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Brookings plan aims to double exports in central New York

The freighter English River enters the Port of Oswego, a major shipping hub for central New York's economy.
via Flickr
The freighter English River enters the Port of Oswego, a major shipping hub for central New York's economy.

CenterState CEO, an economic booster engine for central New York, has set a goal of doubling exports for the region over the next five years.

The path to that goal includes help from the Brookings Institute's Metropolitan Policy Program. Brookings picked Syracuse last summer as one of four metro areas it would help increase its exports.

The plan was released Wednesday during CenterState's annual meeting. Along with Brookings, representatives from the US Export-Import Bank and the Commerce Department touted the potential of the region.

But central New York has a ways to go: Of the top 100 largest metro areas, Brookings found Syracuse ranked 72nd for export value in 2010.

"We have been really clear about what the market opportunity is for this region," says Amy Liu of Brookings.

What central New York does export is diverse, says Liu. And the region also ranks well for clean economy firms, Brookings found.

CenterState has set the goal of increasing exports from $3.3 billion to $6.6 billion by 2017. It outlined three strategies to do that:

  1. Increase export activity of the region's top exporters
  2. Build export capacity of small and medium sized entrepreneurs
  3. Expand exports of the region's key service providers

"It’s really important to understand what your distinct market advantage is first and how you’re performing on exports before you develop a plan," says Liu.
Brookings will continue to act as an adviser for economic development officials in the region, but Liu says it's important they implement the plan themselves.

Central New York may lack the large corporations of other parts of the state or country, but that doesn't necessarily matter, says Commerce Department chief of staff Bruce Andrews.

"You don’t need to be Boeing to be an exporter," Andrews says. "Surprisingly, a huge [amount] of the export business is driven by small and medium enterprises, rather than by large companies."

Emerging Business Competition

Also announced at CenterState's annual meeting Wednesday was the winner of its Emerging Business Competition.

The third time was the charm for Ithaca-based MicroGen. After two previous years in the competition, the energy storage company finally came out on top.

They beat out 95 other companies for the $200,000 in prize money.

Going around again (and again) helped them get better, says chief financial officer Michael Perrotta.

"It’s a culmination of a lot of work we’ve put into the business plan over the last three years," he says. "It also represents a significant amount of help and assistance that we’ve received."

MicroGen was founded six years ago and bounced around the Northeast before founder Robert Andosca settled at the business incubator at Cornell University.

MicroGen will use the award money to hire new employees, it says.