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Business-Minded Alumnae Help Move ‘N.Y. Forward’

Sonya Del Peral

Heather Briccetti ’89, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE BUSINESS COUNCIL OF NEW YORK STATE, and Sonya del Peral ’91, co-owner and manager of Nine Pin Ciderworks in Albany, were invited in April to participate in the New York Forward Reopening Advisory Board.

Convened to help guide the state’s reopening strategy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the board is chaired by two former secretaries to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ’82, Steven Cohen and Bill Mulrow, and includes more than 100 business, community, and civic leaders from across the state.

Del Peral was honored to be invited—and a bit surprised, because she represents a single business. But she is being modest: she is closely tied to the craft beverage industry and particu- larly the New York Cider Association, which she helped form in 2015.

She participated in two video conference calls in the spring, and although it was interesting learning about other industries, she admitted it was challenging waiting for her sector’s questions and concerns to be addressed. However, she understood that the administration was doing the best it could with a “mind-boggling” challenge and credited her lawyer training for making her sensitive to the statutory restrictions and administrative hurdles involved.

Still, the ever-changing landscape due to the pandemic made business planning difficult, del Peral shared. “When one set of rules was about to expire but new ones had not been issued, we could not purchase supplies, secure staff, or schedule production.” The advisory board provided a way for businesses to make their needs heard. Del Peral advocated for an extension of the delivery and shipping privileges granted after the shutdown and for continued allowance for outdoor-area expansion, and both were granted.

Heather Briccetti

When Briccetti got the call asking her to participate in N.Y. Forward, she had already been in near-daily contact with the Governor’s Office since COVID-19 measures began to roll out in March, affecting the 2,300 Business Council members across the state. The advisory board was a natural extension of her work. “We were trying to guide the state in moving forward in a way that was both safe and enabled businesses to function and reopen,” Briccetti said.

“I apply that same lens in my job every day.”

Through the advisory board calls, she was able to share plans that were developed by Business Council members to help the administration develop guidelines and best practices. “Much of the guidance issued has been very reflective of comments made by members and shared with the board.”

One drawback was the size of the group and the wide variety of situations and concerns; even within one sector, every individual workplace is unique, Briccetti said. The Business Council took the initiative to host smaller group calls for specific sectors such as hospitality and manufacturing. “These calls allowed a representative sample of our members to provide feedback to the people writing the rules.”

Briccetti said the key legal skill for this work is advocacy—understanding the perspective of the client and the audience and steering them to a solution that works—and drew parallels to her moot court experience at Albany Law. “This work is the same as framing an opening or closing argument: conveying your client’s viewpoint in a way that your audience will understand or respond to. Figuring out what are the facts, how to frame them, and how to suggest a solution is what law school is all about.”

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