Discover CNY Day 2019


By: Nick Meskos, Sales & Member Service Trainer, AmeriCU Credit Union


“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

                                                                                                            ~Marcel Proust

 Producing a great class day for the Best LGS Class EVER, is a daunting task.  In addition, as a determined design team embraced this effort, we realized quickly that Discovering CNY is something we all do in our own ways.  By simply living, working, worshiping or going to school in CNY, discovery is always happening.  With this in mind, the design team decided that the concept of RE-Discovery was one that we could embrace.  Our goal was to facilitate a rediscovery of the greater CNY area by reintroducing the class to areas you think you know, but have never viewed through the lens of ReDiscovery.

Our day began onboard the ReDiscover CNY Express where we went through our class announcements and housekeeping matters.  There were professional promotions, a Master’s Degree, a wedding and even a proud student loan payoff declaration!  The quick ride to the NYS Fairgrounds also gave us all some precious social/wake up time.

We pulled into the NYS Fair Expo Center to be greeted by none other than Otto the Orange!  The “High Fives” were flying all the way into the building.  This Best LGS Class EVER made their way upstairs to the meeting suite and everyone took the stairs vs. the elevator!  Talk about unity!

Once upstairs the class had time to enjoy a tasty bagel, fruit and a fresh cup of joe.  The class found their seats and “swag” bags (packed with coupons, tickets, drink tokens, and fun chachkies) and once everyone was set, the design team and Otto marched in chanting to pump up the room.  In the front of the class, Coach Al lead the design team in a Dino Babers-esque chant of, “Who’s Day? Our Day! Who’s Day? Our Day!”

 Our first speaker was NYS Fair Director, Troy Waffner.  Troy shared historical facts of the Fair as well as his vision for the future.  Some interesting tidbits included; the Fair is a state run business with a $16M budget, there are over 200 food vendors, the beer sales topped $2.4M and that the Fair saw a 41% increase in attendance from 2016 to 2018.  We learned that the Fair is dedicated to agriculture and always will be to some extent, however with changes in the economy, entertainment and other factors, the Fair will evolve accordingly.  The removal of the racetrack for example, created 63 acres of space, which now includes the amazing Expo Center.  The ever-present parking challenges are “catching up to the growth” of the Fair, so couple that with lower admission prices and you have the makings of a stress free Fair visit.

Next, our Class Day sponsor, Honeywell, was represented by LGS 2007 alum, Craig Milburn.  Craig gave us insight into the Onondaga Lake cleanup.  He noted that the lake is swimmable; the opportunities for economic development and entertainment are presenting themselves by the lake.  There are 80 bald eagles living in the lake area as well!  Some things to look forward to include; the Erie Canal Trail Project, a new beach and boat docking area as well as edible fish!

After a short break to ReFuel, we loaded up onto the Fair trolleys and had the chance to ReVisit the grounds with Troy and Dave Bullard as our guides.  This lap gave us the chance to see the layout of the Fairgrounds in its vacant state.  A quick stop at Chevy Court for a class photo opportunity and then buzz by the Horticulture Building, circled us back to the Expo Center.  All along this tour, classmates shared their favorite spots at the Fair.  I can’t wait to try a Milky Bun.

A quick ReGroup by the bus, which included some Frisbee action, and we hopped back onboard the ReDiscover CNY Express.  Onward to the Tech Garden! And a first-hand look at the ReBirth of the CNY Innovation Ecosystem.

Bad news/Good news:  Our first speaker was unfortunately tardy/our very own LGS classmate, Caitlyn Moriarty filled in seamlessly.  Caitlyn shared the vision and mission of the Tech Garden and it’s many resources available to the entrepreneurs fortunate enough to enjoy them.  These resources start with a “roadmap” for start-ups to build their ideas. Also, an infrastructure is in place for these shoestring budget strapped professionals.  Internet, phones, meeting rooms and the like take a small piece of their burden away.  The opportunity for engaging, social and learning events are available for the Tech Garden folks to build their businesses.  Finally, Integrated Business Planning and a variety of funding options round out what presents as an entrepreneur’s dream and a true gem for CNY.  Rick Clonan, LGS 2012 alum wrapped it all up for us nicely.

After lunch, 2014 LGS graduate, Heather Schroeder of the Downtown Committee, invited us all to ReImagine Downtown with an insightful presentation.  Not only did we learn that Downtown Syracuse is an 82-block district with eight neighborhoods, four museums, 80 restaurants, 60 retail shops, 60 service related businesses and 28,000 workers, we now know the MONY Tower Weather Star rhyme!  An exciting and optimistic statistic for Downtown Syracuse is that residential occupancy is up 70% since 2010.  $685M invested since 2010 and the Syracuse Surge projects have things looking up in the heart of CNY, who knows, M. Lemp Jewelers could be slinging their bling for another 129 years!

The GeniusNY Teams and their ReEnergizing CNY through drone technology wrapped up our stint at the Tech Garden with “A View From Above”.  John Parry, the Director of GeniusNY, shared his insight to the military and commercial present and future of Unmanned Arial Systems.  This initiative extends to military partners including the 174th Attack Wing and the Ft. Drum and Griffiss Bases.  GeniusNY works with start-ups and selects five to share $3M for UAS development.  One of those is Resilienx, which provides software to manage air traffic control for drones.  Ryan Pleskach (LGS 2016) spoke proudly of the GeniusNY and Tech Garden experience without droning on too long…

Our ReDiscovery continued with a fun and informative walking tour up Warren Street, which was labeled; “From Red Light to ReSurgence: Experience the New Warren Street.”  The best class ever, broke into two groups and were led by LGSers Heather Schroeder and Merike Treier (2007) on visits to Density, Plowz and Mows, TCG Player (both groups), Spincar, Syracuse CoWorks & Commonspace and finally the entire class at Sidearm Sports.

Along the way we asked each business to give us their company’s “elevator pitch”, asked why they chose to be headquartered in Syracuse, more precisely, why Warren street, and asked for a quick overview of the company’s vision for the future.

It was informative and inspiring to discover or ReDiscover, the who, what, where, when and why of this ReSurgence.  For those of us in the class who grew up in CNY especially, it was emotional to see an area of downtown go from a “place to avoid” to a place of such energy and promise.

One more ride on the ReDiscover CNY Express for a ReBoot, which included a pledge by the class to embrace CNY and spread the news of all we learned, as CNY Ambassadors!  As a way to initiate the continued ReDiscovery, the design team sprinkled the entire day with dozens of raffles for tickets, gift cards, CNY merchandise and other treats.  Everyone was a winner and the ride brought us back to the Pressroom Pub for a much-deserved Happy Hour.  The class continued to bond and we can’t wait to do it all again in June!