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WIN Connects Iona Students and City of Mount Vernon to Drive Economic Activity

Joining the Iona College students and faculty members were Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard, Mount Vernon Director of Economic Development Andrea Haynes and BCW Executive Vice President and COO John Ravitz

The Business Council of Westchester kicked off the second phase of its Westchester Innovation Network (WIN) program this week connecting the City of Mount Vernon with experts from Iona College’s Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The two-hour meeting at Mount Vernon City Hall organized by the Business Council of Westchester brought together the school’s leadership and about a dozen students who met with city officials and minority and women owned businesses to discuss ways to drive innovation in the city.

The program was opened by Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard who thanked the BCW for making a connection that she believed would help the city to further its economic development efforts. “Coming out of COVID, there have been many challenges for our community and business owners,” said Patterson-Howard. “Convening innovative thought leaders from the BCW and Iona College in Mount Vernon is a unique opportunity to refine our practices to better serve residents. We are eager to receive fresh ideas on how we can promote economic activity while reducing our operational costs.”

BCW Executive VP and COO John Ravitz said that the Westchester Innovation Network was created to drive innovation in Westchester and part of that was to help communities like Mount Vernon come up with “out of the box” solutions and strategies by partnering them with experts. He said that the pairing represented the second component of the WIN program called The Practical Innovation Project, which aims to help identify innovative changes that the municipality can make immediately to deliver economic activity, cost savings, and improvement in the day-to-day lives of its residents.

Christoph Winkler and Robert Kissner of Iona’s Hynes Institute said that working with Mount Vernon was the perfect opportunity for students to “roll up their sleeves” and test out the skills they have been learning in their Design Thinking class. Kissner added that students hoped to present Mount Vernon with a plan on how to improve communication with its Women and Minority Owned Businesses within the next six weeks. He said students would be tasked with listening and using empathy to come up with solutions that “navigate outside the lines.”

Andrea Haynes, Mount Vernon’s new Director of Economic Development who will be overseeing the project, said small business owners are the lifeblood of the city.  “It’s the small business that employ more than 50 percent of our residents,” she said.  “We are going to get work done here.”

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