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NETI fellowship program to expand exit-planning help for small firms

By Eric Reinhardt (


Robert Griffin

The Northeast Transition Initiative (NETI) selected 18 fellows from across the small-business ecosystem of New England and New York state to join its inaugural NETI fellowship program cohort. 

NETI is a partnership of organizations whose mission is to expand the knowledge, resources, and tools needed to support exit planning for business owners and transitions to employee ownership, per the April 2 announcement from the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA). 

ANCA is one of nine organizations across the Northeast that currently make up the NETI partnership. This project is made possible through funding from Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC).

Aviva Gold

The fellows include representatives for New York’s North Country region, such as Robert Griffin, regional director at Onondaga Regional Small Business Development Center (SBDC); Aviva Gold, director of marketing and communications at CITEC Business Solutions in Potsdam; and Russ Kinyon, business-development director at Adirondack Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) in Saranac Lake.

The service area for the Onondaga SBDC includes Jefferson and Lewis counties, according to its website. Other members of NETI Fellowship’s inaugural cohort represent organizations across New England.

In Northern New York, Griffin and Kinyon also represent the North Country Center for Businesses in Transition (CBIT), an ANCA program that provides technical support and guidance for businesses navigating ownership transitions. 

Russ Kinyon

“I am grateful to have the opportunity to represent Central New York and the New York Small Business Development Centers in this inaugural cohort of the NETI Fellowship,” Griffin said in the ANCA announcement. “Small-business owners across our region are nearing a time when education and the support ecosystem of NETI Fellowship partners will be critical for navigating the natural process of exit planning and ownership transition. Now is that pivotal moment where we can begin to change the tide of pointless business closures in an effort to preserve valuable jobs and our small business economic fabric.”

Program is underway

The nine-month-long fellowship, which started in February, will move fellows through a curriculum and projects that help each participant develop a “strategic, region-specific model” to support businesses and business owners in navigating the exit-planning process and the employee-ownership option.

As ANCA put it, “A wave of baby boomer business owners are looking to retire in the next few years, threatening jobs and the stability of the economy within the communities their businesses serve. Organizations that provide services to business owners have great expertise in growing businesses but are not always equipped to answer questions or provide assistance for those looking for ways to exit a business. Employee ownership is a proven strategy to preserve critical businesses and jobs and provide wealth building opportunities for workers who are often left behind.”

“In rural communities like ours, losing even small numbers of existing businesses has an outsize effect on our economy, so it is really important that we explore as many avenues as possible to keep that from happening,” Gold added. “It is exciting to be part of the NETI fellowship where we can leverage the knowledge of so many different kinds of organizations and an immense brain trust of experiences. CITEC is looking forward to sharing the resources across the region, especially in the manufacturing sector.”

The AEDC’s Kinyon said NETI is addressing a vital issue. 

“Business succession is emerging as a key economic development and community issue. Preserving the meaningful amenities, experiences and skills that existing businesses provide and passing them to future generations is critical and valuable work,” he said. “We are striving to identify the elements needed to plan, fund and implement successful transitions, which require extensive collaboration. We are pleased to be a part of the NETI fellowship, which will benefit our region through the broad knowledge and resources our shared network will bring together.”       

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