The major goal of the CEO Roundtable is to create a business- friendly climate in the Fulton and Montgomery County region. Through this goal, we hope to help create an environment that sustains and grows already established businesses and encourages new business development. Supporting this major goal, we have a business plan built on six primary goals. One is Marketing the Region, which is very important because there is a lot here to offer people already in the region and those outside. We have dynamic businesses that already exist and a quality of life that invites new business development. To highlight these, let me tell you a little about Townsend, as one of those dynamic companies, and also write of the wonderful aspects surrounding the region that make it such a wonderful place in which to work and live.
As president of Townsend Leather, I am pleased to represent our community and the surrounding region on the CEO Roundtable and to local business leaders, local government, and chambers of commerce in an effort to stimulate the economy and promote the region. Townsend is a third-generation, family-owned company employing 130 people. We have survived the old image of the tannery to become a young, marketing focused, design driven, quality engineered, and technological force for the future.
Townsend has a sales network, supply chain, and a worldwide customer base. We host visitors year-round, locally and all over the U.S. We also host customers from Canada, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Italy, Holland, UK, France, Hong Kong, Middle East, India, Singapore and Shanghai. We provide an aerospace engineered, highly luxurious product to the world’s largest manufacturers of private and business jets. We serve the hospitality trade; you can find our leather in the finest hotels, restaurants, and casinos in the world. Our clients travel here to understand how leather is made, to perform quality audits and inspections, and to specify design colors and products for their business. As I write, we are hosting visitors from Bombardier and C&D Aerospace and a few other high-profile clients.
Townsend has been in business here for 44 years. Our interest is in improving the region and to attract new business that provide our youth with exciting opportunities to work. Family is important. It is the CEO Roundtable’s hope to create a thriving, dynamic, evolving and growing local economy that will inspire our kids to stay in our region and attract new professionals.
Townsend has interviewed and/or hired new employee-partners from as far away as Pakistan and Brazil. A recent member of our team came from New York City. We take time to show potential employees the surrounding area as a way in helping them see the beauty of our region and all that it offers. We also host young interns from around the world. Last August, we had a junior from Italy living and working with us and this August we will host a new high school graduate from Germany. We, and the interns, love the experience of sharing cultures and language. Francesco, who stayed with us, last year, lives near Venice and Verona. He called his experience in Johnstown one of the best of his life.
We sit at the foothills of the Adirondack Park – the largest national forest preserve in America. There are mountains, lakes, and woods all great for hiking, fishing, boating, camping, hunting, skiing, snowmobiling, bicycling, and plenty of other activities. This alone would be a selling point to visit or live here. The Adirondack style and surrounding culture are very unique. The wildlife and nature brings a quality of life that city life does not provide. Taslim Yousaf, a new employee from Pakistan, shares his wonder of seeing the wildlife in his backyard including foxes – which he had never seen. Kathryn Kohsiek-Read, who moved to area from New York City, recently shared the unbelievable experience of seeing the birth to two baby fawns on her front lawn.
Living in Johnstown means that you can enjoy affordable living and be in Saratoga in 35 minutes or in Albany in 50 minutes. You can drive to New York City, Boston, Buffalo, or Montreal in less than four hours. It is no wonder our region is home to Target and Walmart distribution centers. Without leaving the area, many of the international visitors we have hosted have raved about our local restaurants. The incredible service, atmosphere, family feeling and food served at some of our favorite places like Dick and Peg’s Northward Inn, Lanzi’s On the Lake, and The Railyard – have many of our guests saying they cannot wait to come back.
You can truly experience the four seasons in upstate New York. No matter what time of year you visit upstate New York, you see nature at its best. The vast number of lakes and water resources are key for development; it is originally the reason so many leather tanneries located in Fulton County.
When I joined Townsend, for what I thought was a part-time summer job to earn some partying weekend money, I was attending Fulton-Montgomery Community College for early childhood education. I had no aspirations of beginning a career at Townsend, but I fell in love with the culture. The people of Townsend treated each other like family. They created wonderful products for companies and people all over the world much bigger than us. Needless to say, I stayed on and with support by the owner and second-generation family business leader, Terry Kucel, switched my major to business management and attended Empire State College.
I became the president as the recession began in 2008. I was hoping to put my own stamp on the next generation of this now 44-year-old family business, but I found myself with a whole different set of challenges for a few years. My work here, and the interests of the CEO Roundtable, strive to overcome Townsend’s challenges, as well as those of the surrounding businesses, and we’re making progress.
These local challenges, the future possibilities, the great people and rich heritage of this region are worth our involvement. What we put into the region is what we get out of it, and I say we are putting in more than we let people know about. We need to get the word out louder and prouder about our wonderful region in the effort to grow current businesses while attracting new businesses and a stronger workforce for the future.
Jared Eckler is a member of the CEO Roundtable.