Yearning for Normalcy

Central New York business sectors gearing up for what is hoped to be successful recovery year

By Lou Sorendo

Robert Simpson, president and CEO of CenterState CEO
Robert Simpson, president and CEO of CenterState CEO

COVID-19 does not discriminate when it comes to impacting economic sectors.

As of last October, all private sectors of the Central New York economy were negatively impacted by COVID-19, according to Robert Simpson, president and CEO of CenterState CEO in Syracuse.

CenterState CEO is an independent economic development strategist, business leadership organization and chamber of commerce.

In terms of employment loss, Simpson said even the least impacted sectors suffered losses over the past year, when in recent years the region has experienced job expansions.

“Services, particularly accommodations, food services and hospitality have been most severely impacted, followed by retail trade and then professional and business services,” he said.

In 2020, these sectors experienced employment losses of between 16% and 20% compared to 2019.

Overall private employment is down by about 10%, with health care and educational services faring somewhat better (-8.7% and -9.7%, respectively) and manufacturing and construction faring somewhat worse (-10.8% and -11.9%, respectively).

COVID-19 has indeed changed the landscape of the CNY business world.

Since last spring, CenterState CEO has advocated for additional resources and spending on programs that will complement the region’s economic strategy and support key industries that have been severely disrupted, Simpson noted.

“As the possibility of additional business and pandemic challenges arise, our team stands ready to again rapidly deploy its skills and knowledge to track and share resources, information, tools and programming,” he said. “We remain committed to our four-pronged approach to assess, respond, mitigate and recover from this crisis, and to assist all businesses now and in the weeks and months ahead.

The pandemic has also impacted ongoing economic development projects being done throughout the Central New York region.

“There have been some delays due to the early shutdown of construction projects and as a result of the materials unavailability,” Simpson said.

A few projects have been paused in order for officials to understand the impact of remote work on future office space needs, he added.

“However, those impacts have not resulted in the cancellation of any major projects, and leads continue to come in for new expansion and attraction projects,” Simpson said.

State assistance provided

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2022 state budget calls for the creation of a $130 million Pandemic Recovery and Restart Program to support highly impacted small businesses as well as the restaurant, arts and entertainment industries that are being hurt by COVID-19.

The program would establish three new tax credits and increase a fourth one to help highly impacted small businesses in the accommodation, arts and entertainment, restaurant and musical and theatrical production industries bring back jobs to New York and help the economy recover faster.

“These tax credits shouldn’t be viewed in a vacuum,” Simpson said. “They represent an important piece of the puzzle to help some of our hardest-hit small businesses, particularly restaurants and entertainment venues.

These credits, which in some cases can be redeemed even prior to tax filing, will help businesses bring back employees and return to profitable operation sooner, he added.

“Of course, these credits have to go hand-in-hand with other priorities from the state, including accelerated vaccinations and a significant increase in rapid testing,” he said. “These are the keys to helping bring back demand, which is what will, ultimately, help these businesses return to health.”

Simpson said federal support is also critical for these businesses through programs like the payroll protection program and grant opportunities targeting the most impacted industries.

CenterState CEO was instrumental in assisting businesses during their safe return to on-site operations in accordance with state guidance in 2020.

Simpson said the organization has had significant positive feedback on the utilization of the various resources it developed.

“Businesses have shared that having the information compiled in one location is very helpful,” he said. “Businesses continue to use our various tools and resources found on our website. Additionally, businesses with specific questions can reach out to our team at