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Lead with Intention to Create Great Companies and Communities

By Rob Simpson


As I shared with the nearly 1,200 attendees at CenterState CEO’s annual meeting on April 24, there is something exciting happening in this community, a rare and remarkable momentum and convergence of economic opportunities. It is coupled with a tangible shift in attitudes, a renewed commitment to collaboration, and perhaps more importantly, a sense of hope and optimism that hasn’t been seen in recent memory. 

These opportunities include the Syracuse Surge and corresponding Smart Cities investments that will unlock innovation in public-service delivery, traffic-management, and data analytics, while simultaneously helping to bridge the real gaps in digital inclusion. The $3 million investment in Syracuse by JPMorgan Chase, one of five winning cities announced on April 18 in its inaugural AdvancingCities Challenge, will help create the business ecosystem and workforce necessary to help all members of this community prosper. 

And the long-awaited release of the formal Draft Environmental Impact Statement by the New York State DoT, which selected the Community Grid as the preferred alternative for the future of I-81, promises to bring more than a billion dollars in economic stimulus to our region. It also represents an opportunity to jointly develop and implement a new model for civic collaboration, citizen engagement, and re-development. 

While these growth and investment opportunities are necessary preconditions for improving our economic performance, they do not guarantee greater prosperity for all. In order to make the most of this moment for our community, we must go further and lead with intention. 

To achieve that, we can adapt what we learned about great places to work, shared by our event’s keynote speaker, Tony Bond, executive VP and chief innovation officer of Great Place to Work, and create high-trust environments built on respect, credibility, and fairness. These attributes apply not just to our places of employment, they also create pride in a community, a desire to participate and contribute, a willingness to engage and go above and beyond — creating a great place to live. 

So, let us lead with intention and see this confluence of economic circumstance for what it is, a gift, a long-awaited and fortuitous chance not just to grow but also to grow differently, better, in a way embraces a more inclusive, equitable, respectful, and fair future — for our entire community. 

As always, please contact me at to share your thoughts.         

Robert M. (Rob) 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 April 26. 

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