CenterState’s Annual CEO Event Reveals Company of the Year Winners

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Expert Panel Featuring Microsoft and Amazon Highlights Importance of Inclusive Talent Strategies and Impact of Community Investment

Business of the Year winners: Raymour & Flanigan; Wireless Business Group, LLC; Liberty Resources, Inc.; Kinney Drugs, Inc. and Gwen, Inc.

Syracuse, NY – The CEO of CenterState held its annual meeting today at the Oncenter Convention Center. Focused on the theme Transcend, the event highlighted Central New York’s progress and explored shared efforts to achieve equitable growth for a stronger future.

In his message, CenterState Chairman and CEO Robert Simpson explained how the Central New York area is experiencing a moment of exceptional opportunity as it emerges from the pandemic.

CenterState Chairman and CEO Robert Simpson (photo of CenterState CEO)

“We are incredibly thrilled to be back in person for this event, which has always been a time for our business community to come together and renew our shared sense of purpose in advancing the trajectory of our community and of our area,” Simpson said. “The past two years have tested our resolve, but Central New York has always faced its challenges head on. Data-driven strategies implemented over the past decade have laid the foundation for the progress we see today, from population gains to businesses investing and creating jobs in the region. , growing our innovation ecosystem or being able to compete for major federal contracts. investments, such as the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. There is still work ahead of us, and it is imperative that our growth be inclusive in order to create greater economic opportunities for all. Central New York business leaders are playing a critical role as we look forward to working together to accelerate this progress and this vision.

The event included a panel of experts featuring Naria Santa Lucia, GM, Digital Inclusion and US Community Engagement, Microsoft Philanthropies, and Jennifer Cruickshank, Head of Public Policy and Community Engagement, Amazon New York. The roundtable focused on digital transformation, workforce inclusion, and the impact of community investment and collaboration.

Santa Lucia leads Microsoft’s global philanthropy strategy, overseeing grant investments and partnerships in digital skills, computer science education, and community and economic impact. She is focused on the goal of increasing jobs and livelihood opportunities for people and communities excluded from the digital economy, working in partnership with nonprofits, governments and private sector partners. around the world to help millions of people prosper.

“I am pleased to join CenterState and local business leaders to discuss upcoming opportunities for Central New York as we emerge from the pandemic,” Santa Lucia said. “Microsoft recognizes the critical importance of partnership in bringing accessible digital skills and training to communities around the world. We commend the leadership shown by Central New York and look forward to partnering to advance digital inclusion, create jobs and new economic opportunities.

Amazon Fulfillment Center, Clay NY

As Head of Public Policy and Community Engagement, Cruickshank leads Amazon’s community and government relations efforts in New York, including Amazon’s statewide policy priorities in Albany and works with local government officials across the state. She also engages with community organizations in the region where Amazon has a presence, working with and providing support to nonprofit service providers, educational institutions, and arts and cultural organizations.

“Amazon has a strong and growing presence in central New York and we are committed to being not only a good employer here, but also a good neighbor,” Cruickshank said. “We feel fortunate to partner with the CEO of CenterState, to share some of our work in community investing, and to learn what others are also doing to make the region even better.”

“Microsoft and Amazon are two global technology leaders who have made it a priority to invest in the communities, talent and technology skills that are essential for the jobs and economy of the future,” Simpson said. “The intentional strategies and collaborative initiatives they propose offer a compelling call to action for our business community.”

Business of the Year Winners

The CenterState CEO also announced his Company of the year winners at the event, recognizing the outstanding achievements of businesses and regional organizations in five categories. This year’s winners are:

photo credit CenterState CEO


Raymour & Flanigan Furniture

Over 50 Employees

Additional Finalists: JMA Wireless, Oneida Nation Enterprises, LLC

Over the past year, Raymour & Flanigan has experienced exceptional growth, including adding 300 employees and investing over $25 million in capital expenditures. Its e-commerce revenue grew by 40%, contributing to total company growth of over 30%. To support this growth, the company has invested in additional warehouse capacity, a multi-million dollar transformation of its e-commerce platform, new store acquisitions and strong hiring drives. Raymour & Flanigan also achieved the Great Place to Work Certified Company designation in 2021 for the fourth consecutive year.


Wireless Business Group, LLC

Less than 50 Employees

Additional finalists: It Takes A Village Family Daycare, Scientific Tool Co.

When COVID hit and employees were forced to work from home, companies added more wireless devices to their portfolios to help support day-to-day operations – Wireless Business Group was ready to step in. In addition to its 16% increase in revenue last year, revenue has steadily increased every year since it opened. WBG has helped business partners reduce mobile spending by an average of 18-20%, while reducing the time companies spend managing mobile solutions. In 2021, the Wireless Business Group achieved a 100% customer satisfaction rate. The WBG has also donated thousands of dollars to local organizations over the past year to support and give back to the community.


Liberty Resources, Inc.

Non-profit

Additional finalists: Food Bank of Central New York, Rescue Mission Alliance of Syracuse

Liberty Resources supports nearly 18,000 individuals and families through its suite of services, which it continually diversifies to meet the growing and changing needs of those it serves. In 2021, it filled nearly 300 vacancies and brought its total number of jobs to 1,600, in part to help deal with the crises caused by the pandemic, providing support for mental health, addictions, child care and more to our community. To provide the highest quality experience for its patients, Liberty Resources leverages one of its core values ​​of diversity to fuel recruitment strategies, and it actively encourages opportunities for growth and career development for its employees.


Kinney Drugs, Inc.

Community involvement

Additional Finalists: CH Insurance, Drive Research

Founded over 118 years ago, Kinney Drugs has deep roots in central New York and a strong heritage of giving back to the community. He donates approximately $1 million to nonprofit organizations each year through his foundation; its pharmacists regularly volunteer their time to speak in schools, hospitals and other public forums; and it supports many local organizations at its facilities to organize fundraisers and campaigns. The pandemic has also highlighted Kinney’s leadership role in community health and awareness, including its “Be the First to Know” COVID communications program, helping to keep the community informed of CDC guidelines and the availability of vaccines.


Gwen, Inc.

Minority-Owned Business – presented in partnership with the Upstate Minority Economic Alliance

Additional Finalists: ACCESS Dental Laboratories

Gwen, Inc. is a leading private sector leadership development firm based in Auburn, with clients focused in New York and work that spans the country. The company specializes in leadership development consulting; organizational development consulting; executive coaching; strategic planning and development of diversity, equity and inclusion strategies. The company has distinguished itself in its industry, including developing a specialized executive coaching practice for emerging and established women leaders of color, and being intentional in its commitment to the community and clients it serves. During the pandemic, it added additional capacity to meet increased demand for its services and expertise. Gwen, Inc. also donates thousands of dollars to support nonprofits and emerging women and minority entrepreneurs.


Videos from the event, including Company of the Year recognitions, remarks from Rob Simpson and the event’s panel of experts will soon be available on www.youtube.com/CenterStateCEO. Download the CenterState CEO’s 2021-2022 Annual Report at www.centerstateceo.com/AnnualReport.


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