Economic and Community Development
Addressing Poverty and Economic Disparity in Center State New York
CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity (CenterState CEO), which houses the CenterState Chamber of Commerce, recognizes the growing need for economic support in its twelve county region in New York State. Although the region’s average wages are on the rise, the U.S. Census Bureau reports tens of thousands still living in poverty in urban, suburban and rural areas alike. Backed by a commitment to driving and sustaining economic growth, CenterState CEO hopes to bring the community together to increase wealth and improve quality of life for all.
In an effort to inform their work, CenterState CEO identified a community to watch in the effort to bolster their region through economic inclusion: Cleveland, OH. In an open event in Syracuse on October 24, titled Building Equity – Lessons from Cleveland – How to Connect Growth and Opportunity, key leaders from Cleveland shared their history and progress in securing a vibrant future for their community. The event welcomed between 80-100 attendees, representing civic, business and community leadership from across the Center State region.
Natoya Walker Minor, Chief of Public Affairs with the City of Cleveland and Brian Hall, Director of Inclusion with the Greater Cleveland Partnership, each shared their perspective on what key things were happening in each of their areas before the public and private sectors came together to develop a policy around community benefit agreements.
Cleveland has gone on a journey over the last 14 years since the community first marshalled around the concept of tracking and increasing diversity on boards and among senior management, workforce and supplier networks. What began as more of an awareness effort, has gained buy-in from the business community and has blossomed to include more emphasis and programming around how to get the work done.
In a recent interview, Brian Hall noted that the commission was formed “because several business leaders were prepared to make a commitment for the region and did so publically and through their own organizations”. Hall sees this as a key recommendation for Syracuse and the CenterState region. His advice is to encourage not only the civic and community leadership to buy in, but that the core support of these efforts needs to come from the business leaders. Stating, “The question on success doesn’t ride on the process, it rides on the demand. And the demand comes from those that are doing the hiring and the purchasing”.
Cleveland’s commission began as a collaborative of 26 businesses, but now includes 120 companies, organizations and institutions – which they have committed to growing to 300 in the next five years through their new strategic plan. While there remains work to be done, the needle has certainly begun to move and Cleveland can serve as a positive example for work in Syracuse and beyond.