Tech giant Microsoft to open ‘smart cities’ hub in Syracuse, 3rd in nation
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
The software giant Microsoft plans to open a hub in Syracuse aimed at developing uses for new technology, aiding tech start-ups and training the workforce of the future.
Microsoft will establish a “Smart Cities Technology” hub as part of Mayor Ben Walsh’s Syracuse Surge plan to bolster the regional economy with high-tech jobs. It’s Microsoft’s third such hub in the nation and the first in the Northeast.
“It’s significant for us,” Walsh said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s third-party validation not only of the Surge and the strategy, but the partnership and leadership we have in the community.”
Microsoft announced similar hubs earlier this year in Louisville, Kentucky and Houston, Texas.
The Microsoft announcement reflects the second major corporation to show an interest in Walsh’s Surge strategy. Earlier this summer, JP Morgan Chase committed $3 million toward workforce training programs and to ensure economic growth included traditionally disenfranchised communities.
Details of Microsoft’s physical location in Syracuse haven’t yet been finalized. Walsh said the software company plans to locate somewhere on the south end of downtown in the footprint of the pending Southside Campus for the New Economy. Microsoft will staff the hub with its employees, though city officials weren’t sure how many.
For now, Walsh has asked the Common Council to approve a memorandum of understanding between the city, Onondaga County, Syracuse University’s iSchool and Microsoft. The council could vote on that agreement as early as Monday.
The agreement formalizes a three-year partnership between the school, the governments and the tech company and outlines some of what Microsoft will bring to Syracuse.
According to that agreement, the hub will be a resource for entrepreneurs and start-up companies, providing consulting services, education and training on burgeoning technology like 5G, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.
Microsoft has also agreed to sponsor public events here, including an “innovation summit” to be held next year for local and national tech experts.
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said the Microsoft agreement is just the next step toward transforming Syracuse and the region.
“What we think of as downtown today won’t be what it is going forward,” McMahon said. “You’re going to have this young tech corridor, more high-tech manufacturing...I’m ecstatic.”
Going forward, Walsh and McMahon said they expect Microsoft will implement digital literacy and skills training programs in the new STEAM school to be opened at the former Central Tech building.
“I’m excited about the educational things they’ve committed to," Walsh said. "We’re pursuing technology business opportunities and building a pipeline of people who can take those jobs.”
The partnership began with SU’s iSchool, which works with Microsoft on a series of programs. The school connected Microsoft with Walsh, who has focused his administration’s efforts on developing workforce training for tech sector jobs.
This summer, Walsh visited the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington. During meetings there, the company decided to establish a presence in Syracuse.