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CenterState CEO rolls out new strategic business plan for region

Ryan Delaney
Amy Liu of the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. The program helped CenterState CEO design a new business plan.

With help from the Brookings Institution, CenterState CEO is out with a new strategic plan to boost the central New York regional economy.

The plan was two years in the making.

The Washington-based Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program picked Syracuse as one of the regions it would assist.

"This region was right to decide to update its economic strategies in light of" how it fared during the Great Recession, said Brookings' Amy Liu at a presentation Thursday.

The economy stopped innovating and producing jobs in value-added industries during the recession, she said.

"And that’s why today we need a new growth model," she said. "Not one driven by debt, real estate consumption, but one focused on the core assets of the future economy; around innovation, around trade, human capital and infrastructure and so on."

The CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity serves as both a chamber of commerce and economic development advocate for central New York. The strategic plan was formed through a collaboration with other economic players in the region, Liu noted.

"No more fragmented efforts, no more interjurisdictional competition, no more small plans without scale and the inability to fund every idea," she said.

The plan has four key initiatives:

  • Implement its export plan. CenterState wants to double its exports over the next few years.
  • Create a commission on government modernization to evaluate the current condition of government and engage the community in a plan for the future.
  • Establish the Data to Decisions Innovation Alliance. CenterState wants to catalyze economic growth through companies that do research and development and data analysis. It wants to enroll 100 companies in the next five years.
  • Establish a new venture capital fund. Upstate New York lags behind other parts of the country in money available for small business startups.

"The reality is, that we have a growing pool of investment ready companies right here in central New York and there's no reason that we can't put a pool of capital together to invest in those companies to make them successful," CenterState CEO President Rob Simpson said.
He said he has workforce concerns about implementing the plan. If the region doesn't do a better job alleviating its high youth poverty rate, he said, it won't be able to grow.

"We have to recognize the long term impacts that has on our community," Simpson said, who also called for efforts to keep more young people who come to central New York for higher education to stay in the region.

Simpson laid out a handful of ways to implement the new strategy, but said follow-through will be key.

"We have as good of a roadmap and a picture of what is happening in every dimension of our economy," Simpson said, "than we have ever had before."

WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail
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