The "Spirit Award" in the Social Entrepreneurship / Nonprofit category was awarded to five Genesee Community College students after they presented their "Batavia Loop Trail and Bordering Business Development" plan to a team of judges at the fifth annual New York Business Plan Competition in Albany last Friday, April 25, 2014. The annual competition invites students from colleges around the state to submit innovative ideas designed to address a currently unmet need in one of six categories.
The GCC students presenting the Batavia Loop Trail (BLT) included Tara Beckens of Clifton Springs, Danielle Cannella, Richard DelPlato, and Maryssa Peirick, all from Batavia, and Adrienne Payne, of Byron. As members of GCC's CEO or Earth Clubs, they envision developing an 11-mile loop trail that skirts around the edge of the City and Town of Batavia connecting a wide array of businesses and regional resources -- from ice cream shops and restaurants to Batavia's treasure trove of city and county parks.The BLT maximizes the idyllic views of Tonawanda Creek and would provide safer walking and bicycling pathways to GCC, College Village, as well as Batavia High School and Genesee Valley Educational Partnership/BOCES on State Street.
The project builds upon the growing international interest and economy of bicycling tourism, and also on Batavia's proximity to NYS Thruway providing a huge tourist market. BLT also links into the new Ellicott Trail, which was recently awarded $1.5 million through NYSDOT Transportation Enhancement Fund. Students researched state and federal funding resources and were delighted to learn that BLT potentially meets many of the criteria for funds from the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP), Consolidated Funding Application (CFA), NYSERDA's Cleaner Greener Communities, and Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).
Lastly, and most importantly to the students – the long-term vision poses excellent hands-on learning opportunities not only for GCC students but for the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (GVEP/BOCES). Next year, students hope to present a plan to GCC's Board of Trustees sharing their idea of creating a small on-campus business, the Recreational Rental Center, giving both students and the general public the opportunity to rent bicycles for the trail and potentially other equipment such as tennis rackets or soccer balls. The new micro-business will provide future GCC students enrolled in Business Administration, Accounting, Sport Management, Travel & Tourism, Web Design, Digital Arts and Physical Education with excellent co-op, internship and work study opportunities. Equally dynamic is providing GVEP/BOCES students enrolled in Conservation, Welding and Automotive Technology programs the chance to help develop and maintain the trail.
The students say the BLT is a "transformative idea that extends out 11 years," but they divided the overall plan into five phases with the most easily implemented segments of the trail opening in 2018. Before heading off to Albany, they shared the BLT idea with local key officials, including New York State Assemblyman Stephen Hawley and City of Batavia Manager Jason Molino, and were delighted the concept was unanimously well received.
"When Jason Molino called the project a 'home run' and pointed out how it would enhance Batavia's quality of life, the students were smiling from ear to ear," said Donna Rae Sutherland, GCC's staff advisor for the project. "While they will probably no longer be GCC students when the project becomes a reality, they are excited to pass the torch along to their peers. And, they hope they will be able to use the trail in the future with their own children years down the road -- or perhaps I should say path!"
The New York Business Program Competition is hosted by the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE), University at Albany's School of Business and Syracuse University. It has become the premier collegiate contest encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship throughout New York's colleges and universities in the following 10 regional economic zones: Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, North Country, Mohawk Valley, Western New York, Southern Tier, Mid-Hudson, New York City and Long Island.