On October 12th the Professional Consultants Association of Central New York had its first meeting of the new year. Our presenter was Nasir Ali of Upstate Venture Connect, a non-profit organization that helps new and emerging businesses find both business structure and capital to work with towards multiple goals. One of those goals is working towards keeping talent in the central New York area. The other is helping those businesses grow so they’ll create new and good paying jobs in the community.

Nasir Ali
Nasir Ali

He began the presentation with a discussion of how things had been in New York state up until the mid 2000’s. New York led the country with 119 companies that were listed on Forbes 500; now we’re hovering close to 50. In his own way, he dispelled the myth that business has left New York because of taxes. Instead, it’s that business has changed overall, and those traditional businesses that are surviving are on the way to being replaced as it concerns jobs and the modern economy, and they’re being set up in other places.

The reasoning for this turned out to be interesting. The central New York area creates a lot of talent that ends up leaving. Some of the best social media technology in the country has been the brainchild of someone who studied in central New York such as Four Square, and that intrigued UVC, as they’re known. So they traveled across the country to meet with these people and ask them why they left the area.

Their response wasn’t expected until they started hearing it more and more. What young entrepreneurs wanted was answers and support. They were graduating with ideas and no support system, so they left town and went to areas where they could find people willing to hear them out, work with them, offer them advice and of course money so they could explore their vision. It’s a different business world because social media involves trying to come up with something that no one even knows if there will be an interest in, which means there’s no data for it. Just ideas, such as Pinterest, another major social media platform that was developed from a guy with central New York connections.

What UVC and Syracuse University decided to do was test the results of their survey. They decided to select from student bids those whose ideas seemed the most viable, then set them up with business leaders in the community, from bankers to lawyers to CEOs and anyone else willing to offer time and consulting to them, as well as a place to work in the Syracuse Tech Garden. The first year they selected 5 teams out of 10 bids, and it’s grown every year, as this past year they selected around 50 applicants out of more than 250.

What has happened has been fairly amazing. Around 70% of the students that went through the program have stayed in this area and are working on growing their businesses into something that will create new technology jobs. They’ve even been able to encourage some entrepreneurs who left the area to come back, especially since they never wanted to leave in the first place. With local mentors they can access, they have a support system that understands their needs, and in turn they become a support system for the new generation.

This can only be beneficial to the central New York region, and to consultants in general. After all, helping others is what consultants do, and everyone benefits in the long run. It was an engaging presentation, the type that PCA is known for. We hope to see more people at our next event.

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