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News and Info from members of the North Country Chamber

Hickok & Boardman Insurance Group hires new talent for critical role.

Jay Nunn has joined Hickok & Boardman Insurance Group as their Controller as of October, 2018.  Nunn joins the organization from UTC Aerospace Systems.   He brings over 15 years of Finance and Accounting experience in both Manufacturing and Financial Services, having previously worked for State Street Bank, Fidelity Investments, and JP Morgan Chase.   Jay received his Bachelors from Wittenberg University and holds his MBA from Norwich University and was recently elected to the Board of Directors for Special Olympics of Vermont.  Scott Boardman, President of H&B, noted that “Jay fills a critical role in our organization and will support our mission and values with utmost integrity”.

Jay grew up near Columbus, Ohio and currently resides in South Burlington with his wife Katie and their two children.  In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, traveling and getting outdoors.

Hickok & Boardman Insurance Group was founded in 1821 and is headquartered in Burlington, Vermont.   They have most recently been awarded with “Best Places to Work” in Vermont, and “Best of Business” in Vermont for Property and Casualty Insurance, both for the second consecutive year.

Hickok & Boardman Network of Companies Announces Twelve Non-Profits to Receive Charitable Gift

The Hickok & Boardman Network of Companies is pleased to announce twelve non-profit recipients of their 2019 charitable gifts, including: Children’s Literacy Foundation, Kids on the Ball, Cancer Patient Support Foundation, Steps to End Domestic Violence, Lake Champlain Committee, C.I.D.E.R. (Champlain Islanders Developing Essential Resources, Inc.), Hope Lodge, Mount Mansfield Village, H.O.P.E. in Lyndonville (Helping Other People Every day), Therapy Dogs of Vermont, Passion 4 Paws and an employee family member in need from the Town of Barre.

Nearly 20 years ago, to celebrate the volunteerism and interests of their employees and associates, the Hickok & Boardman Network of Companies including Hickok & Boardman Insurance, Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman Realty, and Hickok & Boardman Financial Planning & HR Intelligence formed a Charitable Gifts committee with representatives of each company. Annually, each firm contributes to a fund and Hickok & Boardman employees and associates are given the opportunity to nominate a charity in which they are involved.

“The Hickok & Boardman Network of Companies, our employees and associates, have long been known for their involvement and generosity during our United Way workforce campaign,” says Scott Boardman, President of Hickok & Boardman Insurance. “The owners of all three companies recognize our team for the time, expertise, and money they contribute to many local charities all year long. The H&B Charitable Gifts program is a way to support their community service and passions.”

For a list of previous year’s recipients go to

The origins of Hickok & Boardman date back to 1821 beginning with Hickok & Boardman Insurance. In the mid to late 1900's, the company experienced significant growth to include Real Estate, Financial Planning, Retirement and Group Benefit services. Today, the companies each independently owned and operated, form the Hickok & Boardman Network of Companies with Burlington, Vermont serving as the headquarters for each firm. Combined, they employ over 220 Staff and contracted Real Estate Sales Associates.

CITEC Business Solutions Moves Plattsburgh Office to Clinton Community College

CITEC Business Solutions has moved its Plattsburgh office to the campus of Clinton Community College.

"We are looking forward to being on the campus and working closely with Clinton Community. There is a lot of synergy in the work we do in areas of workforce and skills development.” says CITEC Executive Director John Zielinski.

CITEC will share quarters with the Small Business Development Center, another organization working to ensure that North Country businesses have the resources they need to prosper.

Clinton Community College President Ray DiPasquale says, “CITEC is a valuable resource and has had such a positive impact on our region. When businesses in our community do well, it means more opportunity for Clinton students, alumni, and their families. We are honored to welcome CITEC to the Clinton campus, and look forward to continuing our strong partnership.”

CITEC Business Solutions offers consulting and training services that strengthen businesses. As part of NYS Manufacturing Extension Partnership, CITEC works primarily with small and medium manufacturers, but also with other businesses and organizations across the seven-county North Country region. CITEC's focus areas include continuous improvement, both training and implementation, safety, and leadership development. Third-party documented impacts for 2018 include $150 million through process improvement projects with manufacturers, creating or retaining more than 1200 jobs. Working with CITEC returned $78 for every dollar invested in 2018. More information is available at

Clinton Community College is a member of the State University of New York system and home of the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing (IAM). Clinton offers 24 associate degree programs, seven certificates, transfer pathways and advisement options, multiple non-credit professional credentials, and many flexible learning options including online and evening courses. As part of the SUNY system, Clinton credits transfer seamlessly. More information is available at

Northern Insuring Agency, Inc. is #4 among the Best Companies to Work for in New York

Northern Insuring Agency, Inc. is pleased to announce that it is #4 among the top 26 small employers in the state, according to the New York State Society for Human Resource Management’s (NYS-SHRM) annual Best Companies to Work for in New York State awards program. Small is categorized as 15-99 employees.

Created in 2007, this annual program evaluates and ranks the best places of employment in the State based on employee satisfaction and engagement, as well as workplace practices and policies. It is unique because employees’ survey responses count for 75% of the ranking formula.  The Best Companies to Work for in New York State program is a partnership between the NYS-SHRM, The Business Council of New York and Best Companies Group.

“It is thrilling to receive an award that is dependent on employees nominating us and providing candid survey feedback,” explained Deena Giltz McCullough, President & CEO of Northern Insuring Agency.  “The feedback impacts decisions we make and helps us to become an even better place to work.  It’s extremely powerful to know that Northern team members, for the third time, have stepped up to make this award happen.”

Northern Insuring Agency celebrates their 89th anniversary in June and specializes in Business, Home, Auto and Life Insurance and Employee Benefits Services.  The largest locally-owned, independent insurance agency covering the Northern New York Region, Northern Insuring was recognized in the 2018 Press-Republican Reader’s Choice Awards as the best insurance agency and by Reagan Associates and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA or the Big “I”) as a 2018 Best Practices Agency.

Hickok & Boardman Insurance Group

Hickok & Boardman Insurance Group Board of Directors has voted in Jeff LaBonte as Vice President.  “Jeff has demonstrated outstanding leadership throughout his years here at H&B.  We are pleased to have Jeff representing the Agency in this capacity,” said Scott Boardman, President.

Jeff LaBonte has been with H&B for 12 years advising clients on their commercial insurance needs.  In 2015 Jeff became a partner of Hickok & Boardman Insurance Group.  Jeff serves on the Alumni Board of Directors for St. Michael’s College and as a Corporator for Northfield Savings Bank. 

Hickok & Boardman also announced Tim O’Neill became a stockholder of the corporation. “Tim has grown our Lyndonville office significantly since he started back in July of 2011 and is a strong leader and trusted advisor for our clients in the eastern part of the State and western New Hampshire,” said Boardman. 

Tim O’Neill has been with H&B for eight years advising clients on their commercial insurance needs.  He currently serves on the Rural Edge Board of Directors and is past President and current member of the Board of Directors of Lyndonville Rotary.

Founded in 1821, Hickok &Boardman Insurance Group has served Vermont and the surrounding states in both business and personal insurance. ____________________________________________________________________________________________


Initiative focuses on enhancing behavioral health services in rural areas

Citizen Advocates and St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers have teamed up to conduct research focusing on the challenges faced by rural behavioral health providers and the individuals they serve.

Rural behavioral health providers serve a population of individuals and families that is uniquely vulnerable, and which often face hurdles connecting the people they support with the appropriate level of care or services. In many cases, the services some individuals and families require extend beyond a clinic or medical setting.  Access to housing, reliable transportation, job training or food security can be obstacles for someone recovering from an addiction or mental health diagnosis.  These challenges are more pronounced in areas like the North Country.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health and whose guiding thoughts include the principal, “We seek bold and lasting change rooted in the best available evidence, analysis, and science, openly debated. In 2017 alone, the Foundation dedicated over $365 million to improve health care.”

“Both of our organizations have deep ties in and a shared commitment to improving the lives of North Country residents,” said Reid Anthony, CEO of Citizen Advocates. “As such, both Citizen Advocates and St. Joseph’s are an ideal fit to work hand in glove on this important research that focuses on the steps we can take to improve behavioral health services and outcomes in rural areas.”

St. Joseph’s CEO, Bob Ross, adds, “While gaining access to quality behavioral healthcare has traditionally been hampered by geographic distance and limited resources in our rural North Country, the significant increase in demand for addiction and mental health treatment resulting from the unabating heroin and opioid epidemic provides an urgency for a new approach to providing care. We are confident that our collaboration with Citizen Advocates, and partnerships with Syracuse University and SUNY Albany will help to develop a more effective and efficient treatment model for our region’s individuals and families in need of care.”

In the first phase of this three-year program, the research team, coordinated by St. Joseph’s Malone Outpatient Site Supervisor, Deceil Moore, will meet with individuals to gather data regarding the experience and practical needs in seeking out behavioral health services. In addition, the team will interview leaders and front-line providers to get a true sense of how they are adapting to healthcare reforms.  Organizations will also be asked to identify meaningful data that demonstrates quality of care for those they support. 

Phase two of the project is putting the research into action by setting measurable goals to show outcomes in care are improving, and there is greater collaboration among organizations focused on improving overall community health. This means providers are partnering to deliver clinical services, and also meet other critical needs like transportation, job training or housing that are essential for someone recovering from a mental health or addiction diagnosis.

At the conclusion of the study, the team will connect with health, behavioral health and social service organization leaders in rural areas of New York to share best practices.  In addition, the results will be shared with county and state government officials to inform policy decisions, and those focused on further research around health reform.

At Citizen Advocates, we are committed to making lives better. The individuals, families and communities we serve receive a full range of health and lifestyle care through innovative, industry-leading services and programs. All of this is achieved through a person-centered approach that supports and celebrates each individual’s choices. We are here to make a positive difference in the life of any individual needing help along the unique road to health, independence and fulfillment. The work we do is driven by respect for humanity and the given rights of individuals as they explore what it means to define their own future. We are proud to provide quality, compassionate care and do so from the bottom of our hearts. Our work may be difficult at times, but that’s what makes it meaningful. We will persevere with courage and optimism. We are Citizen Advocates.

At St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment & Recovery Centers we remain vigilant in our commitment to the mission of providing holistic substance use disorder treatment services to those in need throughout the State of New York. Our services include Inpatient, Adolescent, and Veteran residential treatment, Community Services in Essex, Franklin, and St. Lawrence Counties, and Supportive Housing in Malone, Massena, and Ticonderoga. We recognize and honor the high inherent value of all people; from our family of staff members, to the most destitute and impoverished individuals, families and communities ravaged by the effects of addiction. We offer a full continuum of substance use services from detoxification to treatment, maintenance and supportive housing; meeting people where they are through a trauma-informed lens. We use innovative ways to actively reach out into their communities to make help available via telehealth, mobile treatment, in-community services and permanent supportive housing programs where people can raise a family, find a fulfilling vocation, or enrich their education while creating their own recovery communities. From adolescence to adulthood, recovery is a journey, and everyone deserves all the dignity and respect a precious human-being inherently deserves. By empowering people to understand their addictions, discover and practice new pathways toward joy and overall well-being and making connections that fulfill the heart’s purpose, and providing safe environments to redefine success, we at St. Joseph’s rejoice one step at a time.

WESTELCOM Installs Northern New York’s Only Geographically Diverse Telephone Service

WESTELCOM Networks Inc. announced today that the company has completed a major telephone network switching enhancement that gives the company the ability to provide its customers telephone services from two geographically diverse telephone switches. The switches are located in Watertown and Plattsburgh and are tied together on a regional fiber network ring which allows the company to feed integrated trunks from both the 315 and 518 area codes.  The enhancement allows a single switch to handle all services from both area codes should the other switch encounter a catastrophic failure.

This enhancement underscores the company’s focus on providing mission critical telecommunications services to its customers.  Westelcom’s network currently supports internet and telephone services to over 3,000 businesses, multiple municipalities, 2 telemedicine networks, 10 regional hospitals, several educational facilities, and over 120 health care facilities.

Previously, in August 2017, Westelcom completed a major network enhancement expanding its core bandwidth to 10 times its original network capacity.  The expanded capability provided Westelcom with an ability to deliver Ultra-High-Speed Broadband, Internet and Ethernet services surpassing all technological advancements in the Northern NY region.  Fully redundant and ringed, the network expands across 6 counties and internationally into Montreal and New York City with private connections to Microsoft, Amazon, and Google’s Cloud platforms.  Westelcom’s President and General Manager, Paul Barton stated that “We continue to focus on providing mission critical services and are the only company in the Northern NY region that can offer this level of service to its customers.”

In July 2016 Westelcom was also recognized by the NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association as the first NYS Certified Gig-Capable Provider, joining a national campaign to build awareness and industry recognition of community-based telecom providers that have built communications networks capable of delivering Internet speeds of 1 gigabit per second or greater, which is 100 times faster than most services currently available in much of the U.S.

Mr. Barton also stated that “Westelcom is focused on more than just delivering high-speed internet.  We have developed core network principles that ensure that we deliver our customers the most reliable communications solution possible.  We do what the larger companies are unwilling to do.”


Westelcom provides advanced telecommunications solutions to customers operating throughout Northern New York’s 6 county region between Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain.  Westelcom offers a strategic suite of business communication services over their fiber network which includes telephone, high-speed broadband, dedicated internet, and private Ethernet networks for multi-office connectivity.  Westelcom also offers advanced IP phone and data solutions to include hosted PBX, hosted firewall, server colocation, and carrier neutral colocation services. Their international presence and direct connectivity to Microsoft, Amazon, and Google cloud services enables access to a robust customer ecosystem. The company currently operates three New York based data centers strategically located in Watertown, Plattsburgh and Syracuse allowing for efficient connectivity to metro markets including Montreal, New York City and Boston.

As a leading carrier of telecommunications services, Westelcom has extensive expertise in serving the health care industry to include providing managed internet services and network operation services. Their Mission is to exceed customers’ expectations by providing excellent customer service in communications solution design, delivery and support.”  Westelcom can be reached at or 866.482.5427.

Ground Round Wins Multiple Awards at National Convention

The Plattsburgh Ground Round Bar & Grill is proud to announce winning three major awards at the annual Ground Round national convention recently held in Miami, Florida. 

The awards include; Marketing Best Practices, Peak Performer and Restaurant of the Year.

“Restaurant of the Year is our most prestigious award.” said Jack Crawford, President of the Ground Round Independent Owners Cooperative (IOC), “The Plattsburgh Ground Round has been, and continues to be a leader in our franchise. They have served their community since 1988 and act as a shining example of a successful restaurant. The Plattsburgh store is one of only two in the history of our franchise to win Restaurant of the Year twice.”

According to Mike Ludwig, Director of Operations, the Peak Performer Awards go to select franchises that outperform the rest.  Said Ludwig, “The Plattsburgh Ground Round launched the new menu and LTO in the fall, and had an outstanding year, including brand leading results on Veteran’s Day, gift card sales and an overall increase is sales.”

“The Plattsburgh Ground Round won The Marketing Best Practices Award for aggressive and consistent marketing across traditional and digital media.” Said Shireen Shahawy, the IOC’s Manager of Marketing & Digital Strategy, “Not to mention the fact that they lead the franchise in gift card sales year after year.”

Julie Kramer, Chief Operating Officer of Nine Platt Hospitality Group who owns and operates the Plattsburgh Ground Round said winning these awards really is quite an honor. “Winning three awards in one year is something we can be super proud of.  We are grateful to our staff. From the hosts, to the servers, to the back of house, to our managers, they are all incredible and deserve credit.” Kramer continued, “I would like to thank our marketing agency, Dodge Marketing & Communications, for its creative guidance and media expertise. We couldn’t have won Marketing Best Practices without them.”

Ground Round Independent Owners Cooperative (IOC) represents a group of independent franchise owners, in 10 states spread across the Midwest and Northeast areas of the United States, who have owned and led their own brand since 2004. They offer a unique franchise model where a franchisee can own their own restaurant along with an ownership/membership share in the overall future and growth of the brand.  For more information, visit

The Plattsburgh Ground Round is locally owned and operated by Nine Platt Hospitality Group since 1988. Nine Platt also owns and operates the Plattsburgh Best Western Plus.  Visit for more information.

Three Long-Time Champlain National Bank Employees Get Ready to Retire

Champlain National Bank will be saying goodbye to three of its longest serving employees in 2019, who are retiring.  Retiring this year are Charles (Chuck) Hughes, SVP/CFO, Gayle Bridge, VP/Director of Human Resources, and Judy MacDougall, Loan Servicing.

Chuck Hughes, SVP/CFO, started with the Bank in 1989 as the Comptroller and was promoted to CFO a few years later.  He took the Bank from a place that did everything manually and by hand, and helped move the processes online during the 1990s.  Hughes remembered, “When I started we only had a mainframe and two PCs.  Now there’s a computer on every desk.  The operations room used to be filled with huge check sorting files, and the staff spent a large part of their day sorting checks and pulling checks to be returned with statements each month.  Now all of that is computerized.”  In retirement, he will be splitting his time between New York City and Paradox in the Adirondacks.

Gayle Bridge, VP/Director of Human Resources, is one of the longest serving employees in the Bank’s history.  She started with the Bank in 1979.  She worked in a variety of capacities during her 40 years including bookkeeping, payroll, in the branch, and as one of the first human resources employees.  “Thanks to the dedication and loyalty of generations of good employees along with a strong Board, Champlain National Bank remains an independent Bank,” Bridge said.  She plans to continue to live in Willsboro, but wants to spend more time during the winter in Florida.

Judy MacDougall, Loan Servicing, started as a teller in 1994 before transferring to the loan support department.  She was part of the transition to our current banking platform in 2001.  As for why she spent so many of her working years at Champlain National Bank?  “There’s always been something new to learn, and I’ve enjoyed keeping up with the changes along the way.  I like being able to solve problems and help our clients,” she said.  MacDougall is looking forward to traveling with friends and spending more time with her family in retirement.

"Chuck, Gayle and Judy exemplify those qualities of competence, dedication to our clients, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, which have enabled our small, community bank to thrive in an industry facing rapid change and increasing regulatory burdens,” Chairman of the Board Peter S. Paine, Jr. said.  “On behalf of our Board, I thank them for their exemplary service and wish them well in their respective retirements.”

Champlain National Bank was founded in 1909 in Essex County and is still locally owned and managed today with ten branches serving the people of the North Country and Adirondacks.  In addition to traditional banking products, it has a full offering of mobile banking solutions, commercial loans and mortgages.

Agency Insurance Brokers Announce New Account Executive

Agency Insurance Brokers is proud to announce that Mathew Chandler has joined the team as an Account Executive.

In this role, Chandler will be responsible for managing existing accounts and soliciting new commercial business. 

Agency Insurance has been a family owned and operated agency in northern New York since 1926.

Agency Insurance Brokers has offices in Plattsburgh, Rouses Point, Saranac Lake and Ticonderoga.  It is a full-service insurance agency with over 25 different personal and commercial lines carriers to get its clients the best possible coverage at the best possible price. 

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