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CEO FOCUS: Economic Forecasters Share Outlook for the Year Ahead

By Robert M. Simpson


CenterState CEO [on Jan. 28] presented its 2021 Economic Forecast Report for Central New York at our virtual Economic Forecast event. Though this annual event looked different this year, we still shared the important insights into the region’s economic climate from the perspective of business leaders and economic experts.

Gary Keith, regional economist at M&T Bank, delivered the event’s keynote address to provide an analytic assessment of national and regional economic trends from the past year, and noted a strong chance for an economic recovery in mid to-late 2021. This recovery, he believes, will be driven by continued diligence in combating the virus and the successful roll-out of community-wide vaccination programs. Additionally, a return of normal daily mobility patterns, likely by mid-year, will also reenergize economic activity and allow the region’s solid upward momentum in output and income to resume.

Like communities across the country, Central New York has faced a tumultuous year driven by the health and economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. The business and community leaders that shared their outlook during this year’s forecast have made it clear that the stressors of the pandemic have created lingering challenges and shaken confidence. For others, it has opened opportunities to innovate and expand products, services, and operations. Amid so much uncertainty, one thing is clear — our region’s pre-pandemic trajectory was put in motion by data-driven economic-development strategies to guide its growth. Now, more than ever, we need to recommit to that same strategic approach to advance our continued recovery. 

But while there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful for our economic recovery, the recovery alone cannot suffice as our only ambition. Instead, let us raise our aspirations for the year ahead beyond simple recovery of our traditional economic indicators to include a repair of our fractured social compact and a more equitable and inclusive approach to growth and development as we reinvent this region once again. We all have work to do to make this possible. This is at once an opportunity, but also a critical responsibility.

This past year has challenged us like no other. It has shown us unexpected hardships, and even tragedy. But it has also shown us hope. It has reminded us of the most important things in life — community, family, and supporting each other, however and wherever we are able. We didn’t become resilient because of this health and economic crisis; we always were. With a plan to advance our economy, with a stronger and more intentional focus on equity and prosperity for all, we can begin today to take the next step not toward the past but toward the future we have always envisioned for ourselves. [To see the full report, visit:]      

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 Jan. 28.

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