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CEO FOCUS: A Chance to Reflect on our Region’s Economic Progress

By Robert Simpson


The International Economic Development Council celebrated economic Development Week [from May 9-13], providing an opportunity to bring the work we do every day into focus.

In the early 2000s, leaders from across the public and private sector recognized the need for us to change how we approached economic development. Working together, we shifted our focus to align our strategies to the region’s core capabilities, skills, and unique assets (outstanding quality of life, highly productive workforce, world-class institutions and invaluable natural resources) to a set of strategies that positioned us to leverage global demand and future opportunities that can accelerate our region’s growth in the next economy.

“Our innovation ecosystem has seen venture-capital investments go from a mere $27 per capita to $1,329 over the past decade.”


Today, those strategies to catalyze high-growth industry clusters, create an innovation ecosystem, and invest in place making are yielding results. Central New York is now home to a globally leading uncrewed systems industry that boasts the nation’s first 50-mile test corridor, one of seven federally designated test sites, and unparalleled startup, research and testing capabilities. Our innovation ecosystem has seen venture-capital investments go from a mere $27 per capita to $1,329 over the past decade. Our urban centers are attracting new residents, retail and dining establishments, and cultural amenities.

Over the past year, our economic-development team managed the most robust pipeline of projects in our organization’s history, representing broad industry affiliations and including individual proposed investments larger than the typical combined value of past years. Already, the 2022 pipeline of prospective projects represents more than $60 billion in capital investments, including efforts to attract a semi-conductor manufacturer to the White Pines site. Additionally, as a finalist in the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, we are working to further efforts that will ensure more of our residents can benefit from these opportunities.

As we celebrated Economic Development Week, we did so with the knowledge that our collaborative efforts have enabled us to set our sights on new horizons. This is Central New York’s economic-development story. I look forward to continuing to work with you to make our next chapter even more successful.      

Robert M. Simpson is president and CEO of CenterState CEO, the primary economic-development organization for Central New York. This article is drawn and edited from the “CEO Focus” email newsletter that the organization sent to members on May 12.

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