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CenterState CEO annual meeting offers awards, speeches on AI, CNY economic future

By Eric Reinhardt (


More than 800 people gathered for Thursday’s annual meeting of CenterState CEO at the Nicholas J. Pirro Convention Center at Oncenter. A networking reception followed the event that included business awards and remarks on artificial intelligence and the region’s economic vision and future. (Eric Reinhardt / CNYBJ)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Business of the Year Awards and remarks on artificial intelligence (AI) and Central New York’s economic vision and future were all part of Thursday afternoon’s annual meeting of CenterState CEO.

The event attracted more than 800 business and community leaders to the Nicholas J. Pirro Convention Center at Oncenter, CenterState CEO said.

In the Business of the Year Awards, the economic development and chamber of commerce organization recognized Crouse Health in the “More than 50 Employees” category. The finalists in the category also included Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC; Tompkins Community Bank; and Woodford Bros., Inc.

Drakos Dynamics prevailed in the “Fewer than 50 Employees” category. The additional finalists in that grouping included 325 Productions; Potter Heating & AC - Perrone Plumbing Services; and ResilienX.

CenterState CEO recognized Food Bank of Central New York in the “Nonprofit” category. The additional finalists included Catholic Charities of Onondaga County; ConnextCare; and Housing Visions.

SGTR LLC was honored with the “Minority-owned Business” Award, which CenterState CEO presented in partnership with the Upstate Minority Economic Alliance. Additional finalists in the category included Brackens Financial Solutions Network; Cocoa’s Candle Bar; and La Liga.

In addition, CenterState CEO recognized NBT Bank with the “Community Involvement” award. The category’s additional finalists included CPS Recruitment, Inc.; Firley, Moran, Freer & Eassa, CPA, P.C.; and Novelis, Inc.

 Simpson remarks

CenterState CEO President Robert Simpson talked about the opportunity for Central New York to “think bigger about its own economic future and to shape the growth that is coming.”

“As humans, we are so deeply rooted in what we’ve known … stagnation, population loss, progress that can sometimes feel glacially slow. But the moment we have now entered is entirely different,” Simpson said as he addressed the gathering at the annual meeting. “In a world of data, it’s an outlier, a full standard deviation or two from our past and even recent experience. Don’t believe me? Consider this: by the end of this decade there will be more people living in Central New York than at any other time in history. Over the next 15 years, projected job growth with Micron’s investment alone will drive our population by nearly 8 percent, create as many as 50,000 new jobs. Can anyone tell me the last time we had 50,000 more jobs in this community than we have today? Of course not. It’s a trick question. We’ve never had 50,000 more jobs in this community than we have today.”

Keynote address

Prior to Simpson’s remarks, Elizabeth Kelly, CEO of the U.S. AI Safety Institute at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), delivered the keynote presentation, speaking about the positive power of AI and the need for safeguards.

“First and foremost, AI holds transformative potential. We would not be having any of the conversations we are having today if we did not recognize the tremendous potential and want to harness it. The number of positive uses for AI truly has no limit but the human imagination.”

She then elaborated using Syracuse as an example. She pointed to chemical manufacturing, one of Syracuse’s earliest industries.

“Today, AI holds the potential to revolutionize chemical discovery and engineering processes. It has the ability to digitally synthesize tens of thousands of different chemicals and then choose among them [to] select the best one for the job. That makes chemical [research & development (R&D)], like other types of R&D, go a lot faster,” Kelly said in her remarks.

NIST is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, which Kelly said works to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness and advancing AI safety is a “key part of that.”