Revitalization plan shines bright light on Finger Lakes region’s future 

Region of Light, Beacon of Hope: Illuminating the Finger Lakes Region, Upstate New York’s Greatest Economic Opportunity — Common Wealth’s response to the Finger Lakes Region Economic Development Council’s draft proposal for the Upstate Development Initiative.

The period for public comments and feedback is now closed and over the past two weeks, the Finger Lakes Economic Development Council (FLREDC) and its workgroups have made tremendous progress on a draft plan for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative. Perhaps motivated in part by the Governor’s push for more actionable plans, the latest draft includes a substantial series of so-called “Year One” programs that demonstrate the region’s unique resources and assets that will enable it to quickly shift plans into full implementation.

My own input largely focused on the following areas:

  1. Anchor the proposal in a deeper global positioning that connects the Finger Lakes region to a broader, more diverse group of international opportunities
  2. Elevate programs related to poverty alleviation toward a more ambitious goal to significantly grow the middle class in the Finger Lakes region
  3. Beyond start ups and entrepreneurship alone, consider a specialized focus on existing, high-impact companies — also known as “Gazelles,” which are known for a record of consistent and sustainable revenue and employment growth; additional emphasis on stimulating high-impact growth among minority- and women-owned businesses

Why I care about the Upstate Revitalization Initiative

I currently reside in the Town of Brighton and work in the Town of Henrietta. Prior to 2014, I lived and worked within the city of Rochester for nearly seven years. In 2003, I earned my undergraduate degree in the heart of the Finger Lakes on the shores of Seneca Lake from Geneva’s Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

I currently serve as account director at a Rochester-based, 100 percent employee-owned media and communications agency. In this role, I oversee one of the agency’s largest and longstanding accounts with a team of more than 20 staffers. I largely decided to join my current employer due to its commitment to the Rochester community and its record of growth in terms of annual billings, jobs, and overall innovation within the category.

Prior to this role, I previously practiced business strategy and public relations for a Syracuse-based, full-service marketing and communications agency. Over the past eight years, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside marketing and business leaders at small businesses, colleges and universities, start-ups, non-profits, public agencies, public-private partnerships, local governments as well as several international corporations among the Fortune 500.

My community leadership also includes former seats on the board of directors at Albany-based Parks & Trails New York, the Small Business Council of Rochester, an affiliate of Rochester Business Alliance, and the Board of Contributors at the Democrat and Chronicle. The work on behalf of these organizations primarily contributed to local and regional awareness through marketing and public relations programs. In addition, I served as consultant to executive teams to identify new growth strategies through the rigorous analysis of constituent or member needs, market dynamics, and opportunities within the competitive landscape.

In 2013, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Washington Office highlighted that the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) – central to the recently awarded Photonics Institute – “should be a key part of a larger and coherent policy framework.” Likewise, the Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) is not a standalone program. As the current draft notes, the region’s proposal builds upon many existing achievements and ongoing efforts.

As a Millennial, Korean-American adoptee, Central New York native, and proud advocate for the Finger Lakes region, I look forward to the outcomes of the URI. If the proposal wins one of the three major awards, it will serve as a significant catalyst to empower both current and future stakeholders to secure the region’s legacy as one of the most resilient and innovative communities in Upstate New York. However, as New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo reminded readers in a recent Huffington Post op-ed, “Develop a plan that can be implemented even if you don’t win the competition … the plan should be viable even without the investment…”

In the case that the Finger Lakes region’s proposal is not chosen, the URI still provides the necessary framework for a long-term roadmap. Most importantly, it serves as a vital opportunity to converge diverse lenses with the aim of projecting a clear and definitive picture of the Finger Lakes region’s vision for generations to come. It is for all these reasons and more that I look forward to the outcomes of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.


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