Thursday, March 31, 2011


Hartwick College President Margaret Drugovich, right, congratulates five full professors who have been granted tenure, effective Sept. 1. Front row, from left, are Lori Collins-Hall, sociology; Carlena Cochi Ficano, economics, and Jeanne-Marie Havener, nursing.  Back row, from left, Susan Young, chemistry, and Mary Allen, biology.  They were recognized March 3 at a Faculty Recognition Party at Shineman Chapel House.

Pizza King? That Isn’t Half Of It

MSO President Tamaino and coordinator David Hayes plan to “splash art up and down Main Street” this summer.
Did you know there are more than 100 arts groups in Oneonta?
You’ll have a chance to experience a lot of them – music, dance, theater, art – in the next few months.
“We want to splash arts up and down Main Street through the summer months,” MSO (Main Street Oneonta) Downtown Coordinator David Hayes declared the other day, reviewing the tentative schedule.
“We” is the MSO programming committee, chaired by Armand Nardi.  Alderman Liz Shannon, a member, and Hayes have been collaborating on the schedule, including some special events.
For instance, the Pizza King of Oneonta Contest is tentatively set for Saturday, July 2, a citywide competition to judge the best pizza in town, culminating in a coronation.
On Saturday, May 7, Main Street will be closed 3-7 p.m. for CNY Radio’s “Dancing in the Streets” block party.
Weekly, Tuesday Lunchtime Performances are planned in Muller Plaza, in connection with The Farmers’ Market.
And Fabulous First Fridays, beginning in May, will be further energized:  Among other offerings, the Badra Bahija belly dancers are expected to stage performances.
The Artisans Guild is planning craftspeople’s demonstrations, the Green Toad Bookstore is planning literary readings, and Leilani’s and Capresso will be showing works by local artists.
There will be music on Muller Plaza, and chalk drawing and other activities for youngsters there.
Hayes said he is collaborating with Kellie Place, chairman of the new Arts Task Force, in “identifying talent” to perform downtown.
“There are a ton of things to do right now,” said Jim Tamaino, MSO’s new president.  The goal is to plan “things for families, and things for people to do downtown.”
Stay tuned.

Singer, a retired interior designer, shows her concept for the walkway’s Main Street entrance.

City of The Hills: Oneontan Will Lead Successor Bank To Wilber

Joe Sutaris of Oneonta, Wilber Bank’s executive vice president & CFO, will be the chief regional executive for Community Banks of Syracuse when it takes over Wilber the weekend of April 8.
Most of the familiar Wilber executives and managers will remain in place, said Jim Mack, Wilber’s interim president who is retiring with the sale’s completion.
The 63 layoffs announced in recent days are primarily back-office positions, duplicative of existing positions in Syracuse, he said.

FOOD DRIVE:  The 6th Ward Athletic Club’s annual Ani Colone Food Drive has already raised $1,270, but needs $430 more to leverage the club’s $1,700 donation. Send checks marked “Food Drive” to the club, 22 West Broadway, Oneonta, NY 13820, or drop off food at supermarkets or the club.

ANOTHER BREAK:  The continuing cold caused a second water-main break at Clinton and Willis streets Monday, March 28.

Easter’s still a month away, but Ronda Hoag was already decorating the Valero’s at Chestnut and Oneida streets the other day.  “I love holidays,” she admitted.

Single-Handedly, It Revives Dairying Here : Chobani About To Be Biggest Yogurt Maker

Hamdi Ulukaya’s Business One Of Fastest-Growing Ever


Hamdi Ulukaya’s Chobani-making workforce has grown from six to 600 in five years.  Behind him is a $100 million expansion now rising in South Edmeston.

Hamdi Ulukaya is holding his breath.
Information Resources Inc.’s last report put Ulukaya’s Greek-style Chobani yogurt brand just 0.01 percent behind top-selling Dannon.
Any day now, he’s expecting the word: 
A mere six years after buying a shuttered cheese plant on Unadilla Creek at South Edmeston...
Six years, where his work force grew from six to 600...
Six years, where his demand for raw materials grew from zero to 3 million pounds of milk a day ... yes, 3 million ...
Six years, from when the first half-pallet, 1,000 individual cartons of yogurt, went out the door, to an anticipated 1 million cases this year.
No, he hadn’t received word by the time this newspaper went to press Tuesday, March 29, but any minute now he’s expecting he will:  Chobani is the largest-selling yogurt in the United States of America.
“This is one of the fastest-growing companies ever,” said Ulukaya matter-of-factly, sitting in his second-floor glassed-blocked office in Kraft’s former Phoenix plant.
Driving the four miles from Edmeston, you crest the hill and there it is in the valley – the original 700,000-square-foot plant with a $100 million expansion nearing completion – a bigger building than most anything around here.
You go through South Edmeston and cross Unadilla Creek, and everywhere there’s busy-ness.  Construction crews finishing the new structure.  Hundreds of parked cars and trucks surrounding the buildings.
Workers in hairnets come and go from the factory line.  In the cafeteria, every seat is filled at every table, and people are lining the wall.  A foreman briefs them on their next shift.
Mustafa Dogan, Chobani’s master yogurt-maker and quality overseer – he drives back and forth daily between here and parent company Agro Farma’s feta plant in Johnstown – tromps up the stairs:  “Where’s Hamdi?”
That’s a question everyone’s been asking over the past half hour, and then he steps lightly up the stairs, a slight man, curly-haired, bright-eyed, upper 30s, if anything a little low-key for someone who’s been riding a tornado.
“You have 600 happy people – I hope they are,” he said by way of explanation.  “But 600 TIRED people.”
How did this happen?  And he tells the story.
Hamdi Ulukaya was raised in Ilic in the Province of Erzincan in eastern Turkey, “very much like here.  Families are close.  Everyone knows everyone.”
For generations, centuries, his family operated Safak, a regional dairy.  There were 20,000 sheep in the company’s herd when he was growing up.
He had six brothers.  He rode horses, played a lot of soccer and got pretty good at it.  Graduating from high school, he got an offer to go pro and raised the question with his mother, Emine.
She didn’t say no.  Instead, she asked a question:  “Is that what you’re going to do all your life – chase balls?”
So he went to university, studying political science, then decided to learn English in the U.S.  He started out in New York City, but soon moved Upstate, from Adelphi to Bard to SUNY Albany, drawn by the proximity to a country life similar to his boyhood one.
In the mid ‘90s, his father, Mehmet, paid a fateful visit.  “He was blown away,” said the son, “especially with the countryside.  So beautiful.  So like where we grew up.”
He loved the States, loved the hospitality of the people he met, but observed, “the cheese could be better.”
His son hadn’t decided on a vocation yet, so he took his father’s advice and began importing Greek cheeses into New York City.  He kept his eye open for opportunity, developed a business plan for Agro Farma, and was enticed by the Montgomery County IDA to build the Johnstown feta plant.  (“My business school,” Ulukaya calls it.)
In 2005, a flyer – “junk mail” – came across his desk, advertising the availability of the Phoenix plant, where 55 workers had just been laid off.  Hamdi visited:  “It was old, no value to anyone.  I just had a gut feeling I could make it work.  As an entrepreneur, you always have to listen to that inner voice.”
He found a place to live in Cooperstown – on Pioneer Street, between Chuck and Ursula Hage’s and John Ramsay’s – which was convenient to both plants, and found himself one morning in South Edmeston with his first six employees. 
“What are we going to do now?” they asked.
“Well, we’re going to start painting the walls,” said the new boss, and they did.  (The six original employees are still with him.)
At first, the plant turned out private-label products for others.  But in August 2007, the first half-pallet of Chobani yogurt went down to New York City.  A week later, all the customers reordered.  Then they increased their orders.
In 2008, the plant was shipping 20,000-30,000 cases a week.  In 2009, it was up to 100,000.  In 2010, 300,000-400,00 cases a week.  This year began at 500,000 cases a week, which Ulukaya expects to rise to the million mark by year’s end.
“I think people were ready for something better and something healthier – not just yogurt, all food,” he mused, and Chobani – strawberry, blueberry, peach, vanilla and plain at first – was just that:  simple, healthy.
The thicker, creamier Greek yogurt was available in specialty stores in cities.  For the first time, though, Chobani made it accessible to the mass market.
From the outset, Hamdi was accessible to the customers, too.  He answered the phone when they called.  When the volume got too great, others answered the phone, but forwarded ones they thought the boss needed to hear.
Soon, the phone crew was consistently hearing, “I never liked yogurt, but this made my day.”  And, “I love Chobani and I’m going to tell all my friends and families about this.”  
A new marketing tool was emerging:  The Internet.  “It went viral,” Hamdi said.
Ulukaya has since moved to Norwich, where the company is headquartered.  He’s negotiating for P&G’s former Eaton Pharmaceuticals plant there.  He’s expecting to announce construction of a second plant soon, although probably not in Upstate New York:  There’s simply not enough milk.
“We’ve become the biggest milk processing plant east of the Mississippi,” he explained.  And the product is available in all 50 states.
As you might suspect, Hamdi Ulukaya’s company couldn’t have grown this fast if he were a micro-manager:  “Let people be free,” he said.  “Don’t put borders around people’s jobs.”
And people have responded.  A woman who answered phones at the Kraft plant for years is now head of purchasing.  Another does all the day-to-day scheduling.  A temp is now a shift manager.
“I’m a perfectionist,” the boss said.  “But I see people before I see anything else.  Be an example,” he advised, “before you put rules and regulations in place.”
The defining factor of his life for the past decade has been work, but he recently bought a country home and some land – “I always wanted to have my own farm” – and hopes to raise horses.
He’s taking up sailing, and gets away to Newport, R.I., whenever he can.  He’s still a bachelor, but a niece, Dilek, has joined him, and heads the company’s Shepherd’s Gift Foundation.
“This kind of story can never happen anywhere else,” he said near the end of an hour-long interview.  “It’s still an entrepreneurial haven,” he said of the U.S.  “They welcome the new ones.”
He weds that New World attitude with Old World perspective:  “Alexander said, give me 10 people and I’ll conquer the world.”  Hamdi Ulukaya did it with six.

Daniel J Fahs, Harpursville, tends the machine that fills the containers with yogurt.

Apartment/Townhouse Development Is Needed To Keep SUNY Oneonta Competitive, Growing

Editor’s Note:  This is the description of the housing plans for the top of Clinton Street that SUNY Oneonta provided to neighbors.

Student housing is planned at the top of Clinton Street, which backs up on the SUNY Oneonta campus.

A Residential Campus
This semester, approximately 3,200 students are living at SUNY Oneonta while pursuing their degrees. They enjoy the community of residence halls, the convenience of being able to walk to classes, and the security and amenities of the college environment.
The newest student housing facility on campus, Higgins Hall, opened in 2004. Since then, the college’s FTE count – a rough measure of the number of students enrolled – has grown by 300.
During the same time, on-campus housing has become increasingly popular. Returning student residence hall attrition – the percentage of students who move out of residence halls between academic years – has fallen to lower than 5 percent.
This has led to an increase in the instance of “tripling,” which means housing three students, usually freshmen, in residential units designed with two occupants in mind. At the start of the fall 2010 semester, for example, there were 128 “triples.”
The Need for Housing
SUNY Oneonta’s facilities master plan, under development now, indicates a market for additional student housing consistent with the modest increases in enrollment – the addition of 250-300 students – projected over the next decade.

A feasibility study and market analysis indicated demand for:
• Nearly 500 additional beds on campus;
• Apartment/townhouse style independent living with privacy and cooking facilities; and
• Housing proximate to campus with access to campus amenities and services.

Based on the expectation for continued growth and the popularity among students of residing on campus, the college has begun planning to construct a 200-bed townhouse facility bordering West Dorm Drive.
This new facility will be marketed primarily toward upperclassmen and graduate students. Townhouses also will fill a gap in the student housing portfolio and help the college avoid a competitive disadvantage in attracting and retaining academically well qualified students.
Progress and Planning
Engineers suggested the primary site based on the project footprint (townhouses as opposed to a high-rise), topography and relatively low level of difficulty of construction due largely in part to the slope of the lot, among other factors.
The townhouse project is in its earliest phase. Representatives from the college and City of Oneonta have met to discuss it. The mayor has toured the proposed site and the city will be the lead agency for the development’s state environmental quality review (SEQR).
Groundbreaking is scheduled for the fall of 2012. The townhouses are expected to be occupied by the fall of 2014. However, at this time, no firm decisions have been reached with regard to many design elements, nor has an architect been retained.

Artist’s rendering, courtesy SUNY Oneonta
Apartment/townhouse style housing for 200 students is planned at the top of Clinton Street.

New SUNY Oneonta Units Will Be Good For Everyone; Let’s Adjust, Plunge Ahead

Happily, we’re all friends here:  City Hall, SUNY Oneonta and the folks living along Clinton Street.
As it is, Clinton Street’s steep grade can make ingress and egress difficult for residents at the upper end during winter storms. 
Given that, the idea of adding 200 students and their cars at the top of the hill in apartment/townhouses SUNY Oneonta is planning there falls short of a great idea.
But that’s evident to everyone.  Groundbreaking isn’t due until the fall of 2012.  There’s plenty of time to adjust and make sure the entrance to the new complex is from the campus.
That would resolve traffic concerns for Clinton Street homeowners, and prevent what would be something of a hazardous situation for students as well.
Because of the street’s steepness, there are additional issues the project must resolve, to wit, runoff into the city’s storm-drain system and possible impact of the runoff on Silver Creek, which criss-crosses West Street then cuts across Clinton at Spruce en route to the Susquehanna.
But those issues are simply that:  Issues to be resolved through proper engineering.
This are wrinkles in an attractive fabric:  The housing complex will ease demand for housing in the city. 
The city’s zoning revisions -- about to be complete -- specifically target the problem of single-family homes being broken up into student apartments, so everyone’s of a mind here, too.
It turns out more students want to live on campus, and why not?  It’s a delightful place with much to offer, from the gym to the Hunt Union -- not to mention proximity to classes.
The new complex aims to make SUNY Oneonta even more competitive in the SUNY system, assuring its future and its central role in the city and region’s prosperity.
All is well.  Adjust as necessary and plunge ahead.

AL COLONE OTHER VIEWS: Municipal Mergers = Upstate Survival

Editor’s Note:  Albert Colone, Oneonta, originator of the National Soccer Hall of Fame concept, recently participated in the forming of AMUC – Advocates for the Merging of Upstate Communities.

Banks, hospitals, companies and communities all over the country are merging to better position themselves to compete in the 21st Century marketplace; plus it streamlines operations and improves efficiencies. 
Why is there a reluctance to do the same among communities throughout the Upstate New York Region?
Leaders of government and business have been pondering for years about what it will take to jumpstart the Upstate economy.  State government has invested mightily in the region with negligible results. 
The response is that New York State taxes are to high, there are too many regulations, workers compensation is killing us and that utilities are too expensive. 
Those negative conditions may indeed have some bearing on the long-term static economic softness throughout the Upstate Region, but rarely do the experts zero in on the complicated, duplicative structure of local governance.
The Upstate Region is a conglomeration of villages and small cities surrounded by land rich townships that are typically in competition with one another. 
In the global economy of the 21st Century, villages and their bordering townships, small cities and their adjoining townships should unite to better compete, for the well being of their constituents and for the overall survival of their communities. 

Here’s what we know:  
• The current structure of townships, surrounding cities and villages in Upstate, doesn’t work now and in all likelihood didn’t work when established in the 19th Century
• Merged governments are shown to operate with greater efficiencies
• Merged communities can commercially better serve a regional market
• Combined communities will experience operational savings; as much as 10 percent
• The potential of alternative tax revenues will be strengthened through the merging of municipalities stabilizing or even reducing local property taxes
• Zoning and planning issues will have a more comprehensive and logical framework with better overall outcomes
• Merged communities can be better situated to grow and develop
• It’s a concept that’s trending-up both in New York and in other states.

With but a few exceptions, the Upstate economy and its communities seem to be rotting on the vine, so to speak.  You can clearly see it in villages, small cities and their surrounding townships through declining or at best static populations, very limited investment in economic development, a general loss of commerce, neighborhoods deteriorating and in distress, football field lengths of empty store fronts, schools threatening to close, local public budgets stressed to the brink, infrastructures collapsing and other negatives, all too easy to see. 
Rather than just complaining about high taxes, too many regulations, high utility costs, things we have little ability to change, there are things that Upstate hometown people can do immediately to begin the process of rejuvenating the region. 
We can start by demanding that our local government leaders begin to seriously look into the idea of merging municipalities.
There’s an effort underway to try and change that mind-set through the establishment of a broad-based citizens group; Advocates for the Merging of Upstate Communities [AMUC].  Check your boundary lines at the door; all people are welcomed to participate. 
Another AMUC interest meeting will be announced soon.  In the meantime, for more information and to register only your most serious interest, please contact Albert Colone at:     



MSO’ Design Committee, above, discusses where to hang a map and list of downtown merchants in the walkway between Main Street parking garage this summer.  From left are Downtown Coordinator David Hayes and committee members Dean Roberts, Bob Brzozowski, Dee Singer and Liz Shannon.  At left, Singer, a retired interior designer, shows her concept for the walkway’s Main Street entrance.


Hold it:  Dr. John Mazarak, the photographer and retired professor, didn’t take the photo of the black-eyed Susan on the new “Oneonta, Life Enjoyed” billboard.  He took the photo of the lad eating watermelon, and it’s a beaut.


: Sen Zhang and James Ryder, SUNY Oneonta associate professors of Computer Science, presented a peer-reviewed poster,  “Building a Generator-Based Cyber Platform for Automating Production of PPT-Based Algorithm Visualization Teaching Materials,” at the 42nd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, in Dallas, Texas, held March 9-12, 2011.


 Gordon R. Terry and Joan Kuhn Terry, Houk-Johnston-Terry Funeral Home, have been recertified as Certified Funeral Service Practitioners through by the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice.


 Stefanie Rocknak, whose life-like wood carvings drew much comment at the Festival of Trees in December at Foothills, has won the $10,000 Margo Harris Hammerschlag Biennial Director Carving Award from the National Association of Women Artists.  Rocknak is associate professor of philosophy at Hartwick College.



Accepting arts grants from Otsego County entities are, front from left, Mary Johnson Butler,  Sweet Adelines ($1,000); Muriel Beattie, Catskill Choral Society ($1,000); Janet Erway, Cooperstown Art Association ($1,500), and Danielle Newell, Smithy Pioneer Gallery ($2,000).  Second row, from left, Chris Burrington and Barbara Duffy, both of the Otsego County Dance Society ($1,200); Aaron Sorensen, Oneonta World of Learning/OWL ($2,000), and Debby Zahn, Little Delaware Youth Ensemble ($2,500).  Back row, from left, Tom Beattie, choral society; David Hayes, Main Street Oneonta ($1,000); Bob Brzozowski, Greater Oneonta Historical Society ($2,500), and Bob Zack and Donna Raphaelson, both of the Laurens Bicentennial Committee ($1,000).  The grants, $71,500 in all for Broome, Chenango and Otsego counties, were presented Thursday, March 25, by the Chenango County Council of the Arts at its Martin W. Kappel Theater in Norwich.  The money is available through NYSCA’s Decentralization Grant Program.  Applications for the Arts In Education program are now being sought; call Michelle Connelly at 336-2787.

Apple Converting Shows County Plant Up To Task



As Chobani flourishes and multiplies, it presents opportunities for local suppliers, but only quality local suppliers that can keep up.
“They will not outgrow us,” vowed Mike Manno, Cooperstown resident and Apple Converting owner. 
In January, the operation in Pony Farm Industrial Park began producing all of the lids for the individual Chobani yogurt containers – and plans to prove itself so it can win the label contract as well.
“Converting” is a forming of fabricating packaging that combines  two products – aluminum and plastic sheeting, for instance – to create a new product.
Next time you pick up a Chobani container, look at the lid, feel the texture, examine the sharply printed logo:  All of that is part of a process Manno and his team developed for the yogurt maker over a year.
“Other people who do this weren’t going to tell us how,” he said.  “We had to figure it out ourselves.”
And it doesn’t happen like magic.  Chobani owner Hamdi Ulukaya calls himself a “perfectionist,” and Manno has a quality-control inspector check the lids at close intervals as they come off the press.
In a separate quality-control department, lids are checked again for color sharpness, and measured with calipers to ensure the printing is centered.
Chobani’s lid maker is offshore, and the company was delighted to discover a key component of its manufacturing process could be obtained a few miles away.
Apple Converting also had a reputation for quality – it makes the labels for Lindt, the high-end chocolate maker, and packaging for the medical field, like Becton-Dickinson – and that helped.