Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

Leaders at Wayne County Business Council Partner to Grow Region


Wayne County

“We’re all better together,” Stacey Wicksall says. “Whatever industry you’re in, we’re all connected.”

Stacey WicksallStacey would know. As the Vice President of the Wayne County Business Council, Stacey sees the interconnection of regional businesses on a daily basis, as does the council’s president, Diana Lagenor. It’s their goal to unite area companies, large and small, to foster economic growth in the area, as well as develop and promote the programs that can help businesses thrive in the region.

With its roots going back to 1948, the Wayne County Business Council (WCBC) relies on the leadership and experience of these two women and its board to drive forward the economic development of the region by leveraging business, educational and governmental resources. They utilize knowledge, experience, and contacts to initiate programs that can help members address issues ranging from funding startups to employee management.

Diana LagenorDiana’s introduction to the Wayne County business environment started at a young age. Her father owned multiple businesses and drew all his kids into their operations. After marrying her late husband, the couple opened a floor-covering business in the early 1970s. They then started an ice cream parlor in an abandoned building on the corner opposite their home, eventually turning it into a restaurant and coffee shop.

After her husband became ill, the family opted to close the businesses and Diana started working with ARC of Wayne County, helping people with intellectual and other disabilities to find work in the area. This effort put her in contact with scores of local businesses. She joined the board of WCBC in 2007 and has since served in various official roles for the group, including serving as its current president.

Stacey’s path to WCBC was less direct. She married a Geneva native and moved from her hometown of Massena, NY, 10 minutes from the Canadian border. “I see a lot of parallels between the North Country and the Finger Lakes. People pull together. They care about one another, which is a huge draw. I also find it just beautiful here. Who doesn’t love the lakes, the wineries, and the ability to go to an orchard in the Fall and pick your own apples?”

After her kids started school, she began working in the Geneva Public Library before becoming director of the Macedon Public Library. Frequently, Stacey found the library was helping people compile information on starting or improving their businesses, so she got the library involved with SCORE, a business mentoring program run in conjunction with the US Small Business Administration, hosting entrepreneurial workshops to educate local startups on resources and assistance in the area. From there, she joined the board of WCBC.

“I really liked the idea of pulling everyone together in the community and across the county to serve one particular purpose, which is to make Wayne County more prosperous and more viable for businesses to grow and thrive,” Stacey says.

The Wayne County Business Council capitalizes on the unique character of the region and the cooperative nature of the organizations – businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions, and governmental agencies – operating here. “When you have more people involved, you get unique perspectives and different ideas,” says Diana. “You just get the best when you’ve got so many people involved.”

Former Lt. Gov. Duffy

Diana with Former Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy

WCBC has relationships with LOCATE Finger Lakes, local chambers of commerce, the Wayne County Farm Bureau, the Small Business Administration in Rochester, local tourism organizations, and the Wayne County Economic Development office, among others, to facilitate services to its members.

KickStart Wayne CountyOne example of this collaboration is a pair of pitch competitions called KickStart Wayne County that is put on with the Wayne County Industrial Development Agency to help develop startups in the region. The first competition features businesses started by adults, with new ventures in either the concept or startup stage, or those less than three years old that have less than $250,000 in revenue. The top pitch will receive $20,000. The second competition targets startups led by high school students, who can win cash from a pool of $5,000.

The Council is also playing a lead role in promoting the multi-million dollar GRIT, Growing Rural Infrastructure Together, initiative led by Finger Lakes Community College. The GRIT program provides job training and education resources for workers that they can take in multiple locations, including the Macedon Public Library, or through virtual learning opportunities at home. GRIT provides training in advanced manufacturing as well as in computer applications that are common in today’s workplaces, allowing participants to get certified in a number of valuable skills and processes, something that can help workers find higher-paying skilled labor jobs.


Stacey facilitating a Women Owned Business discussion panel

“Being able to participate in a program like GRIT and getting a certificate that makes you qualified for one of these jobs could really increase a lot of people’s quality of life,” Stacey notes. “Maybe they’re underemployed right now. Maybe they’re thinking they need a career change. They could do the program, get a mid-level skilled job, and prosper quite nicely in our area.”

In dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic, the Council is helping businesses find ways to retain employees and keep them engaged while working remotely. For example, in conjunction with the Wayne County Economic Development office and the Industrial Development Agency, they will host a September 30th legislative breakfast featuring Rick Plimpton, the CEO of Optimax, an Ontario optics manufacturer. He will discuss strategies his company employs to attract and retain its workforce, including fostering a comprehensive program for interns.

Stacey believes the region’s workforce potential will continue to grow. “I think the future could be very bright for places like Wayne County because many people are migrating away from large urban settings. Wayne County has a lot to offer. We have good school systems and a strong sense of community. And we have opportunity.”

Stacey and Diana both hope to get even more people involved in WCBC, which had a drop in members during COVID. The all-volunteer board is focused on activities to attract a broad and diverse spectrum of different-sized businesses across industries. “There are all sorts of businesses that need our support, and we are here to give it,” concludes Diane.

LOCATE Finger Lakes is a Finger Lakes economic development initiative designed to assist and foster collaboration among the established Finger Lakes economic development efforts with targeted, proactive, marketing communications and networking. LOCATE Finger Lakes is focused on directing local, national and international business leaders to Finger Lakes information and inspire them to look closely at the region’s assets enabling their businesses, their families and their employees’ families to thrive.

Maureen Ballatori is a LOCATE Finger Lakes Business Journal contributing writer and a member of the organization’s board of directors. She is founder and CEO of 29 Design Studio, a creative agency for food, beverage and agriculture brands. 

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