the roof [surface] up to an inch per rainfall event. Excess runs to the drains so most of the time you’re trapping the rainwater,” Parker said. “The water left on the roof is used for the sedum plants, with the remainder evaporating back into the air.” At the Javits Center, the roof, which was completed in 2014, prevents almost 7 million gallons of stormwater runoff annually.

Green roofing enhances building performance and conserves energy. According to a May 2013 archive published by Drexel.edu, Dr. Franco Montalto, a professor at Drexel’s College of Engineering and the lead researcher of a Javits Center study, was quoted as describing the intimate link between water and energy through the process of evapotranspiration. 

“Incident solar radiation changes liquid water, originally deposited on the roof by precipitation, into water vapor which then leaves the roof surface,” he said. “The energy consumed by this process keeps the roof and building cooler than it otherwise would be, since without the green roof this energy would simply heat up the roof surface. At the same time, if the air in the vicinity of the air conditioner intake pipes is cooler, these units have to work less to cool the —already cooler—building.”

 A black surface retains heat much longer than a green roof, Parker said, illustrating that a black roof in the middle of summer could reach a temperature as high as 150 to 170 degrees. In contrast, if you were to stand atop a green roof, the temperature would be similar to that of going to a park and laying on the grass.

Since the green roof at the Jacob Javits Center was installed, the temperature on the roof has decreased by 6 degrees Fahrenheit and the yearly energy consumption has decreased by just over a quarter, which in 2016 translated to a savings of $3 million.

Another benefit is an increase in urban biodiversity by providing a habitat for wildlife. According to its comprehensive 2017 Sustainability Report, the Javits Center roof has become a habitat for more than 20 bird species, including gulls, European starlings, barn swallows, rock pigeons, American kestrels and osprey. Five different species of bats now utilize the roof, as well as honey bees (300,000 have utilized roof hives) and arthropods.

Other advantages, just as significant, include a reduction of noise in the building and improvements to air pollution and air quality, “because it’s chewing up the carbon dioxide in the air,” Parker said. The longevity of the roofing system is also increased two- to three-fold because the sun’s UV rays are not hitting the surface of the roof, which prolongs the life of the system underneath.

 Additionally, those contemplating a green roofing system will find there are funding and grants available in many cities. One of the more recent cities to implement green mandates and tax incentives is Denver.  “Denver just created a new green zone, where if you’re inside the city you have to try and use green initiatives,” Parker said. “They’re giving a lot of tax incentives in Denver. We’re hoping that spreads across the country.”

Benefits of XeroFlor

XeroFlor, which has been installed in 38 states so far, is a lightweight, low maintenance and easy-to-install pre-vegetated mat system. Like Chatfield Farms, there are local growers across the country to supply the different regional climates for healthy, sustainable green roofing. Because the system is grown in the field, the plants are already mature and ready for installation. The cost, both monetary and time, associated with the types of systems that begin from scratch—through a plug or planting seeds or cuttings on a roof—are eliminated.

“When they roll out, [the mats are] just like sod on your lawn, ready to go. Servicing is simple: fertilize it in the spring, once a year, and do routine maintenance to take out any type of small weeds until it establishes completely,” Parker said. “The cost difference is about half the cost of a tray system.”

The XeroFlor mats are also non-biodegradable, which is special to the market, Parker said, because they can be picked up and reused 10, 20, even 30 years down the road. This feature makes them more sustainable than other systems that would need to be dug up in order to repair/ replace the roof, or install a roof top unit.

Project Highlights

Chatfield Farms initial involvement with XeroFlor as a grower in Onondaga County, town of Elbridge, evolved into becoming a licensed seller and supplier for the entire northeast, mid atlantic and central regions of the U.S.

 Aside from the Jacob Javits Convention Center, other sizeable and nationally recognized projects that Chatfield Farms has provided XeroFlor mats on include the Duke Medical Center located in Durham, N.C. (roof size just under 6,000 square feet), Columbia University in NYC (roof size 13,080 square feet), CBS in NYS (roof size 8,900 square feet), NYC’s School for Visual Arts Dormitory (roof size 3,080 square feet), Zeckendorf Towers in NYC (roof size 14,000 square feet), the Empire State Building (roof size 6,900 square feet) and Capital One Headquarters located, in McLean, Va., which has a roof size of 15,000 square feet.

Moving Forward: Products and Presence

“There’s been a lot of new products introduced into the industry,” Parker said. “You can build a green roof a hundred different ways and 95 of them will fail.” Parker projects that over the next few years, the industry will experience a “shakeout” of the multiple systems now being presented, but said he believes XeroFlor will hold its ground due to its nearly five decades of history and resilience. “They’ve been through the ups and downs of what’s good and what’s bad. There are certain manufacturers out there that try and make their systems as complicated to install as possible, making it a more difficult and expensive route to go.”

The increase in demand for green roofing, Parker said. can be attributed to better understanding of the concept, applications and benefits, as well as the tax incentives and grants that some cities are awarding to companies seeking eco-friendly building solutions.

As new ideas develop and blueprints hit the desks of decision-makers, green roofing could potentially become the dominant system in the industry. Roofs on older buildings can also be converted through lightweight systems. XeroFlor offers such systems with weights ranging from 8 to 25 pounds per square foot, Parker said. “We need very little soil. The Jacob Javits Center has a total of one inch of soil underneath the mat. The Ford Motor Company has no soil underneath, it’s just the mat,” he said. “The mats come with their own soil in them.”

Parker’s background in roofing extends more than 35 years, having established J&B Installations in 1981. His take on the green movement is one gained from first-hand knowledge combined with substantiated results. His response to the benefits of going green also touches on the basic facts that already evident to the general population.   

“It’s friendly to the environment. You’re taking the heat island effect out. You’re creating an environment for birds and [other wildlife]. You’re talking major municipalities like Philadelphia, NYC, Boston, Washington D.C. —they’re all pavement and concrete,” Parker said. “You’re bringing some green back into the environment. Every city could use more green.”

For more information on Chatfield Farms, call 315-466-2162 or visit gogreenwithchatfield.com.

Abscope Environmental Takes On New Leadership

By: Tami S. Scott

More About the Major Players

  • Man in black blazer headshotPresident and CEO Bob Romagnoli has spent all of his career in the environmental world, primarily on the consulting side. He has led multi-million-dollar Superfund remediation programs from investigation/design to construction and developed turn-key environmental strategies for numerous Fortune 100 companies. He served as Sr. Vice President at Arcadis and Managing Director at TIG Environmental before joining Abscope in January 2019.


  • Man in blazer headshotExecutive Vice President Rob Gray has more than 28 years of experience in the Environmental Remediation field. He has been an instrumental member of the Abscope Team since 1995. He has extensive project experience with MGP remediation, Hazardous Waste Remediation, Stream Sediment Removal, ISS, Sheet Pile Installation, Deep Excavations, and Site Development Projects.


  • Man with pink shirt and blazer headshotExecutive Vice President Robert Duffy has been a key employee of Abscope Environmental since 1989 and Vice President since 2009. Prior to 2009, Robert was General Manager for five years, managing and coordinating a variety of asbestos abatement projects throughout the Northeastern and Midwestern US. Since 1989, he has successfully supervised and/or managed more than 3,500 asbestos abatement projects.

Based in small-town Canastota, New York, Abscope Environmental’s roots reach back to the early 1970s when John Romagnoli established Canastota Constructors, a company that focused on heavy highway construction and site development.

It was 18 years later in 1989, when John, together with his sons, Jack and Jerry, founded Abscope, once described by Jerry as a spin-off of his dad’s livelihood. Over time, the company has grown to become one of the premier environmental remediation construction firms in the country. Today, Abscope embraces an era of new leadership, and is proud to announce its most recent developments.    

A New Era

Over the past two years, Jack and Jerry gradually hung up their Abscope hats for new roles as retirees, and gracefully passed the torch to their youngest brother, Bob Romagnoli. It was somewhat an expected rotation of ownership as the trio had talked about it for years, but as Bob explained, the timing now was finally right. With more than 30 years of experience in the environmental consulting industry, Bob is more than prepared to take on the family dynasty—and with good company.

In March 2020, long-time employees and minority owners since 2010, Robert Duffy and Rob Gray, signed on as majority partners, having an opportunity to own a larger percentage of the company. The contract was signed about two weeks prior to the coronavirus outbreak, and Robert joked that had the deal been further delayed, he might have run the other way. As with Bob Romagnoli, timing is everything, and fortunately, Abscope is surviving the pandemic with minimal upset, having been deemed “essential” from the start. 

“[Rob Gray and Robert Duffy] have been an integral part of the company for decades now, and together with my brothers, developed the successful business that we have today,” President and CEO Bob Romagnoli said.

General Manager Steve Mitchell, who has been with the company for 30 years, has also been a critical piece in the growth and success of Abscope. Mitchell handles the day-to-day coordination of resources and equipment, and according to Romagnoli, “stands on his head” to keep things running smoothly. “Stevie is laser focused on ensuring that all of our projects are properly staffed and equipped; his attention to detail is extraordinary,” he said.    

The New Normal

Though the current pandemic has postponed some state-funded school-related projects, overall, it has been business as usual — with just a few tweaks. Since COVID-19 has surfaced, there has been a heightened need for both preventative and reactive office cleaning to ensure a safe workspace. This type of service is a natural fit for Abscope’s Industrial Decontamination capabilities. Abscope can provide all surface sanitization and disinfection (aggressive industrial cleans), or it can serve a client through containment, decontamination, and remediation of coronavirus infectious sites and waste.

The company’s response methods are in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approved antimicrobial products, and OSHA’s COVID-19 planning guidance.

The team has had no active cases of the coronavirus to date.

Areas of Expertise — Rob Gray

Executive Vice President Rob Gray heads up both the remediation and geotechnical divisions, the former having gained “expert” status, the latter being a relatively new area for Abscope.

“Over the last 10 or 15 years we’ve been a pretty strong player in the MGP market,” which is short for Manufactured Gas Plant Remediation, Gray said. “We do much of that work for utilities such as NYSEG, National Grid and Rochester Gas & Electric Company (RG&E). This is an area where we’ve established a solid presence, and get a good share of the work, given our expertise.”

New York State has numerous MGP sites, Gray said, adding that “the list of sites gets longer each year [and] utility companies are doing all they can to get the sites cleaned up.”

While Abscope also provides a variety of geotechnical services such as shoreline stabilization, sheet piling, groundwater cut-off wall installation, and in-situ soil stabilization (ISS), they tend to fly under the radar a bit. Despite that, Abscope has worked on numerous geotechnical projects throughout its history, inspired by the company’s civil construction roots. Most recently, Abscope completed a shoreline stabilization project on Onondaga Lake, located directly in front of the St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater. The next shoreline stabilization project may be out of state. “It’s an active market in Michigan right now, and we’re accustomed to working throughout the Mid-West,” Gray said.

Abscope is also gaining traction in another new territory, providing civil works for windfarm repowering projects. The work generally includes developing lay down areas, access roads, crane pads, and various other site improvements needed to replace wind turbine components. This relatively new market for Abscope began in 2018 when a “green energy” developer contacted the company for support at a local windfarm. They selected Abscope due to its stellar safety record and reputation in the region. Since then, Abscope has continued to service this client throughout the US.

Areas of Expertise — Robert Duffy

Executive Vice President Robert Duffy, alongside General Manager Steve Mitchell, is charged with leading the asbestos abatement and industrial decontamination division.

Asbestos abatement services include the removal, encapsulation, enclosure, transportation, and disposal of asbestos-containing materials, as well as building demolition or selective demolition of building components. It also entails both lead and mold remediation.

Like Gray, Duffy’s involvement at Abscope goes back decades. He has been, and continues to be, a key player at Abscope, interacting daily with clients, regulatory personnel, subcontractors, and project engineers. He is also responsible for estimating, proposal development, submittal generation, waste disposal coordination, and final report development. Duffy has been instrumental in the development of project-specific health and safety work plans and Abscope’s company-wide, behavior-based Health and Safety program.

Reflecting on his years of dedication and service to Abscope, Gray said the opportunity that Jack and Jerry gave both him and Duffy has meant a lot to him. “They saw a lot of potential in us and determined that we were guys they should hold onto to help keep the company going when they retired,” he said. “I appreciate and thank them for the opportunity they gave [us].”

Green Building Tax Incentives – Part I

Nicholas L. Shires, CPA, Dannible & McKee, LLP

Nicholas L. Shires, CPA is a tax partner at Dannible & McKee, LLP.  Nick has over 16 years of experience providing tax and consulting services to a wide range of clients, including individuals and privately held companies. If you have questions for Nick regarding the green building tax incentives reviewed in this article, feel free to contact him at nshires@dmcpas.com or 315-472-9127

Sustainable design and construction of green buildings can be a costly endeavor for those looking to make a long-term investment.  As sustainable design gained prominence over the past decade, the Federal government and most state governments have offered financial incentives to entice builders, owners, designers, and developers to make the initial investment.  Those that are not taking advantage of the credits, deductions and rebates below are putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

                In Part I of this series, we will highlight the incentives that are available under the current tax code.  Clean energy is a major focus of President Biden’s proposed legislative changes, and there are substantial tax incentives included in the proposals.  We will discuss those in Part II.

Tax Credits

  1. Research & Development Credits (R&D)

Companies in the construction and design industries can benefit substantially from the R&D credit. This credit may be available if the company invests in activities which develop or enhance projects or processes through experimentation, which is not limited to the traditional lab setting everyone associates with the term Research and Development. Investments into green building design, designing energy efficient utility or HVAC systems, and LEED certification are among some of the qualified opportunities that companies may invest in to reap the benefits of the credit.

  1. Business and Residential Energy Credits

The revised residential energy credits apply to a more limited list of qualified property. For tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, qualified property consists of solar, wind, geothermal, and fuel-cell technology. The credit is equal to 30% of the cost of the investment in the qualified property.  This credit has begun to phase out, as scheduled.  For 2020-2022, the applicable credit rate is 26%.


  1. Investment Tax Credit

The investment tax credit is a credit available to construction companies for installing solar energy systems in their commercial properties and residential property for individuals. The credit for the 2020 tax year is 26% of the amount of the investment in eligible solar property.


Tax Deductions

  1. Accelerated Depreciation Expense

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act extended bonus depreciation and increased the amount of the deduction from 50% to 100% of cost on qualified property through 2022. The deduction phases down to 80% in 2023, 60% in 2024, 40% in 2025, and 20% in 2026. Qualified property includes machinery and equipment. An oversight of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was that certain non-residential improvement property no longer qualifies for bonus depreciation as it had been in the past under the 50% bonus depreciation rules. However, this was corrected with later legislation, and now qualified improvement property qualifies for 100% bonus depreciation.


  1. Section 179D Expense

The Section 179D expense has been a valuable deduction for construction and design firms, allowing a deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot for installation of energy efficient property. Although this deduction has historically been temporary in nature and expired for tax years after December 31, 2017.  Congress retroactively extended this deduction to tax years 2018 – 2020.  More recently, on December 27, 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) made the Section 179D deduction a permanent provision.


While green building certainly comes at a cost over traditional construction methods, the above tax incentives can help to mitigate those increased costs.  The best way to ensure your construction company is availing itself of all credits and tax deductions is to contact a tax professional that is well versed in the specialized industry of green building.

Part II of this series will be available in the Fall 2021 Edition of Going Green.

Granger Construction Company, Inc

By Sarah Hall

Les Granger, President, Chris Montrose, Vice President of Construction

Dig Safely NY, Corporate Headquarters, East Syracuse NY

1 Empower Federal Credit Union, Central Square, NY

Hannaford Supermarket and Pharmacy, Rome, NY

Microtel Inn & Suites, Altoona, Pennsylvania

Tractor Supply Store, Central Square, NY

Les Granger has no use for people who misrepresent the truth.

Granger, CEO of Granger Construction Company, Inc., values trust and integrity above all else, and those values form the foundation of his company.

“There is an understanding among the staff—this is how we want to present ourselves to our clients,” said Chris Montrose, vice president of construction at Granger. “They know they are fully supported in making decisions, providing straightforward and honest information to our clients.”

Granger went into the construction industry after he graduated from high school and his family sold the farm on which he grew up. He learned carpentry and masonry and later opened his own firm, working as a subcontractor, general contractor, and developer.

By the early 1990s, Granger was looking for something more.

“At a certain point in my life, I said, what do I enjoy doing the most? The answer was constructing buildings,” he said. “I love the creative process of putting a building where there once was nothing. I still have a passion for that.”

Thus, Granger Construction Co. was born in 1992. The company focused almost solely on retail construction up and down the East Coast until 2008, when, as Granger said, “retail business did not slow down—it stopped overnight.” The crash forced Granger to diversify; now the firm also works with clients in the hospitality, multi-residential, healthcare, light industrial and most general commercial markets. The company is also focusing more on what sales and marketing manager Don Kowell calls “pre-construction services.” This service provides real-time input on cost, constructability, and schedule during the planning and design phase.

“We’re good at managing and coordinating a project,” Kowell said. “While we still participate in the private commercial bid market, we’ve been doing more of the pre-construction/ construction management approach on projects.”

Under this approach, the firm, led by Montrose, will evaluate a project to determine the needs of the customer and put together a team of subcontractors that will best fulfill those needs. Granger said it is faster and more efficient than the traditional means of putting a project out to bid, and it often nets better results.

This has proven to be a successful approach for anyone looking to build or develop.

“If you can put the right team together of owner, designer, and contractor, I can almost guarantee you we can come up with a more successful project than doing it the traditional way of hiring an architect to draw something, then going out for competitive bids to general contractors,” he said. “The process can get there that way, but it takes longer, and it is harder to get the value placed in the right spot. If an owner can articulate what they would like to get out of a project, what their goals are, and in turn have the right architect who can put their vision on paper while working with the general contractor, this will ensure the design is both conceptually and financially in line with the owner’s expectations. Putting together the right team of people up front will generate the best value for the owner’s investment.”

While Granger Construction Company does some travelling, the bulk of their business is local, which is the result of a conscious effort to focus on the central New York region.

“We are focusing on trying to stay in New York,” Granger said. “But at the same time, repeat customers ask us to go and look at opportunities in different places. We still have solid resources up and down the East Coast.”

Granger Construction also does a lot of repeat business, made possible by the good relationships the company maintains with its clients.

“I think our relationships are built based on the fact we are just a group of hardworking people who are straightforward,” Montrose said. “We do not pull punches with our clients. We tell them facts—not always what they want to hear. We give them the information they need to make the best decisions possible to achieve the overall outcome they desire.”

Granger Construction also strives for complete transparency with others in the construction industry.

“We try very hard amongst ourselves and with our subcontractors and our suppliers to do what we say we are going to do—treat them fairly, pay them correctly,” Granger said. “This attracts quality subcontractors who seek to work with us on our projects.”

The culture based on trust and integrity permeates everything Granger does, including his interactions with his employees.

“It is really important that I can trust everyone I work with,” he said. “Everybody in the company has wide open access to everything, but that requires a trust that they will treat that information with the confidentiality that it should have.”

That culture accounts for the longevity of Granger’s staff, many of whom have been with the company for a decade or more. Kowell said that is what has kept him there for more than 15 years.

“It Is the family atmosphere, the trust and the faith that we have in each other,” he said. “When we get busy, we all help each other out. This attitude is across the board.”

That said, Granger emphasized that employees’ real families must always come first.

“We view ourselves as our employees’ second family, but their real families come first,” he said. “We recognize the importance of this, and we adjust for it.”

“When someone has a medical issue or something like that, we all cover for each other, help each other out, that type of thing, and it has just been a refreshing situation to experience,” Kowell said.

Montrose joined the company more than 20 years ago as a project manager. He worked his way up through the ranks to his current position as VP of construction. He sees his future as being at Granger, something that pleases Les Granger as he looks toward the end of his working days.

“I considered myself retired about 10 years ago,” he said. “Now I only work five days a week.

Montrose, the team builder, has been an active part of the growth process. In that focus, Montrose’s responsibility is to look for new talent to help lead Granger into the future. Among his picks is project manager Mike Eger, who joined the company about 13 years ago.

“He came in and started by coordinating subs on a job site and pushing a broom. He soon after became a project manager,” Montrose said. “His character, skill set, and his drive match up well to how we want the future of the company to be shaped. He will be one of the people who helps shape it.”

“Mike is a future leader in training,” Granger said. “He came here out of school. Right now, he is operating in project management, but we expect him to play a full leadership role down the road.”

As a leader, Granger does not micromanage his people. He understands that while different employees take different approaches on various issues, everyone at the company is headed to the same destination.

“If an employee knows what the target is, and he approaches it with integrity, he does not have to do it the same way I do it,” Granger said. “But there is integrity to what he does. We do not have rules that before Chris approves a contract, there are 32 different signatures to get. He has the authority to do his job. I can trust that he is making the right decisions.”

“For ourselves and our clients, we feel we have the right team to be successful—a team you can trust has the customer’s best interest as its priority,” Montrose said. “We have a good group of people who are all driven for the company and our clients to be successful.”

TDO- The Community’s Best Kept Secret; Serving Central NY Since 1988

By: Janelle Davis

Jim D’Agostino – CEO / MEP Center Director

Mike Metzgar – Business Development Manager

Scott Laundry – Senior Project Manager

Sarah Burlingame – Senior Project Manager

Marc Bicknell – Senior Project Manager

“We’re not the traditional consultants,” says Jim D’Agostino CEO and MEP Center Director for TDO (Train Develop Optimize).

Jim is a degreed mechanical engineer who has been working in manufacturing for over 20 years. He has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, in addition to his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Syracuse University.

D’Agostino has worked in several manufacturing jobs. Some of these jobs include quality roles, plant manager, and working in operations management. He has also worked in a variety of industries including automotive, precision machining, paper manufacturing and the furniture industry.

D’Agostino was recruited to TDO by a headhunter. “I was happy with my current role, but the allure of TDO, its mission, and the ability to assist numerous manufacturers in the CNY region was too much to pass up,” he admits.

About TDO

TDO, based in Syracuse, NY, is a not-for-profit consulting and training organization working primarily with manufacturers.  Founded by local economic development officials in 1988, TDO began as The Central New York Technology Development Organization. Covering the five-county Central NY region (Onondaga, Cayuga, Cortland, Madison and Oswego), TDO became the New York State CNY Manufacturing Extension Partnership center designation (MEP). 2018 brought to TDO (Train, Develop and Optimize), a new logo, and more determination and passion than ever to reflect their mission.

“Our mission is to help those small to mid-size manufacturers,” says D’Agostino. “We help with a lot of those nitty gritty engineering and technical consulting projects that deliver hard impacts and savings for our clients,” he continues. TDO offers this assistance in order to grow the local economy. They achieve this goal by helping companies increase revenue, reduce costs, and increase productivity. A lot of the work TDO does is technical consulting and engineering support.  They also look for ways to improve productivity and reduce costs.

TDO helps their clients grow by offering certifications, like the Lean Six Sigma Green and Black Belt Certifications. The Lean Six Sigma is a combination of the best attributes of “Lean Manufacturing” and “Six Sigma.” TDO offers these in-house trainings and workshops with the model to empower your company, innovate new paths, transform your organization, optimize for continuous improvement and bring to light your growth potential.

One of the more popular certifications TDO offers is Toyota Kata. “With Kata, we teach our manufacturers how to think scientifically and how to tackle those everyday obstacles to achieve their target condition or goal. It’s a structured scientific approach to continuously improve,” says D’Agostino. The Toyota Kata is offered with several options, including half day and full day simulations.

To further enhance your company, TDO offers access to free webinars via their website. These webinars cover relevant topics to move your company forward. You will learn from professionals like CEO’s and Client Development Specialists on topics such as, finance during the pandemic, grant information, and help to upskill your current workforce.

What makes TDO different

 “We have shared skin in the game,” D’Agostino says.

What he means, is that after TDO finishes a project with a client, six months later the client will receive a survey from a third party asking them if TDO helped them with any of the following; create/save jobs, grow/save their sales, develop cost savings, etc. All this data is compiled into a report card they get from the federal government every quarter. This report rates them on how good of a job they are doing at hitting those impact categories. It also provides them with an assessment that they can evaluate.

“It’s a neat model we have at TDO,” D’Agostino says. He continues, “This makes us a little different because if we find that we didn’t help a client be more competitive and achieve savings and productivity improvements, then we will get a subpar score and that will affect our grant funding. We are accountable, so when we go into a job, we see ourselves as an integral part of the team and are right there alongside them.”  

TDO has impacts to prove that they are making a difference with their clients. “The number of repeat clients that we have is incredible,” D’Agostino said.

Grant Assistance

Another benefit working with TDO are the multiple grant funding opportunities. As the regional MEP center, they have access to two exclusive grant funds. There are productivity funds through National Grid and NYSEG (Rochester Gas and Electric). Both companies have a reimbursable grant program offering funding between 40% and 60% of project costs. Both programs offer grants up to $40,000 for eligible applicants.

If you are a manufacturer in the five-county region working with TDO, then you can have access to those funds. From which source is dependent on who the client’s utility provider is. “40%-60% funding could make a huge difference for a manufacturer.”  D’Agostino explains that a lot of times this funding is the difference between a project getting approved.

Grant funding can help small to mid-sized manufacturers reinvent themselves, increase profits, create jobs, and establish a foundation for long-term business growth and productivity.

TDO can also connect clients with the Workforce Development Institute (WDI), who also has manufacturing funds available. CNY Works has really good lucrative funds as well. Each grant application is different and TDO will help you navigate through the process.

D’Agostino says, “We are able to connect clients to a bevy of funding partners depending on their need.”


D’Agostino made sure not to miss the opportunity to highlight his team. Speaking with respect and admiration, he explains that they all have similar skills. They have two, soon to be three, senior project managers, as well as a business development manager.

“We are all degreed in engineering and computer science, and heavy with technical confidence,” He explains. “We are all experienced in lean manufacturing.” He goes on, “We have an electrical engineer, an industrial engineer, a computer scientist and I am a mechanical engineer.”

“We are a very well-rounded team!”

‘Everyone in the organization is critical to success’ AmeriCU Credit Union President & CEO Ron Belle talks about leading through growth, challenges, and community focus.

By Martha Conway

Ron Belle, President & CEO

AmeriCU Financial Center located at Griffiss Technology Park, Rome

Belle presents Lisa Posselt, Consumer Loan Underwriter III, with an AmeriCU Service Award recognizing her 30th anniversary with the credit union.

Ron Belle, originally of Camillus, joined the AmeriCU team four years ago; as of last year and coinciding with AmeriCU’s 70th anniversary, he is now leading the team.

Belle graduated from Utica College of Syracuse University as well as earned executive management certifications from University of Wisconsin at Madison and Case Western Reserve University. After graduation, he entered the world of financial services before accepting a job at a Syracuse-area bank as a branch manager. From there, he worked his way up, securing increasingly responsible positions and managing greater numbers of people and teams.

During his career, Belle has moved five times living in four states as his career advanced; in 2017, he came home to central New York and AmeriCU. He’s been the president and chief executive officer there since May 2020.

“My wife is originally from Poughkeepsie, so this was a great homecoming opportunity for our family.”

His progress on the way up the financial institution ladder allowed Belle to observe and learn from several managers; two he considers mentors and speaks with regularly.

“At every level, you hone your management traits,” Belle said, adding that management skills evolve as you mature with experience and age.

To lead people through the realities of adapting to change, Belle said the most important functions of his job at AmeriCU are maintaining a strong foundational culture, having a well-designed strategy, and consistently communicating how change supports AmeriCU’s vision, mission and strategic plan.

“You have to focus on individuals,” he said. “You have to get to know the team and what drives them.”

Belle believes in a ‘shadow of the leader’ philosophy, with the understanding that people at every level in an organization can provide a positive influence that can affect sustainable change.

And one place AmeriCU’s nearly 350 teammates are focused on continuing to lead is in their respective communities. With 19 financial centers across nine counties, there are plenty of opportunities for the AmeriCU team to continue to engage with their communities through volunteerism and serving on boards for a variety of non-profits. AmeriCU is committed to providing comprehensive financial wellness, working with schools, colleges and businesses to provide financial resources on a variety of topics from home ownership to caregiving for aging parents, as well as learning about loans and building credit, all provided through in-person or live video seminars and online training programs.

“Across our central New York footprint, financial wellness education has grown and expanded, and participating schools and businesses have grown each year,” Belle said. “We often hear from teachers, students and businesses owners that the financial information we provided made a positive impact on people and families; that makes you really proud.”

AmeriCU’s growth has more than doubled in the past decade, and Belle said investing in technology is a necessity that has helped fuel that growth. Online features such as easier loan applications and better online banking services, attractive to new and long-tenured members, have been widely accepted and implemented.

Another reason for AmeriCU’s growth has been team. Belle said the company has expanded significantly, with a good mix of long-term, tenured professionals who have grown with the credit union, and new teammates who have brought new ideas and process changes from their experience at other organizations.  

“We always talk about how valuable teamwork is,” Belle said. “It is possible to grow too fast and put too much pressure on our people to meet the added demands. As processes change, you can’t do things the same way or even use the same technology, so it’s crucial to communicate these changes to all team members and remind them how critical they are to our success.”


In addition, visionaries at the top of the organization must look at all facets of implementing new programs or services and weighing technologies against each other to see if the benefits and growth support the cost of the planned innovations. One of the biggest challenges facing credit unions right now is striking the right balance between banking entirely online using self-serve technology or the more traditional in-branch model.

“We will always strive to maintain that balance between technology and personal human interaction,” said Belle.

AmeriCU is reimagining its vision and mission statement, which Belle said will build upon its community-focused and community-based ideals. The organization is focused on increasing its community involvement and leveraging the expertise of its team members in the communities where they are located.

“AmeriCU’s name is synonymous with members’ prosperity and growth, and every day we make sure the breadth and depth of services dovetail with our vision and mission, as well as align with our core values,” Belle said. “Our visibility in the community aligns with our strategic plan.”

Belle said he is proud to have AmeriCU based in central New York, a local full-service financial institution that provides members services and advice, from a new member’s first account up to and including retirement and insurance needs.

Belle said some people are uncomfortable with the word ‘member’ versus ‘customer’ or ‘depositor’ at other financial institutions; simply stated, credit unions are non-profit cooperatives owned by members.

Membership is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in AmeriCU’s nine-county field of membership and their immediate family; anyone who works for a number of employer partners; and active or retired military and their immediate family.

“We’ve built a great brand with AmeriCU,” Belle said. “We’re working hard to ensure AmeriCU is the best financial institution, and along with our community support and involvement, we strive to be one of the most admired organizations out there.”

For more information on AmeriCU, visit AmeriCU.org or call 800.388.2000.

An Opportunity To Design New Hybrid Workforce Models

By: Pierre Morrisseau, CEO, OneGroup

Remote work for many appears to be here to stay. The pressing challenge for CEO’s is finding the right hybrid mix of remote work and in-person collaboration to sustain the corporate culture, values and mission.

Connecting people remotely with technology has had a profound impact on business. In many ways, it has increased focus and productivity. The bad news is we can’t quantify what we are losing. Are we really connecting? Are we truly developing strong relationships? Are we missing the many casual opportunities to mentor and teach that happen when we are together?  I believe that finding the right balance between remote work and returning to the workplace is critical to our success. We need to find the best way to gathering around the proverbial water cooler.

We’ve seen that remote work calls for additional skills development and communication techniques. We’ve learned that further innovation is needed to make remote work more productive and engaging. We question: How do we re-engineer in-person activities? Is this a chance to create new work models and facilities that enhance the focus on relationship building, learning and engagement when we do come together?  I believe there is tremendous opportunity for innovation here as well.

When OneGroup built its new building, we wanted to create a truly innovative space that facilitated teamwork, collaboration, innovative thought, engagement, and holistic solutions.  Not just for our employees, but for our clients, our partners, and our communities.  The innovative workspaces allow teams to collaborate to ask better questions. It facilitates diverse groups of our employees, vendors and our community coming together.

One of my favorite parts of that journey was taking a group of employees to the Herman Miller design studio in Michigan where they explained, demonstrated, and lived the concept of deconstructing the office.  They asked these questions (and many more): What is the true use of the space? What is the impact on human psychology in that space? How will it enhance the users’ objectives?

They realized that an office was meant to be highly functional for everyone.  Their model defines several types of work, yet 80% of an employee’s time is spent doing just one of these.  They showed us that you can build your primary space for the 80% of work and build other spaces in the building that fit your other types of work—to build in flexibility and creativity. To see some of this in action you can go to www.hermanmiller.com/stories/why-magazine/.

In the end, the journey to learn and open our minds to new ways of working was as valuable for our culture as the final construction of our new facility. We learned there is real power in teams. They are more impactful in quickly bringing solutions, and they create a more rewarding experience for our team members. The process—although we had no idea at the time—also prepared us to easily transition to remote and safe in-office work while not missing a beat in serving our many clients.

I think the quest for the hybrid work environment follows the same thought process: deconstruct the workplace and perhaps even the total work concept. As CEO’s it provides a great opportunity to ask better questions and to collaborate with each other, our employees, our partners, and our communities. Every organization is different and will want to develop their own specific solutions, but our challenges are remarkably similar. We share business fundamentals that can be applied in each of our organizations. I see this as a tremendous opportunity for each of us to take our organizations to a higher level.

Dr. Robert Corona, CEO Upstate University Hospital; Digging Deeper for the Greater Good

By: Sarah Hall

Upstate University Hospital CEO Dr. Robert Corona and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Amy Tucker are part of a “lead by example” campaign for the COVID-19 vaccine. Upstate was named a hub by the Governor’s office to facilitate the vaccine rollout for five counties in Central New York.

Upstate Medical University President Mantosh Dewan, MD, (center) and Hospital CEO Robert Corona,  MBA, (right) receive an update from staff during an on-site vaccination clinic. As the hub, Upstate vaccinated staff from other hospitals as well.

Photo Credit: Kathleen Froio

“When things are tough, like in a tough game, you’ve got to dig down,” said Robert Corona, DO, the CEO of Upstate University Hospital.  “You do not want to let your teammates down, so you keep digging deeper.”

Digging deeper is what Dr. Corona’s team—the thousands of doctors, nurses, technicians, lab workers and others—has been doing since the COVID-19 pandemic reached Central New York. The hospital has treated hundreds of patients who contracted the virus, implemented new tests, developed new therapies, and—as part of SUNY Upstate Medical University—was alongside the creation of one of the most accurate and affordable COVID-19 tests and the first vaccine approved for use by the FDA.

Most recently, Upstate University Hospital was named the vaccine hub for five counties in Central New York. These hubs, established by the governor’s office, are led by local hospital systems to work with the counties and community leaders and to guide the stages of the state’s vaccination plan.

Dr. Corona said Upstate has been able to handle the COVID-19 challenge because the institution has always focused on people, both those it employs and those in the community. “When our people work hard, they do it for the greater good, not because of a bonus check or hazard pay,” he said. “As a [state-regulated hospital] their compensations are negotiated at the state level, but they still do their jobs with courage and caring. I could not imagine being on any other team.”

Dr. Corona brings a range of experience to his role as CEO. He holds a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree (DO), an alternative to an MD with an equal scope of practice and licensing requirements to MDs. Among his fellow DO alumni is Dr. Kevin O’Connor, who is President Joseph Biden’s personal physician and a decorated Navy physician.

Dr. Corona’s clinical training started in neurology at Upstate, but he quickly realized his interest was in the pathology of neurological diseases. This led to a residency in anatomic pathology and fellowship in neuropathology. He also did a special fellowship in neuropathology, concentrated in neuromuscular diseases at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. That fellowship was under the direction of Dr. Joe Parisi, another Upstate alumnus, who went on to be the chief of neuropathology at the Mayo Clinic. 

In addition, he has earned an MBA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

After his fellowship, Dr. Corona came to work at Upstate. He served as one of the region’s only neuropathologists and started Upstate’s Telemedicine and Medical Informatics Program in 1995. He then spent 16 years on the business side of medicine as chief medical officer and vice president of medical and scientific affairs at Welch Allyn. During his time there, he remained involved with Upstate and returned in 2012 to chair the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

At Upstate, he continues to serve as a named professor, and awards for teaching include the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. His past positions at Upstate include chief innovation officer and vice president for business development. He also led the development and implementation of the Upstate MIND (Medical Innovation and Novel Discovery) at the CNY Biotech Accelerator.

Dr. Corona said he was drawn back to Upstate because he loved being part of a teaching hospital and was honored to be appointed to the CEO role in 2018. “I missed the unique stimulation of being in an academic medical center,” he said. “It also may sound a little unusual in referring to a place of this size, but Upstate is a family.”

In addition to the officers in his hospital C-suite, Dr. Corona says that excellent working relationships with Upstate President Mantosh Dewan, MD, and College of Medicine Dean Lawrence Chin, MD, has made his job enjoyable, even as they all face challenges from the pandemic.

“We feel like we are the go-to institution for the most complicated and complex problems,” Dr. Corona said. “I mean, imagine an institution of medium-size in a medium-sized city having such an impact on the world.”

Upstate Medical University is the region’s largest employer and is composed of four colleges; the clinical system overseen by Dr. Corona, which includes two hospital sites and a biomedical research enterprise. The COVID test called Clarifi COVID-19 was developed by the Upstate research team, led by Dr. Frank Middleton, and Quadrant Biosciences. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced in December that the test is among the most sensitive in the world in detecting the virus in its earliest stages. The saliva test is also cost-effective and easy to use, as patients can administer it themselves. The SUNY system has used the tests and Upstate’s unique pooled testing system to process up to 200,000 tests a week.

On the therapeutic side, Upstate Chief of Infectious Disease Dr. Stephen Thomas served as the coordinating principal investigator for the worldwide Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial. Upstate is one of the global phase-three trial locations. The vaccine was the first to be approved for use against COVID-19; the first doses were administered in December.

While COVID currently dominates the headlines, the hospital is advancing other medical care with new treatments and procedures in the fields of neurological disorders, surgery, cancer and many others.

Those innovations will help serve patients the numerous clinical services and specialty centers that are unique to Upstate, from the Cancer Center to Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital to the Comprehensive Stroke Center to the Upstate Heart Institute, and more. And because those centers are connected to a larger facility, multiple departments can address patients’ needs.

“That multidisciplinary collaboration is the huge benefit of being a teaching hospital,” Dr. Corona said. “That collective expertise means you have physicians who are at the top of their fields to discuss the cases across departments, so you get additional expert opinions. They also are teaching the next generation of the profession. That keeps everyone on the forefront of skills and knowledge. All this goes to the benefit of the patients in our community.

“The environment changes every day, and in this pandemic, it changes dramatically every day,” he said. “You have to have a tool set that you can call on depending on the environment you encounter that day. Because we have so many talented staff, we are able to optimize for the problem we are confronting.”

He’s confident Upstate’s team can overcome any challenge.

“In the hospital, I think the future is very bright,” Dr. Corona said. “We are in the midst of deploying the vaccine, and we will build upon the innovations that came with COVID-19. We have come into our own in the past couple of years, and I think we are on a flight path that is allowing us to do great things.”

In service to the mission

As a leader at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Dr. Corona is responsible for upholding Upstate’s mission and values. “Upstate’s mission is to improve the health of the communities we serve through education, biomedical research and patient care,” he said. “The hospital intersects with all parts of the mission.”

Dr. Corona said Upstate leadership relied on input from thousands of employees across education, research and patient care to develop its core values, which are to:

  • Drive innovation and discovery
  • Respect people
  • Serve our community
  • Value integrity
  • Embrace diversity and inclusion

Those values dictate everything Upstate does, he said. They also helped him establish the four strategic pillars specific to the clinical system. These are:

Quality of Care

“These are the objective measures to show that we’re always striving to care for our patients with the greatest expertise, in the safest environment,” he said

“We also reach goals for awards set by external agencies. We are accredited by DNV Healthcare, and this process helps us live up to national and international best practices.”

The Upstate Experience

“This is about the subjective experience, or how you feel when you are a patient here,” he explained. “We want to ensure that our people are courteous and that your clinical team is communicating with you in the way you need.

“The Upstate Experience also relates to the work environment for our employees. We all want our employees to feel valued, protected and safe.”

Advanced Technologies and Innovation

“When patients come to Upstate, they are expecting the most advanced and expert care—it’s a hallmark of being a teaching hospital,” he noted. “In addition to offering the latest technologies, we are also looking to be innovative in our setting. We have teams of employees who are looking at new ways to improve and fine tune how our system works.”

Sustainability and Growth

“We strive to grow strong and be sustainable for healthcare and employment, and we also want to be a system that supports a healthy planet. We are a big place, so how we handle our resources really matters,” he said. “Doing the right thing for the environment directly ties to doing the right things for the health of our patients, of our employees and for Upstate.”

Donna Tupper, Owner/President, Infinity Northeast, Inc. : Approaching 40 years and still growing.

By: Martha E. Conway

Donna Tupper, President, Owner, Infinity Northeast Inc.

Jeffery Schoonover, Peninsula Lifestyle Capital

After 37 years in construction, Infinity Northeast, Inc., owner, and President Donna Tupper, 59, is continuing to diversify; she is branching out into owner-developer properties and a partnership with principals in IRL Social.

Tupper studied business then attended Cayuga Community College. At 22, with her husband traveling extensively for work and unwilling to hire daycare, she said she had to get creative.

“I went to a few friends at the Small Business Administration and in the real estate industry to see if they could use any help,” she said, adding that she started by cleaning and performing minor repairs before graduating to a full-blown handyman service for the properties. “I painted, hung wallpaper, did trim and hung doors.”

Because the buildings were vacant, she said she could do the work at any hour.

“My mom would watch the baby, and I would work evenings, sometimes all night, eventually growing into having an all-girl crew.”

After expanding her menu of capabilities, Tupper worked for other construction companies starting as commercial project management then into construction executive positions. She decided to go out on her own and learned very quickly that she did not care for the residential work.

“The clients can be very demanding in residential work with minimal financial benefits,” she said. “I love everything about commercial projects. The people who work for Infinity are loyal and dedicated, and I wanted to take care of them.”

She did not want them out working in inclement weather and she could control that.

“Commercial work allows me to take care of the Infinity team,” she said.

“I want to ensure my own future without my daughters worrying about taking care of me, but I also want to make sure the business is stable, and they are taken care of – if and when I decide to get out of the company,” explaining that this year has been something of a challenge, but she is confident she can keep her people busy by moving toward the development end of the business.

Tupper said she has a core group of permanent team members (she doesn’t like to call them ‘employees’) between superintendents, administrative positions and field crews, and they are another reason she’s moving into development.

“Their future is also important to me,” she said.

Property development, ownership and management initiatives are on the horizon, as is entry into the IRL and PropTech arenas.

“I am planning a comprehensive medical center in Naples, Fla., where I will be in the own-developer position,” she said. “I am planning to have physical therapy, a high-tech wellness gym, offices for specialists and possibly a pharmacy, to lease space out.

PT is sorely lacking in Naples. I want to end the necessity of people having to make multiple stops to take care of themselves by consolidating medical services in one building.”

In addition, she is in the initial stages of acquiring land in North Carolina to build single-level, high-end housing for the 55-and-older crowd, and she is planning a resort in Clearwater, Fla. Both will have wellness gyms and a focus on comfortable living.

“There are people, singles and couples, who don’t want the hassle of taking care of properties or climbing stairs anymore,” she said. “I want to give them a great experience and help them really enjoy the last 10 or 20 years of their lives. This will also provide a safe secure environment for the residents.

“After I’m settled into development, I will have set myself up for when I’m no longer working and out of the business. All three daughters reside out of state, so there is really nothing tying me to stay in New York, but the corporate office of Infinity will remain in Syracuse. I can work remotely from anywhere.”

Within the IRL Social field, Tupper said she will invest and partner with Jeffrey Schoonover of Peninsula Lifestyle Capital to assist in the construction development and management pieces of the businesses, with maintaining a financial investment. Schoonover, who is well-versed in e-sports, said Infinity Northeast is ideally placed to identify franchise and emerging market entertainment opportunities due to its work in the gaming/resort/hospitality and food-and-beverage markets. Their partnership, he said, provides an opportunity for investors to get in on the ground floor of these emerging prospects and enjoy a one-stop shop for the digital-IRL Social integration concept.

According to Schoonover, the IRL Social concept drives foot traffic and can play a vital role for malls that have an urgent need to re-purpose unoccupied retail spaces.

“Donna chose the partnership because the founders of IRL Social have in-depth knowledge of the retail real estate sector in closely held investments, recently acquiring more than seven million square feet of commercial retail space in 17 states over the past 18 months,” Schoonover said. “In addition, founders also have stakes in a top-12 professional e-sports organization globally and vast experience in content creation. Founders also have stakes in the PropTech sector, which is growing.”

‘PropTech’ is defined by Vincent Lecamus on Medium.com as a collective term used to define startups offering technologically innovative products or new business models for real estate markets. It includes all available technology to help find properties and investors, match clients to properties, manage properties, finance the business transactions and more.

Development may be in her immediate future, but Tupper said her long-term vision and a career highlight converge in her outreach work: informing young people and displaced workers about the opportunities available in the construction trades.

“I’ve learned a lot over the years, and I’m very proud of the work I’ve done getting younger generations involved in the construction trades,” Tupper said. “It’s one of the most important things I can do.”

Tupper attends and presents at various events. She has led women’s classes within the Carpenters Union, the SBA’s Women in Construction program and with Girls’ World, a 21-year-old national program that aims to connect girls to resources and partners in their communities to help them realize their potential. Syracuse has been a host to the organization in 2018 and 2019 and Tupper spoke, hoping to inform and educate those in attendance.

“The girls come to look at opportunities that are available,” she said. “If you have no idea about construction, how would you know the opportunities that are out there? We try to explain what is out there and the vast avenues for girls to become involved in the construction industry.”

“The union is a good place to start,” she said. “All kids don’t want to go to college; lots of schools have eliminated shop classes. Displaced adult workers have opportunities, too, and construction has been relatively COVID-proof. We only stopped operations for four days.”

Tupper said success is finishing the project and hearing the compliments; on the workmanship, yes, but more so on the integrity of her firm and the workers who represent it.

“I’m experienced, knowledgeable and have a reputation for success in my projects,” Tupper said. “I don’t bid competitively because I believe we have a specific purpose on certain projects. People with experience having Infinity on their projects seek to contract us because of the team’s performance. We all have very good reputations for our knowledge, experience and getting the projects done successfully.”

“We’re one of the few companies that have a record of consistently leaving a project without a punch list. Our crews have always been directed to never leave a site without getting a detailed punch list, so they can complete any discrepancies and will not have to return. A timely completion is an important part of every project.”

Her advice for those thinking about striking out on their own is simple.

“Don’t get too comfortable, work hard and always look ahead,” she said. “As an owner, when you receive your first big check, plan its use. People new to business tend to think they are rich at the start. But they must know not to mismanage funds if they want to stay in business. You need the cash flow to keep the business moving forward.

“Always remember, never treat anyone badly; money isn’t worth your integrity. If you do things underhandly, you will eventually fail. You cannot cut corners and communication is key. You can always look at a way to make yourself and your company better – and that may cost a little more – but you cannot compromise safety or integrity.

 “As long as you use these key points, clients will come, and your company will grow. I love what I do, and most of the time it does not feel like work. Challenges are only a perspective and should be handled with confidence.”

For more information on Infinity Northeast construction and development projects, call 315.657.2381. Tupper said, anyone interested in investing in IRL Social or Ultra Starz should contact Jeffrey Schoonover at 407.474.6244.

Editor’s note: Molly English-Bowers contributed to this story.