President and CEO

Andrew Kennedy

518-465-8975 Ext. 225   ·

Andrew Kennedy is the President and CEO of the Center for Economic Growth. He previously served as the Deputy Director of State Operations for Governor Andrew M Cuomo overseeing the day-to-day management of New York State government, as well as developing and overseeing implementation of state policies and programs related to economic development. Prior to that, Andrew served as Governor Cuomo’s Assistant Secretary for Economic Development coordinating the development and management of the State’s economic development and housing efforts. Prior to joining Governor Cuomo’s staff, Andrew worked for over a decade at the New York State Division of Budget and for the New York State Assembly where he developed a detailed understanding of New York’s fiscal and economic development policies and programs. Andrew holds a master’s degree in public administration from the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy and a bachelor’s degree from Siena College in political science.

Vice President, Business Development – Business Growth Solutions

Louise Aitcheson

518-465-8975 Ext. 229   ·

Louise Aitcheson joined CEG as the Director of Business Development in January 2002. As the Vice President of Business Development, her primary responsibilities focus on developing CEG’s Technology / Manufacturing Consulting Services, serving as Executive Director of the Chief Executives Network for Manufacturers (CEN), and further developing membership in CEG and CEN.

Prior to CEG, Louise worked with Light & Power Communications, Ltd., as Director of Sales, Meetings & Events Group where she had a very successful track record in business development and relationship management with a national client base which included Fortune 100 firms, governmental agencies and national associations.

Prior to Light & Power, she was the Research Director for the Capital District Business Review, where her primary responsibility was compiling the weekly Top 25 Lists as well as the Book of Lists.  Louise earned a B.A. in English literature at Keuka College, Keuka Park, NY.

Director, Technology Services

Tom Bell

518-465-8975 Ext. 242   ·

After completing studies in mechanical engineering technology, Tom Bell initiated his career in manufacturing with the Department of Defense at the Watervliet Arsenal.  During his tenure there, he served in various technical and management positions including leading manufacturing, planning, quality and design related activities, receiving numerous commendations for his work, including the Commander’s Award for Distinguished Civilian Service.

After leaving the arsenal, Tom initially joined the CEG in November 1999 as a Lean Enterprise Program Director. During the ensuing eight years, he focused on the advancement of manufacturing capabilities through the delivery of effective training and hands-on support at dozens of upstate New York firms involving many thousands of individuals at all organizational levels. He also was the founder and director of the “Lean Users Network” created as a learning and support organization for leaders of continuous improvement efforts at companies throughout the Capital Region.

Early in 2008, Tom moved to private industry in support of the lean enterprise goals of an aerospace/medical composite structures manufacturing firm in Bennington, VT.  While there, he provided wide-ranging technical and administrative support, including the coordination of lean planning and implementation activities. He returned to the Center for Economic Growth in April 2013 as Project Director for Technology Services, analyzing business processes and working with company representatives in the achievement of their performance goals.

Director, Talent Connect

Joanne Cornell

518-465-8975 Ext. 222   ·

Joanne Cornell is the Director of the Talent Connect program. She supports professional candidates and newly hired relocating professionals and their families with pre-hire consultations, and new-hire navigation services, including community resources, career support and cultural transitioning. Cornell received her BS in business administration and management from The College of St. Rose and has a strong background in management, communications and marketing. She is certified in Crossing Cultures with Competence and was previously employed at CDYMCA and Media Logic.

Director, Finance & Administration

Charlene Deforest

518-465-8975 Ext. 230   ·
Manager, New Ventures

Ellyn Ford

518-465-8975 Ext. 243   ·

Ellyn Ford came to CEG in 2015 with an AAS Degree in Early Childhood Development from SUNY Cobleskill, a degree she utilized for the first decade of her career as an early childhood educator and Assistant Director of Shannon’s Rainbow and then of Samaritan-Rensselaer Children’s Center. Following this, Ellyn spent a decade at Blue Cross Blue Shield where she became Executive Assistant to the Director of Provider Services.

Prior to arriving at CEG, she was the HopeClub Coordinator as well as Office Manager at American Cancer Society HopeClub, an organization that offers social and emotional support to those living with cancer. Currently Ellyn facilitates and assists with several programs at CEG including the NYS High School Business Plan Competition, VentureB, Bioconnex, Innovate518, Accelerate518, Chief Executives Network and TechConnex.

Vice President, Investor Relations & Talent Connect

John Giordano

518-465-8975 Ext. 232   ·

John Giordano is responsible for the membership investment income for both CEG and Talent Connect. Along with Joanne and Karen, he operates the Talent Connect and the Veteran Connect program, assisting companies with attracting talent to relocate into the Capital Region. 

John’s background is in the hospitality and tourism industry, with time spent in travel agency, meeting planning, hotels and as the co-founder of the Albany Aqua Ducks.

Director, Contracts Management - Business Growth Solutions

Melanie LaRose

518-465-8975 Ext. 253   ·
Director, Energy & Sustainability

Peter Lion

518-465-8975 Ext. 234   ·

Peter Lion is the Director, Energy & Sustainability at CEG. In this capacity he works with businesses to reduce cost through the optimization of business operations. Services include energy and materials benchmarking, state and utility rebate consulting as well as working with organizations on innovative approaches to sustainability activity.

Peter has more than 6 years of experience providing environmental related services including hazardous waste management, energy auditing and sustainability guidance. He earned a BS in Environmental Science from Calvin College, a MS in Sustainable Development from Linköping University, and has worked in Belize and Sweden.

Senior Vice President, Business Growth Solutions

Michael Lobsinger

518-465-8975 Ext. 238   ·

Michael Lobsinger is the Senior Vice President for CEG’s Business Growth Services (BGS) and Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). Michael directs the BGS|MEP team in providing exemplary support to manufacturing and technology companies with a focus on Continuous Improvement, Technology Acceleration, Growth & Innovation, Export, Supply Chain, Sustainability and Workforce Development. Michael has more than 17 years of experience ranging from engineering and product development, manufacturing, business development and operations. Prior to joining CEG in 2013, he was director of an incubator program, an entrepreneur, and was a senior engineer at Boeing. Michael earned a BS in mechanical engineering from North Dakota State University and an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Director, Research & Communications

James Schlett

518-465-8975 Ext. 221   ·

As the Director of Research and Commuications for the Center for Economic Growth, James Schlett conducts research, provides analysis of economic statistics, and keeps CEG investors, businesses, media and the general public informed on the organization’s activities and opportunities in the Capital Region.

James is an award-winning journalist and author. Prior to joining CEG, he served as the editor of two business-to-business tech magazines, BioPhotonics and Industrial Photonics, published by Laurin Publishing. Before that he worked as the business development writer for a mid-sized Albany law firm and as the administrator of the New York State Senate Select Committee on Budget and Tax Reform.

For seven years James worked as a newspaper reporter for the Watertown Daily Times, The Westerly Sun in Rhode Island and the Schenectady Daily Gazette. His business and feature writing for the Gazette was recognized by the New York Newspaper Publishers Association, the New York State Associated Press Association. He is the author of A Not Too Greatly Changed Eden: The Story of the Philosophers’ Camp in the Adirondacks (Cornell University Press, 2015), winner of an Adirondack Literary Award for Best Book of Nonfiction from the Adirondack Center for Writing.

James received his bachelor’s degree from SUNY New Paltz. He lives in Rotterdam with his wife and daughter. When not crunching numbers, he enjoys hiking, gardening and writing and reading haiku.

Vice President, Marketing & Events

Andrea Swank

518-465-8975 Ext. 250   ·

Andrea Swank works to coordinate various activities to attract high-tech industry (with a focus on semiconductor and renewable energy – PV) to Tech Valley. This includes marketing the region internationally under the “NY Loves Technology” / “NY Loves Nanotech” / “NY Loves Clean Tech” brands to companies and related suppliers interested in building facilities. Andrea organizes participation at industry events and tradeshows, organizes regional FAM tours/local industry events, and provides specific marketing support for these activities. Andrea also manages CEG’s signature events and directs the marketing efforts of the organization.

Andrea joined CEG in 2007 after graduating from Sage College of Albany with a B.S. in applied biology/business.

Manager, Marketing & Graphics

Cristina Valentin

518-465-8975 Ext. 224   ·
Director, Economic Development Services

Amanda Vitullo

518-465-8975 Ext. 244   ·

Amanda Vitullo currently serves as the Director of Economic Development at CEG. She is responsible for coordinating and supporting the organization’s economic development initiatives, including workforce development and business attraction, expansion and retention.

Prior to joining CEG, Amanda served as an Excelsior Service Fellow in the NYS Executive Chamber. During this time, she worked in Governor Cuomo’s operations team as his special assistant for briefing. In addition to the Executive Chamber, she has also held the role of Communications and Marketing Assistant at the City of Albany’s primary economic development arm, Capitalize Albany Corporation.

Amanda holds her master’s degree in public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, and her bachelor’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Ithaca College’s Park School of Communications.

Director, Investor Relations & Talent Attraction

Karen Wolff, SHRM-CP, PHR

518-465-8975 Ext. 223   ·


Karen Wolff is the Center for Economic Growth’s Director of Investor Relations and Talent Attraction. She has over 20 years of experience in human resources with a focus on talent attraction and development. She is currently spearheading the Veteran Connect Center, a new program within CEG that is targeting the soldiers transitioning out of the military to come to the Capital Region for work and/or education. This program will also connect local Veterans to resources in the community and train local employers and educational institutions on military culture to assist with their efforts to attract and retain Veterans.

Prior to joining CEG, Karen was in charge of recruitment and retention for a nonprofit with 23 locations statewide and 500 employees. During her 11-year tenure there she received multiple awards for teamwork and community Involvement. She is the former owner of an HR consulting and recruiting firm, which was the first out-of-county recipient of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year.

Karen has nearly two decades of experience in an executive leadership role on the Workforce Development Board, along with other nonprofit boards including Job Service Employer Committee, Rural Health Network, Chambers of Commerce’s, Rotary and numerous Veteran organization committees.

Connect with us: 518.465.8975

Andrew Kennedy – President & CEO | x225

Louise Aitcheson – VP of Business Development – Business Growth Solutions
Manufacturing Extension Partnership – Capital Region | x229

Tom Bell – Project Director, Technology Services – Business Growth Solutions
Manufacturing Extension Partnership – Capital Region | x242

Joanne Cornell – Director, Talent Connect | x222

Charlene DeForest – Director, Finance & Administration | x230

Ellyn Ford – Manager, New Ventures & Entrepreneurship – Business Growth Solutions
Manufacturing Extension Partnership – Capital Region | x243

John Giordano – VP, Investor Relations & Talent ell | x232

Melanie LaRose – Director, Contract Management – Business Growth Solutions
Manufacturing Extension Partnership – Capital Region | x253

Peter Lion – Director, Energy & Sustainability – Business Growth Solutions
Manufacturing Extension Partnership – Capital Region | x234

Michael Lobsinger – Senior Vice President – Business Growth Solutions
Manufacturing Extension Partnership – Capital Region | x238

James Schlett – Director, Research & Communications | x221

Andrew Swank – VP, Marketing & Events | x250

Cristina Valentin – Manager, Marketing & Graphics – Business Growth Solutions
Manufacturing Extension Partnership – Capital Region | x224

Amanda Vitullo – Director, Economic Development Services | x244

Karen Wolff – Director, Investor Relations & Talent Connect | x223


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