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Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

Dan Ireland, the local kid who stayed home, rose to the top, with the help of local mentors

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bergen, business, dan ireland, UMMC
Dan Ireland riding the shuttle from St. Jerome's to UMMC on a recent morning.
Jeremy Cosimeno and Dan Ireland share a cup of coffee and a laugh in the UMMC cafeteria before starting a recent workday.

From early in his career, there were people who saw something in Dan Ireland and encouraged him along his path from orderly to president of his hometown hospital.

While perhaps not a tale ripped from the pages of Horatio Alger, Ireland does stand out in an era when young people are indoctrinated to believe they must escape their smalltown roots to make something of themselves.

Ireland was born in Batavia, attended Batavia High School and started his collegiate career at Genesee Community College. While still in college, he landed a job at St. Jerome's Hospital, and outside of a brief stint with a hospital in Rochester, he has spent his entire career with St. Jerome's, Genesee Memorial or UMMC, rising from entry-level to top executive over the course of 26 years.

The climb to the pinnacle is something Dave Shaffer saw coming. He told Ireland where he was going, but Ireland didn't buy it.

Ireland said the two good friends laugh about it to this day.

"He said to me one day, 'You're going to run this hospital someday,' " Ireland said. "I said, 'No, I don't think that's ever going to happen.' He reminded me about it when I was appointed, but I never had that vision."

Ireland started out in college with the intention of going into information technology, but as a volunteer with Town of Batavia Fire Department, he was exposed to patient care. 

"Those were the days when paramedics were just coming into departments," Ireland said. "You got them in the ambulance and raced to the hospital as quickly as possible and we actually did very little out in the field for patients. As I saw more of that developing, it piqued my interest -- how do I care for patients?"

Ireland decided to become a nurse, switched majors at GCC and took a job at St. Jerome's, transferring a year later to Genesee Memorial.

Back when Batavia had a skating rink, Skate 98, Dan Ireland was a champion rollerskate performer.

"I think he's a lot like me," Shaffer said. "He's easy going. He treats people like he wants to be treated. I don't have a problem with people like that.

"I never had a doubt my prediction wouldn't come true," Shaffer added.

In those early days, Gloria Stevens also saw something in Ireland that set him apart.

She met him while working at St. Jerome's and he was working on an ambulance.

"He was always smiling, always friendly," Stevens recalled. "He always seemed to be in a good mood every time I'd see him and he just seemed like a really nice young man."

Her daughter, Amy, had also taken note of Ireland and mentioned him to her mother.

"I think she thought he was cute," Stevens said.

One evening Stevens asked Ireland if he was dating anybody.

He wasn't.

So Gloria took it upon herself to ask him on a date on behalf of her daughter, to a family wedding.

Amy and Dan have been married 22 years and have three children, Rebekah, 18, Brian, 15, and Kelly, 12.

Ireland's made a great son-in-law and father to her grandchildren, Stevens said.

"It's probably one of the best decisions I ever made," Stevens said.

Dan and Amy quickly became a team, pushing each other through their studies and making sure they got better at their jobs.

The hospital bosses noticed.

It wasn't long after Ireland became a nurse that he became a supervisor in the emergency room.

Ireland began to develop mentors who helped guide his career. Dr. Diane London was one who always made time for him, he said. She would answer any question and provide guidance on patient care.

"She was a fantastic person," Ireland said. "You could walk into ER any time and sit next to her and ask her question. That was learning clinically, that was building my knowledge -- 'What happened? What happened with this patient?' She would make time for you no matter what."

By 1997, computers were starting to work their way into patient care and suddenly Ireland's duel experience in IT and nursing opened a new opportunity for him.

The idea of using computers to help improve patient care captured Ireland's imagination and the hospital needed somebody with both a medical background and IT training.

"All of the sudden, this new idea of helping people with computers and, wow, we're going into this new era of documentation and clinical results and getting things to bedside quicker, and I sat back and realized, 'I can do the best of both worlds,' " Ireland said. " 'I can make this happen. I can teach nurses how to do it and still be a nurse and still use that clinical experience.' "

Not that bringing the nursing staff into the Digital Era was always a smooth transition.

Ireland recalled one nurse who was very upset with him.

"She was livid," he said. "She said, 'You've taken my time with patients from here to here and I'm spending all this time on the computer. It's a horrible thing.' "

About three months later, Ireland said, she was upset for a different reason. The system went off-line for maintenance.

"I got a phone call from her and she said, 'Why did you take my computer system away from me? It's been perfect,' " Ireland recalled.

He added, "It was a validation that the transition of technology really made a difference."

In 2001, Ireland took a position with the University of Rochester that he thought would advance his IT background, but within six months, Charlie Kenney, then CEO of the Batavia hospital, wanted him back.

The hospital needed somebody to do some high-level analytics, tracking population trends, and after a couple of meetings, Ireland realized this was a good job for him.

In 2003, he was promoted to director of Quality Management and created a case management program.

At this point, Karen Peters became one of his mentors.

When she passed in 2005, then CEO Mark Schoell appointed him to her former job, VP of Clinical Services.

Ireland lost two mentors, London and Peters, and gained a new one in Schoell.

"I was quite happy working for her (Peters) as director of Quality Management and suddenly she was gone," Ireland said. "She was a key part of my development. When you lose mentors, you miss them, but then you've got to find your own way."

Under Schoell, Ireland began to move up the executive ladder, taking on bigger titles and the greater responsibilities that went with them. He was VP of Support Services and then COO.  

He oversaw multiple departments and services, and supervised remodeling the Jerome Center and addition of the new surgical wing, including securing financing.

Schoell was a great mentor, Ireland said, giving him a job, even a big job, and letting him do it with minimal interference, but always there for guidence and to answer questions.

While Schoell may have been grooming an eventual successor, that wasn't necessarily Ireland's ambition.

"The ambition was doing a project and doing it successfully," Ireland said. "It was getting a project and saying 'How do I get it done? What do I need to know about that?' So that's where the ambition kicked in. I have this desire to do the right things and to get them done. Sometimes that's a lot of extra work you put in to make that happen. I think that's where the ambition was, but not for the position."

As Ireland moved into higher-profile roles, he became more interested in learning about leadership. He has his favorite books on leadership, his favorite speakers, he's attended seminars and workshops, and he's also found serving on community boards a great way to observe and learn about leaders.

The Bergen resident is on the Gillam-Grant Community Center Board and the Byron-Bergen Central School District Board of Education. He's also been through Leadership Genesee.

"Sitting on boards has helped educate myself," Ireland said. "Sitting on the school board, especially, you learn a lot about the different ways people lead. (Byron-Bergen schools Superintendent) Casey Kosiorek is a phenomenal leader. I've learned a lot just by watching him, how he interacts with his staff. I've transferred some that in how I do things."

From all appearances, Dan Ireland, the guy who rose through the ranks and was mentored by so many people in his home community, has been embraced as a leader by the UMMC staff. 

Ireland makes it a point to be accessible to as many of the hospitals more than 700 employees as possible. He often rides the shuttle from the St. Jerome's parking lot -- where employees are encouraged to park -- and frequently takes his meals in the cafeteria. He also regularly visits all of the departments of the hospital. It's impossible for him to know everybody's name, but Colleen Flynn, director of public relations for UMMC, offered during an interview in his office that to those who have worked with Ireland, his presidency seems like a natural fit. 

"I think we all saw leadership potential in him," Flynn said. "I don't think there is a single employee, manager, director in the organization who was surprised when Dan was named president. It was a natural progression."

Now that he's the leader, the mentor himself, and the guy from his own community leading one of the most important institutions in that community, Ireland takes seriously the responsibility to ensure UMMC delivers quality care.

He's also well aware that isn't the reputation UMMC necessarily enjoys locally.

Sitting in his president's office, when asked about the issue, he talked about it at length.

"We can't expect the people of Genesee County to just look at the hospital and say 'That's the hospital,' " Ireland said. "We have to work to earn the trust of every member of the community because that's what they expect. They expect us to continuously improve, so we have to continue to improve.

"There have been people who have had less than a desirable experience with the hospital. They've come here and sometimes it's been bad for people. You have to understand the human form. People don't forget easily and some people forgive and forget easier, and others don't. We will always run into people who say, 'I'll never go back to that hospital because this happened to me.' What I ask people is 'Are we different today than we were yesterday?' We have the ability to change. If we've done something wrong, and they tell us, we'll work to create change to make it better. We're in a human world, so we will not always do exactly what we want to do."

Yes, staff members have bad days, but personal bad days shouldn't translate into bad experiences for patients and their families, said Ireland, who reads every patient experience report and when he comes across a negative review, he doesn't see it as just a rant. 

"We don't see it as an angry or dissatisfied patient," Ireland said. "We see it as an opportunity for us to make a change and hopefully keep that from happening again and to make it better."

It's not just an issue of UMMC looking good or making more money. Quality customer care and a solid reputation with the local community are about providing advantageous health care.

"I don't just want to see the numbers get better," Ireland said. "When sombody sayd they don't want to go to United Memorial, that usually means they have to travel further for health care in a lot of cases and that's not good for them. That's not healthy, especially if they're ill. That's not a good experience. Either way, it's about their health. It's not necessarily about us having good scores up on the wall. It's about the fact that when patients have a good experience here, they're getting good health care and hopefully improving health."

The Ireland Family (photo submitted by Dan Ireland). Dan Ireland might be one of the only hospital presidents in the nation who rises early in the morning to feed the family's goats (22 of them, along with three sheep and a half dozen chickens and rabbits). The family farm started four or five years ago when his son said he wanted a horse. "I said, 'Horses are a lot of responsibility' and I said, 'Tell you what, I'll get you a goat. If you raise that goat all by yourself for a year, I'll get you a horse.' " The Irelands still don't have a horse, but their livestock has become a hobby for the whole family and led to involvement in 4-H.

Monday, April 20, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Kathy Hochul tours p.w. minor in wake of financial assistance to move jobs back from China

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, kathy hochul, p w minor

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul made a pair of stops in Genesee County today, including a tour of p.w. minor led by owners Andrew Young and Peter Zeliff. 

The shoe manufacturing company recently received a boost from the governor's office to help move 100 jobs from China back to Batavia.

Hochul also spoke this morning at Genesee County Criminal Justice Day at Genesee Community College.

Photos submitted by p.w. minor.

Friday, April 17, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Tompkins expanding fast in new downtown office space at Main and Center

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown

The call center -- or as the folks at Tompkins Insurance call it, the "care center" -- that the Batavia-based financial company opened on the second floor of Main and Center streets now has 27 staff members.

That means in less than six months, Tompkins has hit its three-year projected employment goal for the remodeled office space.

Tompkins purchased the building for $550,000 and has invested nearly $1 million in interior and exterior improvements, from gutting and refitting the entire second floor, putting in a new heating and air conditioning system, painting the outside and hanging new signs.

Investing in Downtown Batavia made good sense said David Boyce, president and CEO of the insurance unit.

"Batavia has been and continues to be a great draw for getting great employees," Boyce said. "Batavia is nicely centered within various counties. When we have an opening we get a lot of attention from people who want to work at a good company."

Friday, April 17, 2015 at 11:21 am

Bloomz Florist cultivates a new owner

post by Julia Ferrini in alexander, business

“The biggest thing; I’ve always liked the direct result of what we do,” Luke Harding said. “It’s always gratifying to know that if I'm working hard, I'm earning an income, and if I'm slacking I have no one to blame but myself.”

With that philosophy in mind, it was just a matter of time before Harding became the sole proprietor of his own business. Therefore, since his grandmother had been entertaining the idea of selling Bloomz Florist, Harding jumped at the chance, made her an offer and became the new owner of the flower shop April 10.

“I thought about buying it for years,” Harding said, “but I wasn’t sure who wanted it and buying it off my grandma...”

“My age made me decide to sell,” said former Bloomz owner Sarah Harding. “I’m 83 years old. I’ve owned the shop for 10 years and right now, I want to concentrate on my book. I loved the flower shop.”

The elder Harding is the author of “Rise Catholic Women: You Hold The Key” and was featured in the Wyoming County Free Press, December 2014.

The younger Harding’s dilemma was due to his grandma having seven children and for Harding it was a question of him “stepping on someone's toes” who was also interested in buying the flower shop. According to Harding, it all worked out in the end. 

The Attican didn’t just buy Bloomz, he bought the entire piece of property and the buildings on it. While he said the property and buildings are in good shape, he wants to do a bit of work on his new purchase to give it more curb appeal.

Harding is no stranger to entrepreneurship. As a matter of fact, he seems to be predisposed to being his own boss. According to the 25-year-old, the whole Harding family are entrepreneurs. His uncle owned Super Duper grocery stores and currently, the young Harding, his dad, his uncle, and his aunt, all own Harding’s Attica Furniture. While his grandmother may have sold Bloomz, she is still the owner of Parsons Place – a Christian bookstore next to Bloomz. 

“I like this kind of work (florist) because it’s a predicable business,” Harding said. 

Although there are peak seasons in the flower business, Harding said they are opened year-round and have extended their hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. 

“The most unique part of this business is Tammy James is our flower designer and we use premium product so they last longer,” Harding said.

In addition to cut-flower arrangements, Bloomz also does silk arrangements, cemetery urns, and dish and bulb gardens. They also have potted flowers and green plants available for purchase.

“Dish gardens are green plants that would stay in your house,” said Bloomz Flower designer Laurie Bellucci. “Then there is a bulb barden. The bulbs can be planted in the fall, which makes it an everlasting gift. It's a great idea for someone who does gardening. They can remember the person that gave it to them.

“Some people come in and know exactly what they want,” Bellucci said. “Some have no idea and we help them out with creating something unique for them. That's what we do. We serve our customers.”

Bloomz Florist is located at 11155 Alexander Road (Route 98), on the Attica/Alexander town line. They can also be found on Facebook or visit their Web site at http://www.bloomzflorists.net/.

Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Grant moves forward to assist p.w. minor's plans to move jobs from China to Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, p.w. minor

The first of the necessary paper is being pushed to move jobs from China to the p.w. minor shoe factory in Batavia with the Ways and Means Committee approval yesterday of a resolution to accept a $750,000 grant from the state to assist the company's local expansion.

The county must accept the grant, which passes through the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp. (a branch of Genesee County Economic Development Center), which will become part of a grant and deferred loan program for p.w. minor.

The grant was approved by Empire Development Corps after the agency encouraged p.w. minor to apply for the grant.

The application pledges 80 new local jobs added over a two-year period, but p.w. minor is planning to transfer a total of 100 jobs over time from China to Batavia.

The LDC will package the $750,000 with $125,000 loan from LDC funds to assist p.w. minor in buying shoe-making machinery.

Mark Masse, VP of business development for GCEDC, laid out the terms of the resolution for members of the Ways and Means Committee, who recommended approval of the resolution to the full County Legislature.

Andrew Young, one of the co-owners the New p.w. minor, is also a member of the Legislature, and while he attended Wednesday's meeting, he was not present during the discussion of the resolution.

Young and local entrepreneur Peter Zeliff, purchased p.w. minor after the previous owners announced plans to close the plant, thereby saving dozens of local jobs at Batavia's oldest, continuously running business.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 8:51 am

Photo: Onion planting starting in the mucklands

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business, mucklands

Activity is picking up on the muck this week as onion growers finally have suitable conditions for planting. One onion grower told us yesterday that ideally, growers like to have all of April to plant and they're getting a late start this year, but they should still get all of the fields filled with seeds and seedlings by May, if the weather holds.

Monday, April 13, 2015 at 9:40 am

Photos: Stan's opens new showroom

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Stan's Harley-Davidson

Stan's Harley-Davidson held an open house Saturday to celebrate the opening of its new, expanded showroom. As part of the ceremonies, Lt. Colonel Ulises Miranda III from Early College International High School, Army JROTC Battalion, presented Daryl Horzempa and Debbie Parks of Stan's an award for their commitment to veterans.

Presentation of Colors

Jon DelVecchio, of Street Skills, was on hand to discuss motorcycle rider safety.

Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 11:25 am

WBTA expands local talk shows featuring local hosts

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, elba, radio, wbta

WBTA has expanded its programming from one local entertaining talk show to two.

Hiram Kasten is now co-hosting "Batavia After Breakfast" with is wife Diana at 9 a.m., Wednesday mornings and his former partner, Lucine Kauffman, now has her own show, "Genesee Life," at 8:30 a.m., Saturdays.

Hiram and Diana, pictured above, will feature their witty repartee as they share their experiences in Batavia, what's happening in Batavia, and Hiram -- with decades experience as a comedian, actor and performer in New York, Hollywood and Las Vegas, as well as around the globe -- hosts guests from his entertainment world.

Lucine, bottom photo, will celebrate and explore Genesee County rich cultural life, featuring local residents who might be artists, musicians, authors, historians, hobbyists, farmers, athletes, local business owners and local characters. The show will also promote local shows and showings.

WBTA is at 1490 AM, 100.1 FM and streaming at wbtai.com as well as through apps available for your mobile devices.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Ken's Charcoal Pits now serving meals hot, fast, fresh and made to order

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown

It was a booming first day of business for Ken Mistler's newest business venture, a downtown grill designed to give patrons quick, hot, homemade meals that they can eat-on-the-go.

Ken's Charcoal Pits features hot dogs and hamburgers, but also offers sausages and a garbage-plate style dish Ken is calling a Pit Plate. For those who want lighter fair, there is a salad bar, and grilled chicken is an option.

Everything is made to order right in front of you with the best and freshest ingredients.

The doors to the new shop are on Main Street, but patrons can also enter through City Slickers.

"We got a lot of requests for a quick lunch," Mistler said. "People would say they really liked City Slickers, but they wished they could get in and out a little quicker, but as a full-size restaurant with a full menu, it was hard to do that."

You can dine in, get your meal to go or carry it into City Slickers, where, of course, there is beer on tap.

Mistler, who owns not just City Slickers, but also Next Level Fitness, has long avoided putting his own name on his business ventures, but was persuaded to call it Ken's after his marketing consultant, Marc Tillery, presented the concept to him. The locale features drawings of Ken's two pit bulls, which are charcoal in color. Ken's Charcoal Pits. Get it?

A lot of people are getting that the food is good. Social media lit up a bit today with early rave reviews and the word spread fast with a line out the door past the normal lunch hour.

The hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and those hours will be extended as the weather warms up.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Cuomo announces $1.4 million for ag in Genesee Valley

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business

Press release:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $1.4 million in funding for projects related to the research, promotion and development of New York’s flourishing agricultural economy. Approved by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, this funding includes support for a second year of malting barley research at Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, equipment and operating expenses at the New York Wine & Culinary Center, and funding to help Western New York maple syrup producers better market their products.

“The agricultural industry is vital to the success of Upstate New York, and by making targeted investments like this we are planting the seeds for long-term growth for New York’s farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs,” Governor Cuomo said. “This funding will support both new opportunities and existing success stories, and ultimately give farmers and vendors the tools they need to thrive in today’s competitive economy.”

Every year, the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, solicits applications to assist in the development of agriculture and agriculture-related businesses in a nine-county region, which includes Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties. On Friday, March 27, the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority Board of Directors voted to fund the following projects in 2015:
· NY Wine and Culinary Center - $300,000 – equipment replacement, facility repairs and expansion, and operational costs;
· New York Wine and Grape Foundation - $216,664 – Phase Five of the NY Drinks NY campaign;
· Western NY Maple Producers - $33,336 – Mobile maple exhibit;
· Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wayne County - $60,231 – To provide support and training to farmers through a farmers’ market specialist program;
· Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County - $43,416 – To provide specialty cut flower, vegetable and mushroom production for the county’s Bhutanese market;
· New York State Agricultural Experiment Station – $74,518 – To support research to improve the profitability and productivity of lima beans in New York State;
· New York State Agricultural Experiment Station - $159,893 – To support maintenance and equipment, including a temperature controlled ploy house and summer scholar support.
· New York State Agricultural Experiment Station - $241,716 – To accelerate production of organic grains, corn and soybeans in Western NY;
· New York State Agricultural Experiment Station - $133,242 – To support the second year of a multi-year research plan for malting barley production in New York State;
· Foodlink - $100,000 – To purchase equipment necessary to maximize efficiencies and create product diversity in value-added product lines.

In addition to these projects, Governor Cuomo announced $250,000 in funding to support soil and sediment control projects in counties located in the Genesee River Watershed, including portions of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Steuben and Wyoming counties. Provided by the State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, soil and water conservation districts can apply for grants of up to $10,000 for projects that reduce erosion or control sediment in the Genesee River Watershed. These projects can include reduced tillage practices, cover cropping, critical area seeding, riparian buffer, grassed waterways, filter areas, water and sediment control basins.

Districts can apply for the grant through the Grants Gateway program at https://grantsgateway.ny.gov/intelligrants_NYSGG/login2.aspx.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Genesee Valley and its surrounding areas are extremely critical to the health and diversity of New York agriculture. This funding will support that diversity by making strategic investments in emerging industries that have a great future here in New York State, while protecting the region’s natural resources.”

Dennis Piedimonte, Chairman of the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, said, “We’re happy that we can be of assistance of the agriculture community in New York State through the money we are able to raise at our market. We believe that this funding is going to be put to good use through research that will in turn help New York’s agricultural economy move forward.”

Jack Moore, board member of Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, said, “It’s very good to see some of the GVRMA profits put to good use in the region for production agriculture. I encourage more entities to apply for such grants in the future.”

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph D. Morelle said, “For the past several years, our region has benefited from the innovative funding opportunity provided by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority and the Department of Agriculture. I applaud the State and GVRMA for investing in important organizations like the Wine & Culinary Center and Foodlink, which are using our region’s agriculture to provide a public benefit. This year’s awards reflects the legislature’s intent when we created this mechanism, which continues to provide vital funding to promote and advance our area’s agribusiness.”

Senator Mike Nozzolio said, “This funding is extremely important to the continued success of the growing food and beverage industry in New York State and it enhances the world class agricultural research conducted at the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. Agriculture is our state and region’s number one industry, and continued support such as this furthers the growth of the industry by providing jobs, increased crop value and product promotion.”

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