Economic Development Day

By Brian Welch with Closing by Tyler Brass, LGS 2014 Design Team Members.

We held our LGS Economic Development Day at Destiny USA (DUSA) Sky Deck on 13 August 2014.  On behalf of LGS and Design Team we wish to thank Key Bank for their sponsorship of Economic Development Day.  We would also like to thank Beth Macie and the DUSA team for hosting us at their wonderful Sky Deck – the views of Syracuse were inspiring!  Finally, we thank Cantina Laredo for a wonderful after-class venue.

Let the Day Begin!

Fittingly, we started the day with Rob Schoeneck, the General Manager of DUSA.  Originally a landfill surrounded by oil tanks, it took the vision of Robert J. Congel and the Pyramid Companies to transform this “Oil City” into the sixth largest shopping center in the nation.  We then had a very entertaining presentation by Honora Spillane, Senior Economic Development Specialist at the Onondaga County Office of Economic Development.  She provided a wealth of information and resources for economic development in Onondaga County. 

Next, Lisa Mondello, Director of Strategic Communications at SRC and LGS Graduate, provided a presentation on Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).  She started with a plug for LGS’ers to give back, offered STEM as a great opportunity for us to give back, gave us an in-depth overview of the STEM resources and activities in the community, and ended by coming back around to the motivating the LGS class to commit to get involved and making a difference – however we choose to do so.  Joe Vargo from the Partners for Education and Business (a STEM advocate) helped Lisa convey her message on STEM.

Back to DUSA … We had the honor of hearing from David Aitken, Destiny Executive and LGS Graduate.  David gave us a historical review of DUSA, Robert Congel’s vision and work ethic, and the challenges they faced making DUSA what it is today.  It was also nice to hear that, all through the DUSA history, Mr. Congel and team understood that the development of the community and infrastructure was a key part of their vision.  They have truly assisted in growing the Syracuse economy – and they have plans for the future!  Chris Fowler, Founder and Executive Director of SyracuseFirst, also has plans for the future of Syracuse.  He gave a passionate presentation on the SyracuseFirst imitative, history, and vision for the future. 

Whew…  Lunch.

After our break, we had a roundtable type event with Bob Herz, Director, NYS Senate Select Committee on Science, Technology, Incubation & Entrepreneurship,

Daniel Rickman, Economic Development Specialist & District International Trade Officer, U.S. Small Business Administration, and Cory Wright, Adjunct Professor, Innovation/Creativity Department at Buffalo State University.  Wow!  Bob is truly an entrepreneurial spirit – and he knows from experience how to get things started!  Daniel provided an informative presentation of the resources available to Syracuse entrepreneurs’.  The metrics on how small businesses contribute to the economy were amazing.  Cory gave an insightful presentation on creativity and the benefits of keeping an open mind; looking at things with a different focus and lessons on how to develop creative ideas.

We ended the Class Day with a panel discussion with entrepreneurs in the Syracuse community. The panel was facilitated by Kevin Tampone, Business Reporter, Syracuse Media Group, LGS ’08.  The Panelists included Joe Casper, Chief Technology Officer & Founder, Ephesus Lighting, Inc., Mac Cummings, CEO, Founder, Terakeet, Janie Mills, Director, Salt Works, Patrick Mooney, Owner, Mooney Marketing, and Jennifer Peterson, Owner, Visible Solutions.  This diverse panel provided insights into the challenges and rewards of being your own boss – a scary but exciting prospective for future LGS’ers.


Design Team’s goal for the day was to make sure we know where to go and how to tap into the resources available to us for whatever vision we may want to grow or nurture.   No matter what type of economic seed you hope to plant or nurture, we trust that you will be able to engage these powerful resources to grow that vision to whatever size and shape you desire.

The SWAG bags contained two significant items.  First, there is a bookmark from SaltWorks.  This object will let you remember the past while keeping your eye on the future. The bookmark was made from repurposed local wood that provided the resources to fuel a vision for the future. The other item is a bottle opener from another company that had a bigger vision – Destiny, USA.  Let this object remind you that there are always resources to help open opportunities that may not have otherwise been able to access.

Whatever your vision, may you plant that seed and nurture it to its fullest capacity with the resources right here in your local community.  Even if you aren’t the person planting that seed, you can be a substantial resource to help grow that vision.