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CEO FOCUS: Leveraging Opportunities to Drive New Progress for CNY’s Innovation Ecosystem

By Robert Simpson


Over the past few weeks, I have been reflecting on how we think about our community, and the two decades of strategic planning and hard work that is transforming our regional economy. Today, among other achievements, we celebrate our entrepreneurial ecosystem. What was once a mark of how far we had fallen behind, is now a vibrant part of a new regional narrative. 

Since 2004, we’ve seen The Tech Garden grow from a fledgling incubator to a centerpiece of our region’s surging tech ecosystem. Our region’s venture-capital growth has increased from a mere $27 per capita to more than $1,329. We’ve celebrated the Tech Garden’s first unicorn, Density. In the coming year, we anticipate more companies, started here, will reach a $1 billion valuation. Last year, 57 of our Tech Garden companies collectively created 240 jobs in Central New York, received $93.6 million in equity investments, and drove $31.5 million in annual revenue. 

This progress supports our region’s ability to be a global competitor in the new economy. Growth in the Smart Systems Cluster will also provide fertile ground for innovation. There are more opportunities for greater collaboration, and we have a strong network of ecosystem partners, including the Hot Spot program, SUNY Upstate Biotech Accelerator, Le Moyne College Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship, Syracuse University, Armory Square Ventures, Innovare, the Southside Innovation Center, the Creators Lounge, and the Small Business Development Center [at Onondaga Community College]. Our work is also being validated through funding from JPMorgan Chase and Microsoft and is enabling us to foster greater diversity and equity in the innovation space. In the coming months, we will break ground on an expansion of The Tech Garden creating opportunities for more dynamic resources, partnerships, and programs.

Now, as we look ahead to the next chapter for our entrepreneurial ecosystem, we must advance new strategies to leverage the progress we’ve made. We ask our members to think about how this organization can build a stronger and more resilient ecosystem. How can we engage more members in this process? How can we connect members and entrepreneurs better? We encourage members to share their thoughts by contacting Ben Sio, chief of staff at CenterState CEO, at You can also contact John Liddy, who was recently named interim VP of innovation and entrepreneurship at CenterState CEO, at        

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 July 28.