© 2022 Innovation Trail
background_fid.png
Politics
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced early in his term that he'd be creating a set of "regional economic councils" to build plans for funding economic development across New York, from the ground up.In the summer of 2011 he finally announced some of the details of the program, to be led by Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy. The ten councils each have dozens of members, and are charged with gathering input from the public and business leaders, and creating a plan by November 14. Those plans will be pitted against each other for a pot of $1 billion in grants, incentives, and tax relief from various state agencies. The winners will get more funding, the losers will get less.But other details - like whether funding will be available past the initial term, and who will serve on the board that decides who wins and who loses - have not been released.The Innovation Trail is looking for your feedback about what your regional economic priorities are, and what you want your community to look like once the councils have completed their task.

Central New York economic council: Who's in charge

cny_council.jpg
Emma Jacobs
/
WRVO
Members of the central New York regional economic council, with their chairman, Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy.

The Innovation Trail is taking a look at the members of the governor's regional economic development councils.  Here's what we found.

Methodology

Our reporters brought back short biographies of the folks behind the councils, including campaign contributions in the 2010 gubernatorial election (courtesy of public filings at the State Board of Elections).

The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), at our request, retrieved data about the state lobbying expenditures of council members' employers from a database that they created using Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) information.  The also retrieved the party enrollment of council members, where available, from a database that they compiled based on FOIL'ed information (that's accurate as of October of 2010). Bill Mahoney of NYPIRG was instrumental in pulling this information together.

See an error, or want to add more?  Let us know.

And without further ado, here's who's who in Central New York.

Regional Co-Chairs

Nancy Cantor is chancellor of Syracuse University.  She became the first female chancellor and president of Syracuse University in 2004. SU, one of Syracuse’s anchor institutions, is the metro-area’s second-largest employer with a $900 million dollar budget. Cantor, a native New Yorker has earned a reputation in Syracuse for getting involved off-campus. She’s credited for her involvement in the cradle-to-grave education initiative, Say Yes to Education – she sits on Say Yes’ board - and redevelopment projects on the city’s impoverished West Side. She’s a past chair of the American Association for Higher Education and American Council on Education. She also writes extensively on higher education including, occasionally, for the Huffington Post. Cantor’s also among the top-paid university presidents in the nation, with total compensation totaling $1.4 million in 2008.  She serves on the board of Centerstate CEO.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by SU in 2010: $183,472
  • Registered Democrat

Rob M. Simpson is president of CenterState CEO, a native son made-good in Washington D.C.  who better yet, returned home eight years ago. Simpson helped create CenterState - the former Metropolitan Development Authority business advocacy group and plain-old-chamber-of-commerce rolled into one. The merger took place shortly after he took the helm and Simpson says today that he considers the organization a “convener” of partnerships between Central New York groups. Simpson has also become an advocate for Syracuse’s downtown and the area’s tech industries. Syracuse’s Post-Standard aptly described him as “professionally optimistic.”

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

General Members

Carl Bannar is vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Corporation. The tech, defense and aerospace manufacturer is the largest remaining private employer in central New York, with 2,300 employees. Bannar heads radar systems for Lockheed Martin. Radar and surveillance tools are a specialty of central New York military contractors, who employ about 5,000 people in growing operations.  He serves on the board of CenterState CEO.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

Kevin LaMontagne is CFO of the Fulton Companies, a family-owned private company that began in founder Louis Palm’s garage. The conglomerate, headquartered in Pulaski, makes heating equipment – typically expensive products for institutions. Revenue in 2008 was $100 million dollars. The firm also has operations in Ohio, Texas and overseas, including China. The company is near completion of a major factory expansion in Pulaski, where it’s adding employees. As of 2010, the company employed 650 people worldwide, 250 of which were in Oswego County. The company has expanded into so-called “smart” sensors to increase buildings’ energy efficiency.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Democrat

Kathryn H. Ruscitto is president and CEO of St. Joseph's Hospital. She heads another of the city’s major non-profit employers, which has also taken an active interest in real estate and community redevelopment around its medical campus. Ruscitto’s on the board Simpson’s organization, Centerstate CEO. The hospital is a partner on the Prospect Hill Development Initiative and supports the spunky community partnership, Northside UP.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by St. Joseph’s in 2010: $4,501
  • Registered Republican

Jim Carrick is chairman of GIS Information Systems (Polaris Library System). He's an alum of IBM and an IBM distributor called SCS, which, according to his official bio, he grew from $12 million in revenues to over $100 million from 2000 to 2008, when the company was bought out. His new home since the end of 2009, Polaris, is based in the office-park hub of Liverpool, outside Syracuse. The company, which in a former life made furniture for libraries, now comes up with tech solutions for libraries, like online circulation forms. Carrick arrived at the company in time to take part in a buyout of Polaris from its parent-company by a small group of managers, completed with help from an Empire State Development loan. As of the takeover the company employed 80 people, 65 of them in central New York.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Tony Baird is president of Tony Baird Electronics, a small supplier that does some government contracting, including supplying equipment to Fort Drum. Baird’s company is a graduate of the Syracuse Tech Garden incubator space. The company’s website says it had over $8 million in sales in 2007, supported by three employees. Baird, a former veteran and teacher and the only African-American on the council, said he sees his role on the council as advocating for the creation of jobs and social capital. Baird has also been involved with CenterState, and was on the recently-convened task force to choose new a vice president of member services.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Democrat

Ann Marie Taliercio is president of UNITE HERE Local 150 AFL-CIO, which represents central New York restaurant and hotel employees. She’s the sole representative of organized labor on central New York’s council. Taliercio has been with the union for 21 years. She herself didn’t contribute to Governor Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign, but UNITE HERE has and continues to, with donations totaling $20,000 to Andrew Cuomo 2014.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Democrat

Cornelius B. "Neil" Murphy, Jr. is president of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He had a long career as an engineer for the Syracuse firm Brien & O’Gere before joining the college as president a decade ago. Previously a member of the steering committee of CenterState’s predecessor, he joined CenterState as a nonprofit representative on the board. Murphy’s affiliations also include a long list of scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, New York Academy of Science and the Water Pollution Control Federation.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by SUNY ESF in 2010: $10,763
  • Registered Democrat

Dr. Rueben Cowart is president and CEO of the Syracuse Community Health Center. A dentist, he founded the Syracuse Community Health Center after the clinic he was working at was closed. The SCHC - which has both health and local employment goals - now serves 40,000 patients and has a $73 million budget. Cowart has also served on the boards of the Syracuse Planning Commission, Housing Authority and of the city's major hospitals, Upstate and Crouse. 

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Rita Paniagua is executive director of the Spanish Action League. She took over “La Liga” in 2007 amid a financial and management crisis and has since expanded the organization’s funding sources. She was recently selected to the national coalition of Hispanic chambers of commerce – prompting her to start work on creating Hispanic chamber for Central New York. Her organization, located on the Near Westside of Syracuse, provides counseling and other services to the neighborhood’s Hispanic population.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Democrat

Jack H. Webb is chairman and CEO of Alliance Bank.  A graduate of the Rochester Business Institute, Webb became president of the Alliance Bank in 2000, after retiring from the Chase Manhattan Bank. He arrived with the goal of expanding the bank’s presence in the Syracuse market. And according Post-Standard columnist, Jim Burns, Alliance has done just that from its downtown Syracuse headquarters. The bank employs 340 people.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • No party affiliation

Michael Johnson is general manager of Johnson Brothers Lumber Company. A family owned company that supplies local hardwoods for furniture and flooring. Johnson Brothers is based in Cazenovia. Johnson, a member of the founding family has led the company’s efforts to earn sustainability certifications.  Johnson studied business at Penn State and played football, as did his brother Paul – now the company’s president, who was drafted by the NFL.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

L. Michael Treadwell is area industrial director for Operation Oswego County, Inc. (OCC), which means he’s the head of economic development for Oswego County as the head of the county industrial development agency. Treadwell oversees the basics: redevelopment, business incubation and marketing the area to businesses looking to relocate. OCC collaborates with CenterState to recruit companies and belongs to the state’s major coalitions of planners and economic development organizations.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Garry VanGorder is executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corporation (BDC). A Cortland native and another veteran of one of CenterState’s predecessor organizations, VanGorder  is the former head of the Cortland Chamber of Commerce.  He’s supported downtown revitalization, arts and beautification initiatives. VanGorder joined the Cortland BDC in 2009 to work to create and retain jobs in the county. The private corporation is the lead economic development agency for Cortland and also supports the county industrial development agency – which has an all-volunteer staff.  He briefly kept up a very candid Twitter account.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

Fred Pestello has been president of Le Moyne College since 2008. An Ohio native who came to Syracuse from the University of Dayton, Pestello is the first non-Jesuit president of the Jesuit university, but has led efforts to reinstate its Catholic and social service mission. He’s continued to grow the college’s relatively small enrollment since his arrival. On his arrival, he told the Post-Standard “I see it as a part of our mission grounded in social justice to work toward the betterment of the community in which we're located. Le Moyne needs to be a part of the future of Syracuse.” Le Moyne is located on Syracuse’s East Side. You can become a fan of Pestello on Facebook. Pestello is also on the board of CenterState CEO.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by Le Moyne in 2010: $18,501
  • Registered Democrat

Andrew Fish is executive director of the Cayuga County Chamber. He’s headed the chamber since 2009 and is an ex officio board member of the Cayuga Economic Development Agency. Fish and his wife also have a rural connection – they run a farm in Port Byron. In an interview shortly after his appointment, Fish was reluctant to touch the politics of economic development but has gradually slid into doing more policy outreach and advocacy.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican

Randall Wolken is president of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY). Wolken leads an organization of employers in what is “New York State’s largest manufacturing trade association.” MACNY launched the Manufacturing Research Institute last year to some buzz. This year, MACNY also joined the business coalition Unshackle Upstate, which advocates for reduced taxes and regulation; Wolken joined the board of Unshackle.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Total lobbying dollars spent in New York State by MACNY in 2010: $36,840
  • Registered Republican

Heather Erickson is president of MedTech.  She has spent six years at the helm of this regional association of the major players in bioscience and medical device manufacturing – a regional specialty. The group unites companies and area universities to try and grow a competitive regional advantage in biotech. Erickson also serves on SUNY and CenterState CEO advisory boards and is a board member for the Central New York Biotechnology Research Center, a $22 million dollar building and partnership between SUNY ESF and Upstate Medical Center.

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Democrat

Nancy Weber is president of the Oswego County Farm Bureau and owner of Mexican Pride Farm in Mexico, N.Y. The council's agricultural spokesperson has a 250 acre family-run dairy and goat farm with 70 cows. Central New York's dairy farmers, including Weber, have struggled in recent years to survive falling milk prices. Oswego County's division of the New York Farm Bureau advocates for rural dwellers and agriculture, including in the political sphere. A Syracuse native who spent two decades working for Verizon, Weber is also a longtime Farm Bureau volunteer who has served on many of its committees. 

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Margaret Morin is president of 4-M Precision, which she co-founded in Auburn with her husband more than 40 years ago. Since then, the company has grown and mechanized to become an all-purpose metal fabricator and finisher, supplying companies like Welch-Allyn. According to a manufacturing trade publication, is upstate operations employed 60 people in 2007.

  •  2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Unable to determine voter registration

Elected Officials

Onondaga County Executive Joanne Mahoney

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican*

Chairman of Cayuga County Legislature Peter Tororici

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Republican*

Chairman of Cortland County Legislature Jack Williams

  • 2010 gubernatorial campaign contributions: $0
  • Registered Democrat*

Chairman of Oswego County Legislature Barry Leemann

  • Registered Republican*

Chairman of Madison Board of Supervisors John Becker

  • Registered Republican*

For the membership of the other councils in the Innovation Trail's coverage area, check here.

*Data retrieved from open sources by Innovation Trail, not NYPIRG database

Related Content