Five Genesee Community College students will be heading to Albany on April 25 to represent the Finger Lakes Region in the Social Entrepreneurship / Nonprofit category for the fifth annual New York Business Plan Competition. They will be joined by the "Imajine Soap" team of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in this category. The competition invites students from colleges around the state to submit innovative ideas designed to address a currently unmet need in one of six categories. The GCC team's "Batavia Loop Trail and Bordering Business Development" will be competing for more than $500,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.
The SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE), University at Albany's School of Business, and Syracuse University will host the competition, which has become the premier collegiate contest, encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship throughout New York's colleges and universities.
The GCC students, who are members of the CEO and Earth Clubs on campus, envision developing an 11-mile loop trail that skirts around the edge of the City and Town of Batavia connecting a wide array of businesses and regional resources -- from ice cream shops and restaurants to Batavia's treasure trove of city and county parks. The Batavia Loop Trail (BLT) would also maximize the idyllic views of Tonawanda Creek and provide safer walking and bicycling pathways to GCC and College Village.
Their business plan was first vetted against 67 other two-page business proposals submitted into the Finger Lakes Region of the statewide competition. Wednesday night, students presented the plan to judges at the University of Rochester, where it was greeted with great enthusiasm. Should they succeed in the next round of the competition the winnings will secure seed money to help fund a feasibility study -- the first major step in their "transformative idea."
In their presentation, the students pointed out that bicycling is a growing tourist attraction and with the NYS Thruway cutting across Batavia's northern border, a huge market awaits city and county planners. BLT would also link into the new Ellicott Trail, which was recently awarded $1.5 million through NYSDOT Transportation Enhancement Fund. In addition, they have researched state and federal funding resources and the concept potentially meets many of the criteria listed for support from the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP), Consolidated Funding Application (CFA), NYSERDA's Cleaner Greener Communities, and Transportation Alternatives Program.
Lastly, and most importantly to the students – the long-term vision poses excellent hands-on learning opportunities not only for GCC students but for the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (GVEP/BOCES). In the near future, students hope to present a plan to GCC's Board of Trustees sharing their idea of creating a small campus Recreational Rental Center giving both students and the general public the opportunity to rent bicycles for the trail and potentially tennis rackets or soccer equipment. This new micro business gives GCC students enrolled in Travel & Tourism, Business Administration, Accounting, Sport Management, Web Design, Digital Arts and Physical Education excellent co-op, internship and work study opportunities. Equally dynamic is providing GVEP/BOCES students enrolled in Conservation, Welding and Automotive Technology programs the chance to help develop and maintain the trail.
The students' BLT plan extends out 11 years, but it is broken down into multiple phases with the most realistic, easily implemented segments of the trail opening in 2018.
"They are calling it Vision 2025 and although they realize they will be long graduated during the later phases and challenges of the project, they believe that making Batavia a bicycle-friendly community is an excellent opportunity for everyone," said Donna Rae Sutherland, GCC's staff advisor for the project. "They not only hope to pass the torch of the plan along to their peers – they also hope they will be able to use the trail with their future children a decade or two from now."
The BLT team presenters include Tara Beckens, of Clifton Springs, Danielle Cannella, Richard DelPlato, and Maryssa Peirick, all from Batavia, and Adrienne Payne, of Byron.
They will be joined by several other colleges and universities in representing the Finger Lakes Region against winners from each of the nine other New York Regional Economic Development Council zones which include: Capital Region, Central New York, North Country, Mohawk Valley, Western New York, Southern Tier, Mid-Hudson, New York City and Long Island.