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Walsh: Inclusion was key strategy in Syracuse getting Microsoft tech hub

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
From left to right, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh and Common Council President Helen Hudson with representatives from SU's iSchool and Microsoft.

Microsoft has selected the city of Syracuse as the location for a new smart cities technology hub. It will provide help to startup tech companies, digital literacy and workforce training, and development of artificial intelligence.

The partnership is between Microsoft, the city of Syracuse, Onondaga County and Syracuse University. It builds on Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh’s Syracuse Surge initiative to expand the city’s tech sector and revitalize the south side. Walsh visited the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington this summer.

“Microsoft would not be here if inclusion was not a key component of our strategy," Walsh said. "Our vision is, not just to create opportunity for the sake of opportunity, it’s to create opportunity for all. By focusing on inclusion, that’s ultimately what set us apart from every other city across the country.”

The new countywide STEAM high school, focused on technology, and expanding the SUNY Educational Opportunity Center for adult workforce development, are part of that inclusion.

The Microsoft partnership started with SU’s School of Information Studies. The city already shares datasets with students on things like streetlights and snowplows. But David Seaman, dean of the iSchool, said the partnership will allow students to get city data in real time by utilizing Microsoft's software platforms.

"This allows Syracuse University students here in the iSchool, really to engage with live data," Seamen said. "So, this isn't a practice run. They will be working with real municipal data, coming out of all the devices going into the smart city initiative here, and offering feedback on that data." 

The Microsoft hub will be located in downtown Syracuse, sometime next year.

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.