How do upstate employers feel about Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's efforts to reshape economic development across upstate New York?
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership, through its upcoming Accelerate Upstate summit in Buffalo, aims to find out.
The half-day conference, set for Jan. 29 in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, will be a follow-up gathering to the initiative's first summit in August 2011 that focused on ways to strengthen the upstate workforce, expand the state's ties to Canada and bridge the divide between upstate and downstate.
This time, the summit will examine the changes that have been made in the state's economic development efforts during the first two years of the Cuomo administration and what employers want to see from the state going forward.
"A lot has happened over the last two years, and a lot of it has been very good," said Craig Turner, the Partnership's vice president of government relations. "We want to get a snapshot of how employers feel about it and how they feel going forward."
Under Cuomo, the state has made significant changes to its economic development apparatus, launching regional development councils, creating a single funding application for companies seeking various forms of state aid, and pledging $1 billion in economic support for the long struggling Buffalo Niagara economy.
"The question, two years into this, is whether this is working, or are there other things that need to be addressed," Turner said.
The conference is expected to attract about 150 people, about half the number that attended the inaugural summit. But the upcoming event also will be webcast through cable news network YNN, potentially creating an even broader audience, Turner said.
Accelerate Upstate has commissioned John Zogby to conduct a poll of upstate employers, the results of which will be delivered during a lunchtime address. The results could help shape the initiative's advocacy efforts, Turner said.
The event will feature a panel discussion on the year-old regional development council initiative, as well as a presentation by James McConeghy, the chief financial officer of Chobani Inc., about the Greek-style yogurt maker's experiences doing business in New York, including its recently announced plans to expand its upstate operations, which currently employ more than 1,200 workers.
Joan Snyder Kohl, a workplace talent developer, will discuss ways to recruit and retain younger workers, while a second panel discussion will focus on ways upstate can capitalize on its location between New York City and major Canadian markets.