Central New York is 'mounting a sustainable comeback'
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
By Howard A. Zemsky | Special to Syracuse.com
I think few would argue that we have turned the economic corner for the better; but it's also true that there are no silver bullets or quick fixes to reverse 40 years of decline -- which is exactly why Gov. Andrew Cuomo has embraced locally developed economic planning. It's also why we've brought unprecedented focus and resources to Central New York: We're mounting a sustainable comeback.
We started with fiscal discipline, reining in state spending and lowering taxes both for businesses and New Yorkers, so that we can aggressively compete with other states and countries.
We're investing in infrastructure, including Hancock International Airport and at the State Fairgrounds, to help ensure the future competitiveness of the region; and we're focusing on expanding high-speed broadband access for all New Yorkers by the end of 2018.
We're investing in education and our workforce. New York state's first-in-the-nation Excelsior Scholarship Program will give New York's young people greater access to a college degree without burdensome debt, and also keep talent in-state. The program virtually guarantees employers in Central New York and across the state that our workforce will have the skills necessary to compete nationally and globally, far into the future. Locally, we've also supported Say Yes with a commitment of $20 million - enough to make the fund self-perpetuating - and keeping open paths to higher education for Syracuse's students.
We're investing in innovation because our economic future depends on our ability to innovate. In Central New York, we now have colleges in the START-UP NY program partnering with companies like Motion Intelligence, while we continue supporting regional incubators and R&D facilities, including The Tech Garden; Syracuse Center of Excellence; the Science and Technology Law Center and the Center for Advanced Systems and Engineering, both at Syracuse University; and the Central New York Biotech Accelerator. GENIUS NY, the world's largest business accelerator competition, is focused on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). And, because we recognize that entrepreneurs are often the best innovators, we've launched New York Ventures to invest in local startup firms like OSM Environmental and SwipeToSpin.
We're investing in downtown revitalization with a lens toward retaining and returning the young people who, for generations, left during our decades of decline. Whether it's the waterfront, redeveloped historic buildings like Hotel Syracuse, the ICON tower mixed-use development, or the $10 million commitment to downtown Oswego, we're focusing on place-based investments that make Central New York a better and more attractive place to live, work and locate a business.
We have and are continuing to invest in growing private sector jobs by partnering with companies like Welch Allyn, Soraa, Rapid Response, Agrana Fruit U.S, Currier Plastics, Nojaim's and many others. Since 2011, ESD has worked with hundreds of companies to secure or attract job growth and retention that is literally in the tens of thousands.
Central New York's most ambitious strategy, which in large part led to the award of $500 million through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, is to double down on the region's strength in sensor technology by establishing Central New York as a world leader in the burgeoning UAS industry. Saab Defense and Security USA, with its focus on precision sensor technologies, recently chose to relocate its North American headquarters to Onondaga County, which is creating 260 new high-tech jobs while retaining hundreds of local existing jobs. Just last week, Saab won a major contract with the U.S Navy to supply radar systems.
And thanks to these investments we're seeing strong results. Over the past year, the Syracuse Metro area grew thousands of private sector jobs across multiple industry sectors, including professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, trade, transportation and manufacturing. In 2010, regional unemployment was at 8.1 percent; today, it's down to 4.5 percent. That's real progress.
As long as Gov. Cuomo asks me to serve, I will remain bullish on Central New York and I believe strongly in the comprehensive economic plan that's based on data and local expertise. We have the extraordinary support of a governor who has made Upstate New York his highest priority and, most importantly, we are seeing compelling positive results. Economic development is a team sport; thank you for living, working, raising families and investing in Central New York.