By Steve Yablonski
Longtime business adviser who helped thousands to start or expand their business, set to retire
Q: How did you come to be in this position?
A: At the time, I was driving to Ithaca, working at a credit union. That’s when I got the call with the offer for this job. I liked what I was doing but, an hour and a half drive versus a half hour drive? I didn’t have to think about it; didn’t even know what the salary was. I just said, “I’ll take it!”
Q: How long have you been doing this job?
A: I have been with New York State Small Business Development Center since July 2002.
Q: And, before that, what did you do?
A: Prior to this, I worked in banking from 1981 to 2002. Believe it or not, I saw an ad for the position (small business adviser) in the newspaper and took a chance; it paid off well.
Q: How old are you?
A: I am 70 years old.
Q: Where were you born and raised?
A: I was born in New York City. I grew up in New Jersey. I lived in Plattsburgh, moved to B’ville in ‘81 to go to work for Key Bank Central. I was a branch manager.
Q: Are you married?
A: Yes, I have been married for 48 years with one son and one daughter. I also have two grandsons.
Q: What is your educational background?
A: I have a bachelor’s in business and communication. And, an associates in banking.
Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
A: I play golf. I read and do household projects. I am also a volunteer firefighter in B’ville.
Q: Any close calls?
A: I got blown out of a building; a lumber yard fire. A propone tank exploded and we all got blown backwards. It was about 25 years ago. The photographer from the Messenger was right on the scene. Luckily, there were zero injuries! [Note: copies of the two black and white news photos hang in his office. One shows him and other firefighters about to enter the building. The second shows the firefighters flat on their backs.]
Q: So, you are still a member of the B’ville department?
A: Yes. But, I don’t do anymore interior work. At my age, I don’t want to be a liability.
Q: If you weren’t doing this, would you still be a banker?
A: No, no. Banking was fun when I first started. We had the ability to actually take care of our customers. But with all the mergers and everything, things changed.
Q: Why are retiring now?
A: I chose to retire now so that I would have the time to relax and be with my wife more and travel. After 20-plus years and being 70, signals time to go.
Q: What will be your last day on the job?
A: December 31st.
Q: Do you plan on relocating after you retire?
A: No. We are going to stay in B’ville. The house is paid for (laughs).
Q: What has been the best part of you job here?
A: The best part of my job is being able to go around the county and see all the business that I have helped, start, grow, and survive through the pandemic.
Q: You are going to miss that, aren’t you?
A: I will truly miss that. It has been a great ride!
Q: Could you name a few of the business you have assisted over the years?
A: There have been many, many businesses. As of July 28, I took 4,154 cases, helped create 1,592 new jobs and saved 1,301 since starting in 2002. I’d have to name them all to be fair!
Q: So, what are you going to do after you retire?
A: We plan to spend more time with our grandchildren. We will do some traveling and volunteer around our village.
Q: Sounds like you will be staying active.
A: Yes. I will find something somewhere. I may do some consulting. I’m not going to sit around and do nothing. I can’t do that.
Q: Do you have any advice for the person who will be in your seat next year?
A: Enjoy the ride. Have fun. And, get involved.