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Family Enterprise USA’s Pat Soldano Speaks at Two Upstate New York Events on Crucial Role Family Businesses Play in U.S. Economy

Syracuse’s American Food & Vending Hosts Event at Century Club; Cornell University’s Smith Family Business Initiative Holds ‘Families in Business Conference’ at Ithaca’s Statler Hotel & Conference Center

Soldano, CRST’s John Smith Discuss Importance of Having a Strong Family Business Voice on Capitol Hill

The critical contributions America’s family businesses make to the U.S. economy were made clear by Pat Soldano, President, Family Enterprise USA, at two recent upstate New York family business events.

The first of the two family business events was organized by Syracuse, New York-based American Food & Vending Corp., and hosted by its co-founder Steve Wells.

The event, “Protecting the Wealth of Family Businesses and Family Offices in a Volatile Tax Environment,” was held late last month at the Century Club in Syracuse.

A third-generation family-owned food services company, American Food & Vending has expanded nationally to become one of the 20 largest food service companies in the United States.

The second event, entitled, “2023 Families in Business,” was held in nearby Ithaca, New York, and is the ninth organized by Cornell University’s Smith Family Business Initiative. The initiative is part of the university’s S.C Johnson Graduate School of Management. The two-day event was held at The Statler Hotel & Conference Center in Ithaca.

At both the Syracuse and Ithaca events, Soldano spoke on the massive, and often hidden, contribution America’s family businesses make to the U.S. economy.

Soldano detailed the results of Family Enterprise USA’s annual research study, which shows America’s multi-generational family-owned businesses contribute $7.7 trillion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product. Family businesses are the largest private employers in the country, accounting for 83.3 million jobs, or 59 percent of the country’s private workforce, the research shows.

In Ithaca, Cornell University’s Daniel Van Der Vliet, the John and Dyan Smith Executive Director Family Business at the S.C Johnson Graduate School of Management, introduced Soldano and John Smith, Chairman, Hillcrest Holdings, on the second day to kick off a discussion on “The Family Business Congressional Caucus and Amplifying the Voice of Family Enterprise.” Smith received his MBA from Cornell in 1974.

The Smith family founded CRST, The Transportation Solution, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1955. Today, it is one of the nation’s largest privately held transportation and logistics companies.

Cornell’s Smith Family Business Initiative was created to bring together faculty, scholars, and practitioners to provide multidisciplinary guidance and expertise to help equip well-established, emerging, and aspiring family businesses with the knowledge and skills essential to navigate the multi-generational dimensions and family influence of these organizations.

“These events are opportunities to educate audiences on the importance of family businesses to the American story and economy,” Soldano told attendees. “There are so many successful family businesses, and they are truly the engine that drives our economy, but there are also many challenges these businesses face,” she said. “It’s vital that academia, legislators, and the business community understand the need for best-in-class family business management practices and the need to educate our legislators on the importance of family businesses in America, and in their districts. It is more important today than ever before that family businesses have a voice on Capitol Hill.”

Soldano is also President of Policy and Taxation Group, an advocate for family businesses on Capitol Hill and a sister organization of Family Enterprise USA. For more information on the two conferences go to

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