From subsidies to startup programs, boosting the economic development of an entire region is a complex task. In Upstate New York, where job growth is more modest than the national average, revitalizing the region is a primary goal of business and community leaders.

In January 2015, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo—along with other leaders in the region—announced the New York Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI). This program exists to systematically revitalize the economy of Upstate New York. As a beneficiary of this initiative, our team at GENIUS NY (the world's largest business competition for unmanned systems) wants you to know why the Central New York (CNY) ecosystem and Upstate Revitalization Initiative matter to us, the region, state, and to you.

Economic Development Initiatives in Upstate New York

The URI is one component of a large, economic development strategy made up of several major initiatives:Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs);
Multi-faceted programmatic and financial assistance; and
Rather than struggle to promote separate initiatives, the state developed a comprehensive regional plan to drive sustainable economic growth. While each initiative can function on its own, the combined impact of these efforts has the power to transform the region.

The Upstate Revitalization Initiative

At the most basic level, the URI is a competition for government funding. Seven REDCs (or regions) were invited to submit revitalization plans with the chance of being awarded $500 million from the State of NY. These plans needed to communicate how the region would strategically use half a billion dollars to support and stimulate the regional economy—through public and private investment.

The seven regions that were eligible to compete for this money included: Capital Region, CNY, Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier. In December 2015, the Cuomo administration selected three URI winners: CNY, Finger Lakes, and Southern Tier. Each region will receive a total of $500 million URI funds over the course of five years.

The goals of URI is to:Increase permanent private sector jobs that pay above average wages.
Increase wealth in the region as evidenced by the increase in wages and income.
Increase private sector investment in the region, representing a five-to-one ratio of private to public investment.

The CNY REDC worked incredibly hard to be one of three URI winners in the state. The council’s effort is evidenced by their 88-page strategic plan detailing global market opportunities, key findings, and recommended signature investments. Signature Investment number one is to position CNY as a global center for unmanned systems and cross-connected platforms.

The CNY Ecosystem

Of the $500 million dollars to be awarded over the next five years, CNY will allocate $250 million to unmanned systems initiatives, including GENIUS NY. This decision supports the notion that the CNY ecosystem is quickly becoming a hub for unmanned systems and cross-connected platform.

The region boasts strong unmanned systems capabilities and talent. In fact, a set of regional industries in unmanned systems won a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designation to develop an Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) test site at Griffiss International Airport. This site, known as NUAIR Alliance, is one of only seven in the nation.

CNY is producing top-notch UAS innovations as it becomes a hub of assets, businesses, and researchers. In addition to NUAIR, CNY houses companies that build sensor systems to detect and track aerial vehicles, higher education institutions that contribute significantly to UAS research, U.S. Air Force 174th Attack Wing, and regional expertise. (Read more on pages 56-63 of the strategic plan.)

How Does GENIUS NY Fit In?

The resources provided by the URI and greater CNY region are what sustain GENIUS NY. The 12-month business accelerator and incubator is integral to the CNY ecosystem and vice versa. GENIUS NY participants agree:

AutoModality, winner of GENIUS NY 1.0 and $1 million dollars says, “AutoModality has found the GENIUS NY program to be a dynamic environment in which we can grow and flourish. From mentorship access to a wide pool of Central New York resources, GENIUS NY is providing us all the tools necessary for success.”

Likewise, founders of Ascent AeroSystems, a company that designs, manufactures and supports small unmanned aerial
vehicles (SUAVs), says, “We are delighted to have the opportunity to participate in the GENIUS NY program. We’ve looked at a lot of other communities and considered a number of other opportunities, and this is where all of the ingredients came together in such a way that the decision to sink our roots here became a no-brainer.”

GENIUS NY, along with the URI and entire CNY ecosystem are transforming the Upstate NY region. These efforts—combined with many others—are boosting the economic development of the entire state.