Bulletin Board


A society that understands and embraces the need of full participation and inclusion of all its members will remain a strong and leading business-force within newly emerging and highly competing contemporary markets. Chronically high unemployment need not plague minority communities indefinitely. Solutions exist, and hope is on the horizon.

Jim Kernan Signature

 Advancing Solutions Guided by Social Responsibility


“By fully embracing all members of society, the US will remain a highly competitive nation.”

Skilled Workers Mr. Kernan is creating access for those who have been historically discouraged to join skilled artisan trades due to the fact that apprenticeship craft training has been controlled for so long by organized labor. Understanding, as well as consolidating, the needs for access and education equally, Mr. Kernan developed an apprenticeship training program with the SUNY Maritime College.

Private Sector Solution to a Public Sector Problem

Mr. Kernan created Oriska Insurance in 1990 to support minority businesses within the construction industry. Oriska Insurance offers products for an industry that is not easily accessible for minorities. The provision of an entry-level bonding opportunity includes mentoring to ensure the bonding principals are able to complete the project on-time and on-budget. The worker’s compensation, disability benefits and health insurance are easing the burden, covering incalculable risks in a socially responsible manner and guaranteeing compliance with the law. Mr. Kernan pioneered this private-sector solution to create flourishing businesses within distressed communities.

Overcoming Obstacles through Innovation

Jim Kernan Gives a Speech Mr. Kernan is known for an innovative spirit, turning stagnant traditions and bureaucratic hurdles that too often become obstacles for the disadvantaged, into future-oriented concepts. He identified the three main causes of concern that prevent minority workers from fully participating and equally advancing in society. Those are missing skill sets within trades, mentoring and a lack of the financial protection required to compete.

Creating Flourishing Business Landscapes within Distressed Communities

Acutely aware of the hardship minority businesses face when trying to compete, Mr. Kernan developed solutions to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit needed to lift entire communities struggling today. He created opportunities within the construction industry’s skilled trades, where training, mentoring and access to capital could have a significant impact on minorities. To address these key factors, Mr. Kernan developed private sector solutions that train minorities in skilled trades, mentor them in business development and provide them the financial protection to bid on large public works projects. In essence, Mr. Kernan gives distressed communities a pathway to the American Dream.


The Foundations to Succeed

Mr. Kernan attended public school in Oriskany, New York, Upon graduation in 1967 he attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) for a year and then joined the United States Marine Corps.

As a United States Marine, his MOS was ammunition explosives. Mr. Kernan was awarded a full scholarship while in the Marines to return to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) to study engineering.  Mr. Kernan graduated from RPI in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical & Civil Engineering.

In 1972 Mr. Kernan ran the drilling and blasting crews as the engineer. He was in charge of explosives and demolition on an 8 million cubic yard rock removal job for the construction of US 15 from Dover to Sparta, New Jersey. This led to a senior engineering job with Hercules in Delaware.

While working in the petrochemical industry for Hercules in Wilmington, Delaware, Mr. Kernan attended law school at night at the Delaware Law School of Widener College, graduating summa cum laude in 1976 with a Juris Doctor.

Entrepreneurial Acumen

Mr. Kernan became licensed as a Professional Engineer in Delaware and New York in 1976 and founded Kernan Engineering in Oriskany, New York, specializing in engineering design, concentrating on heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, civil, sewer, water, power distribution, transportation and environmental planning.

Mr. Kernan was admitted to the New York bar in 1977 and began practicing law as a sole practitioner while working part-time as Confidential Law Clerk for Supreme Court Justice John R.  Tenney, where he researched and wrote motion terms through 1983. Mr. Kernan was a member of the Panel of Arbitrators for the American Arbitration Association for 10 years beginning in 1979, specializing in complex construction arbitration disputes, including abitrating the default and design deficit for the speed skating oval in Lake Placid and other issues surrounding the 1980 Olympics.

The Calling to Public Service

Mr. Kernan served as Justice for the Village of Oriskany in the early 1980s where he adjudicated misdemeanor criminal matters, traffic infractions and resolved small claim civil disputes. He was appointed by the Office of Court Administration as a Judge of the Utica City Court to fill a vacancy.

Mr. Kernan has testified as an expert witness in complex financial, engineering, risk analysis disputes in litigation and arbitration, specialized in risk management, alternate dispute resolution, public records research, risk management involving interpreting contracts, identifying managing risk, investigating reliability of witnesses and businesses, and analyzing contract enforcement options.

Confronting Challenges to Minority Communities

Laying the groundwork to assist minority and small businesses, Mr. Kernan concentrated his law practice on surety bonding, construction litigation, personal injury, real estate, wills and estates associated with the general practice of law.  From the mid-1980s Mr. Kernan concentrated his practice on construction, surety bonding, Davis-Bacon labor matters, workers’ compensation, insurance coverage disputes, and ERISA benefits for employees in the construction industry, benefit design and management; all issues that benefited minority and small businesses.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mr. Kernan was retained by municipalities in the Sauquoit Creek Basin in Oneida County, New York, developing Generic Environmental Impact Statements to address and mitigate development impacts throughout that area of Oneida County, conducting public comment sessions, publicizing of Draft Statements, and assisting municipalities with Findings and publication of Recommendations.

In 1994, Mr. Kernan was awarded a commendation by the Oneida County Deputy Sheriffs Benevolent Association for his work with law enforcement officers over the years from 1981 through 1994.

As a certified risk control and return-to-work expert under New York State Department of Labor “Industrial Code Rule 59 & 60” since 1997, Mr. Kernan analyzed insureds’ risk exposure for employer business operations, reporting, and recommending methods to reduce exposure with follow-up verifying implementation.

Creating Pathways to Success for Minorities

Skilled WorkersAs part of apprentice training programs for which Mr. Kernan was registered with the New York State Department of Labor, he developed work processes for On-the-Job training and related classroom instruction for the following skilled construction trades:  Carpenter, Plumber, Steam Fitter, Mason, Steelworker, Roofer, Operating Engineer, Electrician, and Skilled Laborer.

Mr. Kernan was appointed by the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor to the Apprenticeship Training Task force, to establish guidelines for classroom instruction in the skilled construction trades.

Skilled WorkerMr. Kernan was appointed by the US Secretary of Labor as a member of ERISA Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee, for the first rulemaking undertaken by the USDOL Pension & Welfare Benefits Administration. Mr. Kernan was awarded a commendation by Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman on April 11, 2000 for 2 years voluntary work on the Rulemaking Committee, which ultimately resulted in the publication of the ERISA §3(40) Rule.

During the late 1990s, Mr. Kernan became licensed as a Professional Engineer in several jurisdictions in the mid-Atlantic region of the US.  He also became licensed as a General Contractor in Florida after taking and passing the appropriate licensing exams.

Mr. Kernan initiated a successful minority and disadvantaged business enterprise bonding program guaranteed by the US Department of Transportation and the US Small Business Administration which ran from 1998 through 2002.

Today Mr. Kernan has consolidated his knowledge and understanding of apprenticeship programs and surety bonding to lift distressed communities out of poverty and solve the chronic unemployment that affects them. His vision is to establish and mentor legitimate entrepreneurs who organically create jobs from within these communities. In essence, hiss vision is to reestablish the American dream for all.


Creating Pathways to Success

Driven by the belief that economic opportunities can create pathways to success for disadvantaged groups and that “a society that understands and embraces the need of full participation and inclusion of all its members will remain a strong and leading business-force within newly emerging and highly competing contemporary markets,” Mr. Kernan works tirelessly.  He has assembled the pieces necessary to lift up those struggling and help them join the America in which he has prospered. 

New York State Recognizes Kernan’s Job-Training for the Advancement of Minority Workers

kernan5The New York State Department of Labor registered Mr. Kernan’s initiative for On-the-Job training and related classroom instruction in the following skilled construction trades: Carpentry, Plumbing, Steam and Pipe Fitter, Mason, Steelworker, Roofer, Operating Engineer, Electrician, and Skilled Laborer. The state’s public acknowledgement is not only proving the programs validity, but is pointing out its necessity in preparing America for a new set of challenges in a swiftly changing world and transforming markets.

Learn more about the job training programs in:

NYS University Connections Newsletter, pg. 13 (2002)

SUNY Research Foundation Annual Report, pg. 12 (2001)

Reorganizing Industry to Benefit Society

Mr. Kernan uses a private sector solution to address a public sector problem. He made it his business that minority-owned businesses succeed. He established Oriska Insurance and developed products that advance opportunities for minority and small businesses. For example, he ensures that every minority business to which his company provides surety bonding has mentors to guide them through the process of securing certification and bidding on contracts. (Learn about the benefits of mentoring that Oriska’s surety bonding principals receive by clicking here.)

Mr. Kernan designed his insurance company to provide the necessary financial protection while ensuring minority-owned businesses meet all the legal requirements imposed by the Davis Bacon Act and NYS Labor Law. In the past these have been insurmountable hurdles for minority-owned businesses, but today, thanks to Mr. Kernan’s tenacious commitment to guarantee an equal chance at success for all, these hurdles have been removed.

At Home

Even at home, exploring a better way…

Jim Kernan by the PoolNot many people with a pool look for ways to incorporate it into their home’s heating and cooling system, but Mr. Kernan wanted to make his home and office (both are in the same 1890 Victorian building complex) the most efficient, energy-saving complex possible. His idea was to use his 40,000 gallon pool to provide thermal storage, or a heat sink, for the heating and cooling system. A heat sink transfers thermal energy from a higher temperature source to a lower temperature source. Not surprisingly, as an engineer, Mr. Kernan relished the challenge.

Kernan in the GarageBecause the engineering was a labor of love and hobby, it was modified over many years and served as a training ground and experimentation opportunity for systems designed for clients. The piping and equipment connections appear to be a deliberately over-engineered nest of piping, controls and equipment.

Mr. Kernan often laughs at the backward efficiencies of the system. “In the summer too much heat is deposited in the heat sink when the air-conditioning loads are greatest making the pool too hot; and too little heat is deposited in the heat sink in the winter (primarily from the computer loads) leaving the pool cooler in the winter than you would like for swimming.”

Mr. Kernan finds great pleasure in experimenting with the design to improve the systems effectiveness. “This is a passion of mine,” Kernan shares. “The greatest thrill in the world is to find ways to make things work better and advance our society.”


Press Clippings

The Obamacare Challenge: Recruiting and Retaining Employees Without Reducing Profits

Rewarding your best employees with healthcare benefits used to be standard operating procedure, but the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, is challenging this practice…

Featured in: WallStreet SelectNewsDayBoston GlobeBeyond the DowFix NYCCBS NewsBusiness Insurance, and more


Owner has plans for former Waterbury Felt Mill in Oriskany

After 200 years of serving as the economic engine for the village and surrounding region, the abandoned Waterbury Felt Mill might see life once again. The old River Street wool mill, which once employed more than 300 people in Oriskany, has been deteriorating since it abruptly closed about a year ago…


Oriskany native’s program addresses skilled labor shortage

Jim Kernan remembers a time when New York’s greatest asset was its skilled labor force. Now, he feels that resource eroding beneath his feet; so he has decided to do something about it…


Insurance Company Founder Files Class Action Lawsuit Against The Nys Department Of Financial Services

A pro se class action lawsuit has been filed this week by James Matthew Kernan, founder of Oriska Insurance on behalf of independent entrepreneurs, and small and minority business enterprises…


Rehashed Failed Policies Won’t Solve Chronic Unemployment

Bring back paid Apprenticeships. Chronic unemployment among black males is at 50% according to Columbia Professor Dr. Manning Marable. Chronic unemployment among white males is…


Solving Chronic Unemployment by Creating Minority Entrepreneurs – Huffington Post

The U.S. government is looking for solutions. It requires that a certain percentage of its contracts be awarded to minority firms, but this can create its own set of problems and often times doesn’t live up to its intention. Large public works projects, for example, require that 9 percent of the budget be awarded to minority firms, but more often than not, large developers would rather anticipate fines then assume the risk of hiring an unknown, unbonded, minority firm that may not perform the work on time or within budget. (read more)


Crowds line up for tours of historic factory

ORISKANY — Local businessman James Kernan is spearheading the revival of the former felt mill on River Street, but first Kernan is spearheading a different sort of revival. On Saturday, dozens of visitors came to former Waterbury Felt Factory to tour the building and get a close-up view of some village history — that previously most had only seen from the outside.



Jim Kernan on WUTQ on Opportunities for Disadvantaged Persons:

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Mr. Kernan frequently avails himself to speak with reporters, business groups, policymakers and academics. To learn more and arrange a speaking engagement or interview, please complete form below.

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