- Microsoft will open a smart cities technology hub in Syracuse, NY, the company and city announced this week. It will be Microsoft's third tech hub and the first on the East Coast.
- As part of an agreement with the city, Syracuse University and Onondaga County, Microsoft will create a space for early-stage startups, advance artificial intelligence (AI) research, sponsor public events and support the development of a digital ethics policy and AI strategy for the city. The site will be staffed with existing Microsoft employees.
- The Microsoft announcement builds on Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh's "Syracuse Surge" strategy to develop the city’s south downtown with tech and smart city investments.
Microsoft has also opened technology hubs in Louisville, KY and Houston, with the goals of partnering with local governments and start-ups to support research in new technologies. By expanding to Syracuse, Microsoft is continuing to build its hubs outside of the traditional tech locales in California, New York City and Boston.
The new Syracuse office, set to begin construction sometime in 2020, will help bolster the redevelopment of the southern part of downtown, which has been a priority for Walsh. The city has been working on a Southside Campus for the New Economy to build up the often-neglected region.
In an interview, Jenn Tifft, the city’s deputy commissioner of the Department of Neighborhood and Business Development, said that bringing in an international company like Microsoft was "validation" for the "Surge" strategy.
"We’re thinking pretty holistically about this partnership. There are so many opportunities that come from making these investments and the ambition to being a smarter or more connected community," Tifft told Smart Cities Dive. "We're excited that this is clearly resonating with the tech community and the local community."
Earlier this year, JP Morgan Chase awarded Syrcause a $3 million grant for tech workforce development, helping to jumpstart investment in the sector. The Microsoft partnership will also focus heavily on education, improving STEM opportunities for Syracuse schools and offering digital literacy training to help close the digital divide.
That, Tifft said, will help develop a home-grown tech ecosystem by showing residents that they can "learn here through the long haul, then stay here in Syracuse."