The Upstate Economy

Business and economic developments affecting the central and northern regions of upstate New York.

Who’s got your back? This housekeeping robot does

Jan 16, 2016
Sasha-Ann Simons / WXXI News

A small company in Ithaca, led by a 19-year-old entrepreneur, has a robot they say can clean floors and will make beds. The robot is still in prototype stage, but the team behind Maidbot is hoping to bring the “Rosie” from The Jetsons-type machine onto the market within the next year.

Centerstate CEO

Central New York’s economy continues to lag behind other Upstate New York communities according to an assessment of last year’s regional economic trends from last year. Economic forecasters predict continued slow growth.  But business leaders are hoping that a recent state investment into the central New York region can turn that around.

M & T Bank regional economist Gary Keith says the economic numbers from last year weren't horrible, but didn’t show a lot of growth either.

tales of a wandering youkai / Flickr

Christmas may be over, but this is still a critical week for retailers.

Ted Potrikus is president of the Retail Council of New York State, and while his organization doesn't generate specific numbers on what the state's retailers saw for holiday sales, he would not be surprised to see them come out with numbers similar to some national surveys, predicting about a four or five percent increase over last year.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

About 2,700 families came to the Christmas Bureau distribution in downtown Syracuse on Wednesday. It was one of their biggest years and largest operations as some of Syracuse’s most needing families received toys and food baskets.

Hospitality students eye future jobs at casinos

Dec 23, 2015

On Monday, New York State's gaming commission awarded three full casino licenses to the sites that got a recommendation last year, including the Lago Resort in the Finger Lakes town of Tyre.  But Southern Tier residents will have to hold out a bit longer, as Tioga Downs in Nichols, which was recommended for a license in the fall, waits for the official word.

Ithaca keeping local currency home for the holidays

Dec 21, 2015
Sasha-Ann Simons / WXXI News

Ithaca is a small town, but sometimes it has big ideas -- like a digital, community currency called Ithaca Dollars. The bottom line of this concept is to keep the region's money at home.

 

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the $500 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative award to central New York signals a turning of the tide for the area. The region's economic development plan was one of three big winners in Cuomo's competition to invest $1.5 billion in upstate. At a ceremony in Syracuse Sunday to commemorate the region's success, Cuomo said this investment in upstate rights a wrong.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Construction has started on a project that’s hoping to transform downtown Syracuse and the arts in central New York. 

The former Sibley’s department store in the 400 block of South Salina Street in Syracuse, will be the new home to the Redhouse Arts Center by this time next year. Executive artistic director Stephen Svoboda says beyond construction of theaters and rehearsal space, the arts can breathe life into an area that needs it.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

The Salvation Army is expecting to help hundreds of low-income families this holiday season with the annual Christmas Bureau. Sign-ups have already started.

Salvation Army executive director Linda Wright expects about the same number of people to register for the giveaway this year as last. The program that offers food, books and toys for low income families can be a harbinger of the economy. And even though the unemployment rate in Onondaga County has been dropping, Wright there’s still a need.

Roxanne Mourhess says the milk trucks roll by her antique store every day. The store is a 150-year-old former church on the main drag in Campbell, New York, a small town near Corning. The store is just down the street from the weathered, light blue grocery store. In the other direction, a Kraft plant puffs out steam by the railroad tracks. Mourhess couldn’t believe it when she heard that the plant was slated for closure. 

“Your immediate reaction is, ‘Oh my gosh, another manufacturing industry in our town, and thus our country, is not going to be here,’” she says.

Video games spark 'gamification' craze

Dec 5, 2015
Sasha-Ann Simons / WXXI News

Creating a video game is a daunting, yet rewarding task. Along with countless hours of research, design and testing, teams can spend a great deal of time putting the pieces together. And being able to walk into a place and get instant feedback on your prototype can only enhance the experience.

“I wanted to find something where I could fit in and belong and I found them online, showed up one day and never stopped coming again,” says Joe Wilson, a video game designer.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Friday is Plaid Friday, the independent, local business alternative to Black Friday, the major chains’ big sales day for consumers. The buy local movement continues its push in Syracuse.

The nonprofit SyracuseFirst launched the holiday giving season by organizing the Buy Local Bash in Syracuse. The event, which is in its sixth year, hosts venders from local businesses that give out samples, sell goods and educate the public about their companies.

According to recent statistics, 2.1 million New Yorkers are cheated out of $3.2 billion in wages and benefits. Activists are trying to get the word out that this wage theft is happening here in central New York.

Rebecca Fuentes is an organizer with the Workers’ Center of Central New York. She says wage theft happens when employers underpay workers, don’t pay overtime, or classify them in the wrong job description. And it makes it harder for a working family to get by.
 

Brit Hanson / NCPR

There was a deep sigh of relief in Massena Tuesday, if only a temporary one. After announcing massive layoffs three weeks ago, aluminum manufacturer Alcoa reversed course. The company said it will keep its smelter in Massena open and guarantee 600 jobs for 3 1/2 years. In exchange, New York state will give the aluminum giant almost $70 million in cheap power and cash for capital and operating expenses.

Downtown Committee of Syracuse

The “Elf on the Shelf” is coming to downtown Syracuse.  The holiday icon is part of an attempt to get more visibility for downtown shops during the holiday season.

The Downtown Committee of Syracuse is calling him “Dash.”  The elf will be turning up in shops, restaurants and museums throughout downtown Syracuse during the holiday season. Alice Maggiore of the Downtown Committee says it’s all part of a push to get people thinking downtown when they think about holiday spending.
 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Google’s program “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map” came to Syracuse last week. The Internet giant has a goal of encouraging more small and medium sized businesses to take advantage of the web.

Dozens of owners of small- and medium-sized businesses sat along long tables, with laptops glowing, at SKY Armory last week, getting first-hand tips about how to use tools in the Google stable to spur business.  They ranged from the novice, to people who work with computers every day.

Julia Botero / WRVO news

Watertown is looking at cities like Syracuse and Rochester for a new way to handle abandoned homes. City officials say a land bank can help get properties back on the tax roll. 

Out on the corner of Coffeen and Waltham Streets in Watertown, the windows on a red brick house are broken.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) visited the home of Philadelphia brand cream cheese in Lowville Wednesday. While parent company Kraft-Heinz was in the midst of closing plants nationwide last week, the company recently it would hire 100 new workers at the plant.  Schumer told those already employed their jobs are secure.

Inside the Lowville cream cheese plant, the sweet heavy scent of cream is ever present.  Down a hallway, a  group of workers in blue uniforms and clear plastic caps spill out of a full room to hear from Schumer. 

Lowville Cream Cheese Festival

When Kraft-Heinz announced last week it would close seven of its factories nationwide, one factory in New York got better news than the rest. The company proposed a plan to expand its cream cheese plant in Lowville and hire more than 100 new employees over the next five years.

The Kraft plant in Lowville, which makes the famous Philadelphia brand cream cheese, currently employs 340 people.

Lewis County Manager Liz Swearingin says back in June, when Kraft announced it was merging with Heinz, county officials got on the phone with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

The ride sharing service Uber held a job fair at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que on Tuesday and more than 150 people attended. Uber is pressuring the New York State Legislature to allow it to operate in upstate New York.

NYS Dept of Labor / Facebook

In the midst of a slew of bad job news in Upstate New York -- the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant potentially closing in Oswego County, Alcoa leaving Massena -- the New York State Labor Department is trying to pair job seekers with companies that are hiring right now.
 

Two hundred businesses offering 5,000 jobs jammed the OnCenter in what New York State Labor Department officials are calling one of the biggest job fairs they’ve held in New York state. Department spokesman Cullen Burnell says the jobs run the gamut.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The former Hotel Syracuse won’t reopen as the Marriott Hotel Downtown until sometime next spring. But, that’s not stopping brides, nonprofits and companies from around the world from booking a wedding or event at the almost 100-year-old hotel.

Hotel owner Ed Riley said in the midst of the multi-million dollar renovation, there have been between 20 and 30 tours for potential customers every week. And, stepping through the the dusty hallways with exposed wires and crumbing plaster isn’t putting a crimp on potential business.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to central New York yesterday and announced that a company that produces LED lighting products and technology will relocate its global manufacturing and research operations from California to East Syracuse. The move is expected to create about 400 new jobs.

Bret Jaspers / WSKG News

A full casino is in the cards for the Southern Tier. New York’s Gaming Facility Location Board endorsed a plan from Tioga Downs Wednesday. The venue applied unsuccessfully for a license last year, but state officials say this bid is different.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Many local politicians celebrated the completion of phase two of the Connective Corridor project which brings Syracuse University and downtown Syracuse together through new street improvements, bicycle lanes and pedestrian crossings.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Old met new at the former Hotel Syracuse this week. The manager of what is now the Marriott Downtown Syracuse and the manager of the hotel in its hey days toured the historic facility in downtown Syracuse Tuesday. The hotel is undergoing a $57 million dollar renovation.  

Matt Richmond / WSKG News File Photo

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, will certainly affect dairy farmers in New York state. But will it affect consumers? Of the 11 other Pacific Rim nations in the agreement, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have robust dairy industries that want to export more products to the U.S.

Central New York Regional Economic Development Council

Central New York's proposal for the state's economic development competition includes one project with the potential to create up to 2,000 jobs. Those jobs could go to a part of Syracuse that needs it the most.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Central New York Regional Economic Development council is bullish that its proposal for the New York State Upstate Revitalization Initiative will be a winner.  

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News file photo

Despite a tumultuous summer, Wall Street saw its best performance in the first six months of this year since 2011. A report from the New York state comptroller's office released Tuesday found that the securities industry earned more than $11 billion first half of 2015, a 29 percent increase from the same period last year. In addition to higher profits, Wall Street salaries, bonuses and employment are all on the rise.

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