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Reenergizing the Economy as More Businesses Reopen

By Rob Simpson


New York state [recently] surpassed the 100-day mark since the beginning of the COVID-19 public-health crisis, a time of significant economic disruption and uncertainty. While this community has seen its fair share of challenges, we are beginning to see the results of our strategic and collaborative efforts [upon entering] phase three ( of Gov. Cuomo’s New York Forward reopening plan. 

Phase three, which [began June 12] in Central New York, includes consumer-facing and service-based industries such as restaurants, personal-care businesses, and other services, some of the hardest hit by closures. Reopening and supporting these economic drivers is one of the most important steps we can take to ignite our regional economy. Before COVID-19, our metro region was experiencing significant job growth and economic progress. While the economic crisis has driven down the number of small-businesses openings by 20 percent in Onondaga County, that number is showing signs of improvement — almost 10 percentage points since May 15. We anticipate even more progress as more businesses reopen. 

We will continue to advocate at the local, state, and national levels for policies and resources that will further stimulate the local economy. For its part, the City of Syracuse announced it is waiving fees for sidewalk-café operations as many restaurant owners look to meet safety standards and expand their outdoor-seating spaces. Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced his strategy for advancing the state’s economic recovery, calling for new investments in large-scale development projects that take advantage of reduced transportation activity. 

As we seek to reenergize the economy, we are also looking at how to capitalize on the longer-term shifts to the economic landscape. Our Research, Policy and Planning team has been tracking reports that show people are leaving large metropolitan areas. In fact, the three largest cities, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, all lost population in the past several years according to the Brookings Institution. Analysts anticipate that the impacts from the COVID-19 crisis will accelerate this trend. At the same time, we know that downtown Syracuse’s population has surged by 77 percent over the last 10 years, and 73 percent of recent movers to Syracuse were between 25 and 34 years old. Through programs like the Good Life CNY, we have targeted our marketing efforts to attract the young professionals who are leaving these larger metro areas and highlighting the career and quality-of-life opportunities that exist here. If you would like to be involved with Good Life CNY, please contact Ben Sio, chief of staff at CenterState CEO, at

There is more work to do. We are beginning a series of conversations with our board of directors to help us develop new strategies and build on these opportunities to advance our recovery from the economic crisis to create a more inclusive and resilient community.       

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 June 11. 

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