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Amazon HQ in NY could spur investment in upstate's drone corridor

Don McCullough

Reaction has been mixed to Amazon’s selection of Long Island City in Queens as one of its new headquarters, promising 25,000 high-paying jobs. But Syracuse business leaders said they are expecting a spill-over effect of investment in central New York, because of the region’s drone corridor.

CenterState CEO Chief of Staff Ben Sio said Amazon is not the first tech company to make a major presence in New York City, which he said is becoming the Silicon Valley of the East Coast.

“One of the things we’re seeing already because of that, is there is an increased level of venture funding and venture capital that is in New York City, thinking about investing in New York City, but also thinking about investing in upstate New York,” Sio said. "The fact that now we're within a five hour drive of proabably the largest tech center in the East Coast, is really exciting for us."

Sio said some of those investments upstate are going towards drone-related startups. 

Central New York and the Mohawk Valley have a drone corridor, which he described as a drone traffic management system or a series of software and radar that allows someone to see and control drones to make it safe for commercial operation. Amazon is just one company that wants drone package delivery, but the system could be used to deliver medical supplies, fight fires, and even move people.

“All of those activities will still require some sort of system to coordinate them," Sio said. "Central New York remains one of the few communities across the country that have actually invested in developing that system for companies to utilize. We expect to see a lot of companies that want to do that type of work here first, because we have those type of capabilities available.”

And Sio said they have been seeing that in recent months, with drone companies moving and expanding their operations in central New York.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.