4 Hidden Treasures in Westchester

Unsung County organizations that you need to know about.



Whether working with innovative technology or becoming immersed in educational outreach, these “hidden treasures” are further evidence that Westchester is a great place for organizations seeking growth and success.

Here are just four examples:

1. VARTA MICROBATTERY

With the ability to produce a wide variety of highly specialized batteries, Varta Microbattery is all about getting task-specific.

“Our level of experience in miniaturization is unique,” says President and CEO William Flanagan. “We’re the world’s largest manufacturers of hearing-aid batteries. We also create batteries that operate automobile remote control keys, and units that power water meters.”

Other products include batteries for an array of medical tools, ranging from lights for helmets worn by surgeons to special medical charts that allow physicians and nurses on rounds to talk their findings into a computer rather than writing notes.

Varta also has created memory backup batteries for Hewlett Packard computers, and battery-activated sensors that track air-pressure levels in each tire on high-end cars.

Two-dozen sales, design and engineering employees work out of Varta’s North American headquarters, which opened in Rye in June 2013. The company, whose German origins reach back to 1887, primarily manufactures in Germany, Romania and Singapore.

Flanagan says that for him, one key advantage of a Westchester address is the ability to interact with the many other high-tech firms that call this county and region home.

On the web at: varta-microbattery.com

2. THE DIGITAL ARTS EXPERIENCE

The focus of The Digital Arts Experience (DAE) is after-school and summertime learning opportunities for children aged 10 and up. Founder and CEO Rob Kissner explains, “There aren’t a lot of programs available where kids work hands-on with a lot of the disciplines we teach. This is real-world application training for digital systems such as Java and other areas where what they learn today could have practical application in the future.”

He adds, “Our students leave here having been exposed to real-life career paths. And, since instruction is project-oriented, they also have something for their portfolio.”

Students can choose from after-school programs that include 2-D animation and cartooning, 3-D animation and character modeling, digital photography, filming, graphic design, stop-motion animation using LEGO building bricks, video-game programming with Java Code, and web design with HTML/CSS. Class sizes never exceed seven, and every participant has access to his or her own computer.

The White Plains-based company also reaches out to less-advantaged kids. Groups with which DAE works include the White Plains Youth Bureau and The Children’s Village.

On the web at: thedae.com

3. AMERICAN CHRISTMAS

  If a company wants top-quality holiday decorations without all of the hassle, they call on American Christmas. CEO Fred Schwam says his Mount Vernon-based company handles everything from design and installation to removal of displays in corporate lobbies, hotels restaurants, shopping centers and department stores.

“Everything is professionally decorated, custom designed and expertly executed in a way that most companies would not have the wherewithal to match,” Schwam explains. “We save firms many hours that the companies themselves would have to expend on something where they lack expertise.”  

American Christmas boasts an impressive Manhattan client roster that includes Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and the Empire State Building.

With 40 full-time and 120 seasonal employees, Schwam says his Westchester base has proved to be critical to his firm’s success. After moving from the Bronx in 2010, he says real estate costs that were substantially lower than those in New York City allowed him to acquire needed space at a more affordable charge. He also emphasizes that Westchester’s excellent transportation infrastructure makes critical travel to and from New York City fast and efficient.

On the web at: americanxmas.com

4. SISTERS OF THE DIVINE COMPASSION

Dedicated to helping the poor since its 1886 founding on New York City’s lower east side, the Sisters of The Divine Compassion has been located in White Plains since 1923. A Roman Catholic organization with a major emphasis on education, the Sisters provide education from kindergarten to eighth grade for some 180 students, and also operate a girls’ high school where enrollment at its Good Counsel campus currently numbers 420.

According to Sr. Jane Keegan, RDC, “Our uniqueness is that we are a small group doing a great deal. Our schools are blue ribbon, and all provide good, quality Catholic education. Also, our counseling center programs are especially effective working with the Hispanic poor.”

The organization, made up of vowed members, lay associates and other partners, began with a group of women who were moved to provide shelter, training and religious education for the children of New York’s poor.

Today, the beautiful Good Counsel campus (added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997) is also the setting for a venue called the Mapleton Conference & Catering Center that is capable of hosting up to 150 people for social and business events.

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