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CEO FOCUS: A Year of Resilience Ends with Hope for a Better Year Ahead

By Robert M. Simpson


Without question, 2020 brought dramatic disruptions to how we live, work, and connect with one another. Too many of our family members and neighbors have been impacted by this [COVID-19] illness, and businesses that create our community’s unique vibrancy have been forced to close or lay off workers. Still, our community has shown incredible resilience in the face of such adversity.

As the year ended, I reflected with gratitude for how we came together for one another. When faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges and hardships, business and community leaders across Central New York responded with compassion and action. Businesses rapidly pivoted to provide critical resources — from hand sanitizer to rapid-testing solutions. Firms donated masks for frontline workers, small businesses adopted new operational models to continue serving customers and clients, and financial institutions and nonprofits developed grant programs to bridge funding gaps.

We were also called upon to face the glaring racial and socio-economic disparities and injustices that have divided us for too long. Business leaders rightfully came forward with words of solidarity and condemnation for acts of hate, discrimination, and injustice, but more importantly, with tangible acts of support. We have much more work to do to address these incredibly difficult issues. But with collective determination, leadership, and commitment to a shared vision for greater equity and prosperity for all, we can achieve our fullest potential as a community and region.

As we look to develop new strategies to rebuild and drive a more robust, inclusive, and resilient economy following last year’s unprecedented health, economic, and social-injustice crises, there is opportunity — even hope. Many projects seeded in recent years will be realized in 2021, including Amazon and the Salt City Market. Companies looking to grow, expand, and create jobs in Central New York have reached out for our assistance. We have seen significant interest from the business community in our new programming designed to provide resources, knowledge, and tools they need to actively drive diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workplaces.

There is even more reason for hope as the first vaccines have been delivered to our health-care professionals and most vulnerable populations. In the months ahead these vaccines, one of which was developed in part at Upstate Medical University, will help us return to the people, work, and activities we love and miss.

In the meantime, I urge you to support local businesses, practice safe social distancing, and seek ways to support one another. We may not know for sure how long this crisis will last, but I am confident better days are ahead. Until then, our resilience will enable us to overcome whatever challenges we face. It is that spirit that makes me proud to be a part of this community, and incredibly hopeful for our future.      

Robert M. Simpson is president and CEO of CenterState CEO, the primary economic-development organization for Central New York. This viewpoint is drawn and edited from the “CEO Focus” email newsletter that the organization sent to members on Dec. 31.


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