Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications

For Release — Thursday, September 6, 2007


ALBANY—Alair Townsend, who played a key role in charting New York City's fiscal and economic recovery in the early 1980s while serving in top management positions under former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and later emerged as a prominent newspaper publisher and business leader, will receive The Business Council's Corning Award for Excellence for 2007.

Townsend will accept the award Wednesday, September 19, at The Business Council's Annual Meeting at the Sagamore in Bolton Landing, Warren County. The Council's Annual Meeting will run from Sept. 19-21.

The Corning Award is sponsored by Corning Incorporated. The Council gives the award each year to a New Yorker who has shown outstanding accomplishment and a deep and sustained commitment to the people of New York. The first Corning Award was presented in 1979.

Townsend spent eight years with the Koch administration in the 1980s, first as budget director then as deputy mayor for finance and economic development. As finance director, she produced the balanced budgets that enabled New York City's government to reclaim control of its own budget, after years of strict oversight imposed by Albany in response to the city's fiscal crisis of the 1970s.

She also helped turn around the city's flailing economy by creating incentive programs to retain the city's businesses and promote entrepreneurship, according to Kenneth Adams, president and CEO of The Business Council.

“The city's continued financial health can be traced directly to the efforts of Alair and her staff, who helped the city regain its fiscal footing after the near bankruptcy in 1975,” Adams said. “During her tenure as deputy mayor, Alair held fast to a pro-business stance and helped broker the deals that kept Chase Manhattan and NBC and scores of smaller companies in New York City.

"Alair has also been a serious and respected business leader, a consistent voice for fiscal common sense in New York City, in Buffalo, and in state-government circles in Albany," Adams added.

Townsend has said she is most proud of her efforts to help the city's manufacturers and back office operations, and points to programs she helped to develop that reduced energy costs and provided employers with significant per-employee tax credits.

Before becoming Mayor Koch's budget director in 1981, Townsend served as the assistant secretary for management and budget in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In that position, she managed a staff of more than 700 people and controlled the department's then-$250 billion budget.

A native of Elmira, Townsend began her career in Washington D.C. as a program analyst in the delinquency studies branch of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In the next 15 years, she rose quickly through a series of program and policy assignments in several departments of the federal government and congressional committees, along the way becoming known for her dedication, hard work, and sense of humor.

She was named publisher of Crain's New York Business in 1989, and she became a vice president of the company in 1993. Under her leadership, the influential New York City business weekly became a must-read for the city's business and political leadership. The publication received numerous awards during her tenure, including many for Townsend's own column. Townsend gave up her position as publisher last year, while retaining her weekly column.

Townsend has remained an active proponent of the state's business community. She served as The Business Council's vice chairman for finance for seven years from 1995 to 2002. She also serves as vice chairman of the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority, to which she was appointed in 2003 by Governor George Pataki.

She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in sociology from Elmira College and the University of Wisconsin, respectively.

She is a seven-year member of TIAA-CREF Board of Overseers and was recently appointed to the New York City division of the directors advisory council for M & T bank. She is a past board member of Armor Holdings, Inc.; the board of governors of the American Stock Exchange; Fay's Inc.; Ford Motor Credit Corporation Advisory Board; and a past member of the nominating committee for the American Stock Exchange.

Townsend also serves on the boards of many civic and cultural organizations, including: the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; The Economic Club of New York; The Greater New York Councils of the Boy Scouts of America Executive Committee; Consolidated Corporate Fund of Lincoln Center; The State University of New York's Levin Institute; and the Citizens Budget Commission. She is the past chair of the Consolidated Corporate Fund of Lincoln Center; The Leadership Committee for the Boy Scouts of America New York Councils' Exploring Program; the American Woman's Economic Development Corporation; the New York City Sports Commission Foundation, Inc.; and the United Way of New York's fundraising executive committee. She has served on the boards of the Partnership for New York City; Women's Forum; the Citizen's Union of New York Foundation; the Committee for Economic Development; Rockefeller University; the Japan Society; the New York Board of Trade; Gateway America Committee; New York Convention and Visitor's Bureau; New York Goodwill Games Organizing Committee, Inc.; Catalyst; Elmira College; and the United Neighborhood Houses of New York.

Background on the Corning Award: The Corning Award is a magnificent piece of original Steuben Glass, handcrafted by masters in Corning, New York. Previous Corning Award recipients are: Robert Catell (2006); Daniel A. Carp (2005); Amo Houghton (2004) Lewis Golub (2003); Carl T. Hayden (2002); Roland W. Schmitt (2001); Richard P. Mills (2000); Erland E. Kailbourne (1999); Robert B. Wegman (1998); Judith S. Kaye (1997); John J. Phelan, Jr. (1996); Barber B. Conable, Jr., (1995); James W. Kinnear (1994); Muriel Siebert (1993); Hugh L. Carey (1992); David Harden (1991); Raymond T. Schuler (1990); Warren M. Anderson and Stanley Fink (1989); Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. (1988); James D. Robinson III (1987); Franklin A. Thomas (1986); Kitty Carlisle Hart (1985); Frank T. Cary (1984); Clifton Garvin (1983); David Rockefeller (1982); Richard R. Shinn (1981); Melvin C. Holm (1980); and Walter A. Fallon (1979).

Background on The Business Council: The Business Council is New York's largest broad-based business group, representing more than 3,000 member employers large and small across the state. Based in Albany, its mission is to create an economic renaissance for New York State and its people.