Saying Thank You on 9/11

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All too often, individuals working in public service, whose jobs require them to put their lives at risk every day, do not receive the recognition they deserve. To show our support for the men and women we turn to in an emergency, ASC spent this year’s 9/11 Memorial Day donating blood and assembling Thank You packages for first responders at the Westchester County’s 9/11: Serve + Remember event, coordinated by Volunteer New York!

Volunteering is part of who we are and what we do. It’s deeply embedded in the ASC culture. As a socially responsible company, we reduce our impact on the environment through commuter benefits and give back to our community with pro-bono causes like Warrior Hike and volunteer days. We seek work that is meaningful and changes lives. Over the years, we’ve discovered that volunteering is not only inherently meaningful, it can also change our lives.

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Just last week our lives were directly impacted by emergency personnel when one of our employees got stuck in an elevator. In rapid response, members of the White Plains Fire Department came to the rescue. The incident added to our sense of appreciation  when we gathered with other volunteers at the County Center, as we stood collectively to say thank you to those who stand ever ready to take care of people in need.

As we put down roots in White Plains, it’s important that we continue our commitment to corporate responsibility in our new community. Friday’s event was our first of many volunteering events to come.

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PTAC Helps Small Businesses Grow!

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Rockland Economic Development Corporation’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center (REDC PTAC) helps to level the playing field with services small businesses need to be successful.  We provide expert government contracting assistance to small businesses who often lack the staff, time or expertise to pursue government contracts on their own.

Arch Street Communications (ASC) is one of our proud success stories—in fact, last year REDC PTAC clients secured prime and subcontracting awards totaling more than $141 million.  For more than 10 years, REDC PTAC has helped ASC with mentorship in navigating federal procurement and networking opportunities with government agencies including securing a federal General Services Administration schedule to certification as a women-owned small business. These services helped to open doors in the government procurement process. And it has paid off for ASC – contributing to a 50% increase in their staff.

REDC PTAC helps all eligible businesses with registrations, certifications, developing marketing strategies and everything that they need to sell to federal, state and local government entities. Our services are free of charge and can range from individual counseling, helping to create a government marketing plan to webinars, and workshops. We help businesses become more responsive to and successful in the government’s procurement process. Through the success of our clients, the REDC PTAC program promotes a vigorous and growing local economy which, in turn, contributes to job creation.

 

This guest post is written by Liz Kallen, Program Manager for Rockland Economic Development Corporation’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center (REDC PTAC).

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Remote Access: My Summer at ASC

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Let me begin this post by explaining the unique situation I was in to land this internship.

Last semester, I was in Milan, Italy, studying marketing and communications at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Awesome school. Great city. Drop what you’re doing and attend for a semester or two. I promise it’s worth it). Anyway, while abroad, I was on the hunt for a summer internship back home, which was not an easy task because most U.S. employers were not interested in the hassle of communicating with a potential intern across the Atlantic. A family friend tipped me off that ASC offers paid internships for college students and, being a past intern, he spoke very highly of the company, so I decided to shoot them an email along with my resume and cover letter. I anxiously awaited a reply and was thrilled when, few days later, I got a response from Nora, who was more than willing to accommodate an international phone interview.

After purchasing Skype minutes for the interview I was feeling confident and prepared for my 7:30 PM (1:30 PM in the States) phone call. 7:30 PM rolled around and, as luck would have it, my phone decided it would not be making any outbound calls at the time. You can imagine the panic I felt. Frantic, I scrambled to find my roommate and borrow his phone. Twelve minutes late, I finally got in contact with Nora. I like to think the interview went well despite the delay, because about a week later, I got an email with an offer for a full-time summer internship with ASC. I was ecstatic and gladly accepted.

I learned later that ASC was in the midst of relocating from their office in Pawling, NY, to White Plains. I was excited to hear this and was looking forward to finally meeting Nora and the rest of the team. On my first day, I walked into the office to a look of shock from Nora because she was amazed by how tall I was! (By phone or in person, I’m 6 foot 3 inches tall.)

From day one, I could tell that this was going to be a very valuable internship to have under my belt. Not having any previous experience in Federal and State agency work made it difficult at first to understand how the business was run (not to mention the plethora of acronyms that are impossible to remember and keep track of). After a week or two of immersion into the business, Allie, Associate Project Manager and Commissioner of Games (see below), really helped me  learn the ropes and got me working on very relevant projects and assignments. (Thanks Allie!) I learned a lot about public awareness and public outreach and some of the secrets of ASC’s success. Here’s one: The devil is in the details. We proofread everything like crazy around here.

Interning for ASC this summer has truly been rewarding. The team has been extremely helpful and considerate to a newbie like me, and I really felt as if I was part of the team. I just want to give a huge shout out to Nora and the entire ASC team for welcoming me into their crazy world of public relations and strategic communications in their new White Plains office. It has truly been a pleasure.

Oh, and a tip for any potential new hires within ASC—make sure you brush up on your Pictionary and word games for lunch/game day every Thursday. They can be very competitive, so come with your A-game.

Alec Iacovelli is a senior at Western Connecticut State University, where he is majoring in Marketing.

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The Holy Grail of Commuter Benefits: 5 Tips to Make Teleworking Work for You

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ASC client, Commuter Connections, sponsors Car Free Day each year on September 22 in the metropolitan Washington region to encourage drive-alone commuters to try another way, here’s a take on telecommuting:

In the world of commuter benefits programs, telecommuting is a potential rock star for improving air quality, reducing traffic congestion, decreasing commute-related employee stress, and improving work/life balance. It sounds like a sure winner, but for employees and employers alike, the challenges of teleworking often make it at best a hard sell, and often a non-starter.

ASC helps transportation agencies promote teleworking—and its cousin, telecommuting—as part of emissions reduction initiatives, but it’s only in the last couple years that we walked the walk and implemented teleworking for our own employees. Below are a few tips for fellow teleworkers on how to make working remotely a win-win for you and your employer.

Here’s what I’ve learned in two years of teleworking:

1 – Walk away from your computer! With no coffee pot to gather round, I often find myself at my desk for hours at a time with no break.  I’ve learned to force a stop—it makes me happier, and more productive. Get a drink, let the dog out, and take a real lunch break.

2 – Call your office, even if it’s just to say hi. I can guarantee you they haven’t forgotten about you but hearing their voices and finding out what is going on, work-wise or personally, goes a long way in bridging you from the island to the main land.

3 – Get dressed. Don’t wear your pajamas to “work.” While I don’t wear my dress clothes and high heels, I do put on something nice, including make-up, and I do my hair. I feel professional and ready to start the day, even if I’m walking to my table or desk to log on.

4 – Appreciate your company’s victories from afar and come to terms with not being there to participate. It is not a slight, even if it’s your project they are celebrating. Working from home is a luxury and missing out on the action is the trade-off. Send your co-workers off with a happy email.

5 – Keep your “work” category out of your “life” category. You can become stressed quickly with access to emails and company servers at your fingertips. So proceed with caution, remain cognizant of your own schedule and remember to enjoy your life outside the house.

With smartphones, laptops, and VPNs, an office can be anywhere. Mine is in my home. Why? Because I work for a company that learned the lessons from the commuter benefits programs it promotes year after year, appreciates its team, and looks ahead to what’s next, and says, “I’ve got this!”

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ADA Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary

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This week, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates its 25th anniversary. For millions of Americans living with disabilities, ADA provides protection from discrimination and guarantees equal access for persons with disabilities to employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.

As a strategic communications firm that helps public and private agencies inform and engage individuals regarding transportation, safety, air quality, energy, and the environment, we know the vital importance of reaching all market segments, and finding meaningful ways to encourage participation in the public outreach process. The ADA impacts how we communicate to our stakeholders every day. From planning public meetings and designing websites to promoting programs like RollDC and producing publications, ADA and compliance with Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act are integrated into every phase of the process.

We follow the philosophy that if information is important enough to be public, it ought to be made accessible to everyone. We are committed to communicating orally, visually, digitally and through the printed word clearly, concisely and without restriction. We want all stakeholders to freely access information, and be part of the process.

We urge everyone to join ASC in taking the pledge to reaffirm the principles of equality and inclusion and recommit efforts to reach full ADA compliance.

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Microgrids Are the New Kale

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By the time we left New York Energy Week 2015, we’d heard nearly every angle of the business case for microgrids—the “smart food” of the energy world—and how smart grid data sources and new ways to use data, will be a vital part of the changing landscape of energy generation and distribution in New York and beyond.

We also left more certain than ever that public outreach, customer engagement, and informed communication will be pivot points for successful implementation of this sea change in how we approach energy here in New York.

Every year since 2012, energy-sector luminaries gather in New York to talk about the future of energy.  Established by Enerknol, the energy policy data and analytics innovator, and enthusiastically endorsed by Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, the annual four-day event hits the notes on the most innovative thinking in the energy sector, and this year was no disappointment. The pervasive theme was microgrids—and the subtext was data—how data will be collected, shared, and protected, to feed data-driven technologies to make energy more available, affordable, and accessible in New York.

Heady stuff for sure and more than a little geeky, but from our public outreach perch, the communications challenge to energy agencies, utilities, and companies is daunting. To move these new ideas into use, the energy community will need to understand what business, residential, and municipal customers can and will afford, and it will need to advance engaging, plain-language outreach to help customers understand why and how they should buy in on these new concepts, and move them to act.

The faster communities embrace and invest in microgrids, the quicker they will start to realize the benefits. Turns out Hoboken, NJ, has become a go-to model for urban resource resilience with their waterfront community’s commitment to smart grid technology—Mayor Dawn Zimmer explained how microgrids are adding protections from outages such as those experienced in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

But it’s not just about system reliability during power outages.

Utilities are being asked to provide benefits that go far beyond their original compacts, benefits that include not just delivery of kWhs of electricity but services that are enabled by the sale of kWhs (e.g., efficiency audits, renewable options, storage, and innovation investment). In the new world of increasing demand, aging infrastructures, and expanding smart grids, microgrids, and residential renewables, resilience itself may become valued itself as a service on its own, like insurance.

With stakes this high, leaders are making energy-efficiency initiatives a priority. Ozgem Ornektekin, Deputy Commissioner of Energy Management, NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services, announced that the Big Apple has set a goal of reducing GHG emissions 80% by 2050. This is a big stretch—and a laudable one. It also represents a big opportunity for anyone who can help the City get there.

There’s no way to capture four days of new ideas, but one of our favorite soundbites was from Micah Kotch, director for the NY Prize microgrid competition managed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), who called microgrids the new kale. Good for you, but you need a recipe everyone will dig into.

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This time, it worked.

Staff Thank You

Just inked a lease on a dream.  After 22 years, ASC has relocated to a loft-like space in downtown White Plains, and while the location, technology, and access to work force talent are great, here’s what matters most about this move:  ASC is a success story for the public agencies and large prime contracting clients we serve—and for the government programs that give small, women-owned, disadvantaged business a seat at the government contracting table.

There’s plenty of doubt cast on government programs, but our move is a “this time it worked” moment.

In our home state of New York, Governor Cuomo set a new goal of 30% for contract awards to small business.  And large businesses who win contracts are expected to allocate a percentage of the work to small business—and to mentor the small businesses on their contracting teams.

New York worked hard to keep us here.  The support and incentives from programs like the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency and Hire Westchester made us want to stay—and helped us choose Westchester as the place to set down new roots.

So we’re using this relocation to say Thank You. Thank you to the government programs in transportation, energy, and the environment that have trusted us with their communications, graphics, and event needs. Thank you to the prime contractors that have partnered with us, time and again, to deliver effective and innovative public outreach. And thank you to the sub-contractors that make a small company into a big force.

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