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Zemsky eyes growth potential across Upstate

Rochester Business Journal
July 14, 2015

Howard Zemsky has seen a tremendous change in Upstate New York in the last decade.

Speaking to a crowd of nearly 250 at the Rochester Business Journal’s Power Breakfast Series Tuesday, Zemsky—president and CEO of Empire State Development Corp.—noted Buffalo’s transformation from an economically depressed city to an increasingly vibrant area filled with big projects.

In his new position as head of the state’s economic development arm, Zemsky said he sees the same potential across Upstate New York as the state increases its investments and gives regions more power to shape their own future.

At the event, Zemsky addressed a range of issues from the Buffalo Billion economic development plan and the potential of the Finger Lakes region to the importance of attracting and keeping young people in the region.

Zemsky, who was confirmed as head of ESD in March, said he was enthusiastic to join an effort to improve the state’s economy on a region-by-region basis.

“I took the job because I love the philosophy of how we approach economic development and want to continue to empower regions to develop their own economic future,” he said.

Zemsky has a long history in the private sector, including extensive work in economic development. His company, Larkin Development Group, has redeveloped more than 1 million square feet of historic building space in Buffalo since 2002.

Zemsky emphasized the importance of regions developing a strong vision that pulls together all stakeholders.

“If you’ve got people pointing fingers, you can’t bridge that divide,” he said.

He added that economic development efforts must not ignore public transportation and efforts to attract and keep talented young people in the area. This included repurposing historic buildings as mixed-use facilities accommodating people who want to live downtown, work his company has engaged in across Buffalo.

Zemsky said ultimately it would take the collective power of stakeholders across the business, non-profit and government sector to make regional economic development plans a success, but said the Rochester area is strong in this kind of leadership.

“The community has great business and political leadership,” he noted. “In other places it’s hard to find who the leaders are, but Rochester has strong and clear leadership.”

(c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail

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