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The BCW’s Westchester Innovation Network Spotlights Momentum – Innovation Matches, Innovation Community Milestones, and Sponsors

The Westchester Innovation Network (WIN) is focused on driving economic development, fueling the growth of entrepreneurship and innovation in Westchester

RYE BROOK, NY (February 11, 2022) – The Business Council of Westchester today made a series of announcements celebrating important milestones for its newly formed Westchester Innovation Network (WIN), a program aimed at driving economic development, innovation, and growth within the county as a hub of innovation.

“At the BCW, we know that to build and sustain strong and vibrant communities, we must convene thought leaders and futurists to design a county of the future. These building blocks include creating opportunities to showcase Westchester as a place to build, grow, test, and explore innovation in all forms,” said Dr. Marsha Gordon, President and CEO of The Business Council of Westchester. “With our innovation efforts delivered through WIN, we are focused on embracing innovative new companies from Westchester, across the U.S. and internationally to learn from and co-create with them, and to advance key incentives necessary to get them to grow and stay here in Westchester.”

The WIN has broad support from the county’s business community. Founding sponsors of the WIN program include:

  • Montefiore
  • Regeneron
  • Westchester County Office of Economic Development
  • KeyBank
  • Robert Martin Company
  • Simone Development Companies
  • Municipal Housing Authority for the City of Yonkers
  • Verizon
  • Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts
  • Dorf & Nelson

“Across Montefiore and Einstein, innovation allows us to deliver and provide access to the highest quality care for residents of our region,” said Dr. Philip O. Ozuah, President and CEO, Montefiore Medicine. “As the founding healthcare sponsor of the Westchester Innovation Network, we are excited to work with the Business Council of Westchester and all local partners to encourage and celebrate innovation; community health and economic development depend on it.”

“This program incorporates a myriad of themes from healthcare to government, finance and technology. The Business Council of Westchester has put together a supportive, empowering, diverse group of companies that align with the creation and development of new ideas,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer. “It truly is a ‘WIN’ for Westchester County.”

Luiz Aragon, former development commissioner for the City of New Rochelle, has been hired as a consultant to serve as the program director of the WIN initiative.

“There is nothing more satisfying to me than to continue to work with the Westchester community; this time to help create the blueprint for its innovation-based future,” said Aragon.

The WIN program kicked off with three key components:

  • The Innovation Match Program, which attracts innovative companies to Westchester and pairs them with local companies to test their products and services in real-world settings. Innovation Matches can also be formed with Westchester-based innovators.  The goal is to provide the local host companies with an opportunity to understand innovation within their industries and to provide valuable feedback to innovators who need to pilot or beta test in a prospective customer setting.
  • The Practical Innovation Project, which is a program that spotlights a host community and teams that municipality with individuals focused on identifying projects to assist in delivering immediate economic benefit to that community and its residents through innovation.
  • The WIN Implementation Guide, which will provide information to assist with the policies and infrastructure of the county to better attract and retain innovators, including funding, zoning, job training, incentives, and more.

“In just six weeks since the formation of WIN, we are extremely pleased with the positive response to the program and the significant progress already underway. Our goal is to transform our county into a hub of innovation that will attract investment, create new jobs, and spotlight Westchester as a place to build business,” said Dr. Heidi Davidson, Chairman of the Board for The Business Council of Westchester and co-founder and CEO of Galvanize Worldwide.  “The BCW membership has been quick to embrace and welcome innovators into their businesses so that together they can learn about evolving technologies in their industries and build solutions that will have a long-lasting impact on businesses of all kinds.”

The Innovation Match Program

The first phase of the WIN program was to attract innovation partners from Westchester, within the U.S. and internationally – hosting these innovators in Westchester, pairing them with a local industry partner, and testing their commercially viable innovations in a real-world setting. The BCW has already identified 60 potential innovator partners looking to be paired locally to test a product or service and the process to match those innovators with businesses has already begun.  The goal of the Innovation Match Program is to continually host 10 innovation pairings with local businesses in Westchester with discrete deliverables agreed upon at the outset of the relationship and delivered by a specified timeframe.  Businesses interested in participating as either a host or an innovator to test products or services should email win@thebcw.org.

The first pairings include:

  • Last20, a Canadian social enterprise that upcycles plastic waste into innovative solutions, including pavement. Last20 will be paired with the City of Yonkers DPW and with Regeneron as it builds new parking infrastructure in Tarrytown.
  • Ferro, a self-service insurance management platform for insurance brokerages, based in Omaha, NE, partnering with The Rey Insurance Agency in Sleepy Hollow focusing on streamlining the way commercial policies are managed and renewed.
  • Kool Nerd Connect, a Mamaroneck, NY based career readiness company that connects diverse students to future career possibilities, partnering with the YMCA of Central and Northern Westchester to conduct a healthcare industry career focused class.
  • SilverBills, a New Rochelle, NY-based fintech innovator focused on providing an easy-to-use technology platform to automate bill paying for seniors. SilverBills will partner with the Municipal Housing Authority for the City of Yonkers (MHACY) to help its tenants learn to use automated bill payment.
  • ShelterZoom, a New York City-based technology company with a proprietary technology that transforms documents, contracts, and marketing leads into fully digital, intelligent, and interoperable smart documents. ShelterZoom will partner with the Fullerton Beck law firm in White Plains.

“I’m honored to be part of the program and excited to be matched with the Ferro team. Agencies like mine strive to provide the very best service while keeping things simple and cost effective for our clients. I look forward to exploring Ferro’s inventive approach,” said Laura Rey Iannarelli, owner of Rey Insurance Agency.

“The WIN program is a huge opportunity for a scale-up like Ferro.  Having access to insurance brokerages where we can get real-world beta testing and constructive feedback to continue to improve our user experience is so critical for our business at this point,” said Chris Senkbile, founder of Ferro.  “The WIN program and the exposure it provides us to the NY metro market is really an incredible opportunity, and we thank the Business Council of Westchester and its members for hosting us.”

“SilverBills will provide household bill management services to older adults and allow them to age in their homes without suffering the consequences of improper household bill management,” said SilverBills founder, CEO and general counsel Marci Lobel-Esrig.

“We are hopeful that successful automation of our residents’ bill payments could then serve as a model for other housing authorities nationwide,” said Wilson Kimball, president and CEO of MHACY.

The Practical Innovation Project

The second component of the WIN program is an effort called The Practical Innovation Project.  For the Practical Innovation Project, the BCW will bring together experts from Iona College to Mount Vernon with the aim of identifying innovative changes that the municipality could make right now to deliver economic activity, cost savings, and improvement in the day-to-day lives of its residents.  This action plan aims to be delivered to Mount Vernon by the end of June.  Last year, U.S. News and World Report ranked Iona College as one of the most innovative schools in the Northeast.

“Convening innovation thought leaders from the BCW and Iona College in Mount Vernon is a unique opportunity to refine our practices to better serve residents,” said Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard. “We are eager to receive fresh ideas on how we can promote economic activity while reducing our operational costs.”

“Iona College is honored to partner with the Business Council of Westchester and engage our student innovators in a design project to co-create alongside the citizens and civic leaders of the City of Mount Vernon,” said Dr. Christoph Winkler, endowed professor and founding program director, Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Iona College.

The WIN Implementation Guide

The third component of the WIN program will be an Implementation Guide that spotlights ideas and suggestions gathered from innovative communities around the world and the innovation matches hosted through the WIN program. The intent is to share the Implementation Guide in the Fall of 2022.

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