Businesses and Communities Must Remain Agile, Focus on Change to Solve Problems

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SYRACUSE, NY – More than 1,500 business and community leaders gathered at CenterState CEO’s Annual Meeting, held at SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College, in Syracuse.

In his message CenterState CEO President Robert Simpson reminded attendees about the importance of staying problem focused, rather than product focused. He encouraged a willingness to remain agile in the face of new challenges and opportunities, recognizing that successful companies and communities have learned that growth is not predicated on what they have to sell, but rather on the customer or community need that they are trying to solve.

“Markets change, just as customer needs evolve. Businesses must anticipate, identify, and react proactively to these changes, or ignore these signals at their own peril,” said Simpson. “These are also lessons we are wise to heed at the community and regional level as we face significant opportunities alongside economic, social and demographic challenges. We must be willing to shift our approach and pivot toward new solutions. Now more than ever, driving economic growth and shared opportunity requires the intentional and interconnected design of programs, policies and systems to ensure our efforts are at the forefront of economic development today.”

The event’s keynote address was given by David Lee, the vice president of Innovation and the Strategic Enterprise Fund at UPS. As part of the leadership team at UPS, Lee works to accelerate and enable innovation across the company's global network of services and operations by connecting bright people with interesting problems. Lee’s talk at the TED@UPS, “Why the Jobs of the Future Won’t Feel Like Work,” was curated as one of the most popular TED Talks of 2017.


Building on his TED Talk message, Lee highlighted the incredible speed of change and how current advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics will dramatically impact how people work. He encouraged leaders to begin designing human-centered work that allows people to be dynamic human beings which will drive better outcomes for talent and the company.

“Jobs that are narrowly defined around a single, predictable task are at great disadvantage to automation.  AI and robotics are best suited to handle repeatable tasks” said Lee. “However, jobs where people are encouraged and enabled to do many different things, 7-10 different things, won't be replaced by software any time real soon.  It’s when people have environments where they can collaborate and bring a wide variety of ideas, skills, and interests to work that they most engaged and excited to be there.  Not only that, but they will be doing work that unleashes the amazing human ability to adjust to uncertain situations.  We need to create more human-centered work that invites workers to be more human – put another way, we need to stop designing jobs that ask people to act like robots.  It’s critical that today’s leaders start redesigning work and creating jobs that will still be relevant in an age of intelligent machines.”

Before UPS, Lee helped build a number of teams and capabilities inside other large companies including, SunTrust Bank, based in Atlanta, Georgia. Before that, he was a member of Bank of America’s emerging technology lab and venture capital group. While there, he worked on exploring and enabling some of the best innovations in personal finance during the last 20 years. He helped launch services like check image capturing, modern ATMs and enhancements to online brokerage services.

CenterState CEO also announced its Business of the Year award winners at the event, recognizing the outstanding achievement of regional businesses and organizations in five categories.  This year’s winners are:


Pathfinder Bank
More Than 50 Employees


CH Insurance

Less Than 50 Employees


McMahon Ryan Advocacy Center


SUNY Upstate Medical University
Community Involvement


Brackens Financial Solutions Network
Minority-owned Business

(presented in partnership with the Upstate Minority Economic Alliance)


Presenting Sponsors of the 2018 CenterState CEO Annual Meeting are CPS Recruitment, Inc. and Nascentia Health. Corporate Sponsors are Crouse Health; C&S Companies; Engie Resources; INFICON; OBG; Preferred Mutual Insurance Company; SRC; Stickley, Audi & Co.; TCGPlayer; and Wegmans. Media Sponsors are News Radio 570 WSYR Now on 106.9 FM; Business Journal News Network; Advance Media New York; and Visual Technologies.


About CenterState CEO

CenterState CEO is an independent and forward thinking economic development strategist, business leadership organization and chamber of commerce; dedicated to the success of its members and the prosperity of the region. We serve as an advocate and resource for smart business, catalyze and facilitate regional growth, and promote community prosperity through results-driven partnerships, planning and problem-solving.