Chemung County is experiencing an economic renaissance, according to local officials, and Airport Corporate Park in Big Flats is leading the way.
The boom in growth around the Elmira Corning Regional Airport and Airport Corporate Park was the focus of Wednesday’s 26th annual economic forum, sponsored by the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce, Elmira Savings Bank and Southern Tier Economic Growth.
Guest speakers included the CEO of a longtime corporate park tenant and representatives from three recent arrivals to that vicinity.
The growth is fueled in part by a general improvement in the economy and also by a recent $60 million upgrade at the airport, said chamber President Kamala Keeley.
“This year we chose to focus on Airport Corporate Park. We are talking about some exciting developments in the community,” Keeley said. “We have about 300 businesses represented in the room. It’s a good opportunity to talk about the growth and also challenges. Overall, there’s a lot of good development.”
The moderator for Wednesday’s forum was Greater Southern Tier BOCES Superintendent Jim Frame, who said he met with officials from each of the companies represented at the event and toured their facilities.
“There are so many things going on in this county and surrounding counties,” Frame said. “When you look at Airport Corporate Park, you realize the dimension of what these four panelists bring to our region. It’s truly amazing.”
The panelists for Wednesday’s forum included Daniel Bower, CEO of Hunt Engineers, Architects and Land Surveyors; Scott Beecher, president of Ward Diesel Filter Systems; Michael Greenfest, senior service manager for Wayfair; and John Ullman, president of John. G. Ullman & Associates.
Hunt Engineers, Architects and Land Surveyors
Hunt Engineers, founded in Corning after the 1972 Hurricane Agnes flood, moved its corporate headquarters to Airport Corporate Park in 2000 to provide a more central location for Hunt’s multi-county business.
Hunt provides a variety of services to clients around New York state and the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania. The firm employs 150 people and grossed $17.5 million in earnings last year.
Related: Biz briefs: Hunt Engineers names new president
The future looks even more promising, said CEO Daniel Bower, who has been with Hunt Engineers for more than 40 years.
“General interest in infrastructure is still strong and we expect it to stay strong,” Bower said. “There are challenges. There’s a federal plan pushing more of the costs of infrastructure to the state level and the municipal level. But it’s a pretty exciting time to be in the engineering business.”
Ward Diesel has been around for more than 30 years and produces filters that cut down on cancer-causing emissions from firetrucks and other diesel-powered vehicles.
Ward Diesel, which has employment ranging in the 20s to 30s, purchased the former Schweizer Aircraft building on the outskirts of the airport property early last year and moved its business there.
Company President Scott Beecher hopes to add up to 36 additional employees as his company grows.
It’s exciting that a small business based in Elmira has clients all over the world, Beecher told the crowd at the economic forum.
“Each of our businesses build off the other. When you look at the economic development happening here, it’s us working off each other and supporting each other,” Beecher said. “Hopefully it’s just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg.”
Wayfair is an e-commerce business that specializes in home furnishings and decor and is based in Boston.
The company opened a new call center last summer in a former Corning Inc. building on Daniel Zenker Drive at Airport Corporate Park.
Wayfair promised to create 450 new jobs and already has about 300 employees at the Big Flats site, according to Senior Services Manager Michael Greenfest.
The call center should be up to full employment levels by this fall, Greenfest said.
“We’re thankful to all of our partners for our success. It’s about our commitment to the community,” he said. “Long term the call center will be sales and service. We hope to bring in different levels of talent and expand IT and management. Last, help us understand how we can have a greater impact in the community.”
Ullman & Associates was founded in 1978 in Corning and provides comprehensive financial services, including financial planning, investment planning and tax planning and preparation.
The company moved its corporate headquarters to Airport Corporate Park late last year but maintains a presence in downtown Corning.
The firm, which had more than 70 employees last year, hopes to continue growing and adding more staff, said founder and President John Ullman.
“We have about $1 billion of assets managed. We have clients in 41 states and several foreign countries,” Ullman said. “In 2019, we hope to have 10 new professionals. We plan to grow in an organic fashion. After 40 years, we’re trying to do it again. This community plays an important part in the success we’ve had. We’re thrilled to have our headquarters in Chemung County.”