CenterState CEO Annual Event Unveils Business of the Year Winners

Posted on April 25, 2022

Panel 1

Keynote Panel Featuring Microsoft, Amazon Highlights Importance of Inclusive Talent Strategies & the Impact of Community Investment

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

SYRACUSE, NY – CenterState CEO today held its Annual Meeting, at the Convention Center at Oncenter. 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 CEO President Robert Simpson spoke about how the Central New York region is experience a moment of exceptional opportunity as it emerges from the pandemic.

“We are incredibly excited to be back in person for this event, which has always been a moment for our business community to come together and renew our shared sense of purpose to advancing the trajectory of our community and region,” said Simpson. “The past two years have tested our resolve, but Central New York has always faced its challenges head on. Data driven strategies set into motion over the past decade have laid the foundation for progress we are seeing today, be that population gains, businesses investing in and creating jobs in the region, growth in our innovation ecosystem, or being positioned to compete for major federal investments, such as the Build Back Better Regional challenge. There is more work ahead of us, and it’s imperative that our growth be inclusive to create greater economic opportunity for all. Central New York business leaders play an integral role as we look forward to working together to accelerate that progress and vision.”

The event included a keynote panel featuring Naria Santa Lucia, GM, Digital Inclusion and U.S. Community Engagement, Microsoft Philanthropies, and Jennifer Cruickshank, head of Public Policy and Community Engagement, at Amazon New York. The panel conversation focused on digital transformation, workforce inclusion, and the impact of community investment and collaboration.

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

“I’m glad to join CenterState and local business leaders to discuss the opportunities ahead for Central New York as we emerge from the pandemic,” said Santa Lucia. “Microsoft recognizes the critical importance of partnering to bring accessible digital skills and training to communities across the globe. We commend the leadership being shown in Central New York and look forward to partnering to advance digital inclusion, create jobs and further economic opportunity.”

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 work with local government officials across the state. She also engages with community organizations in the region’s where Amazon has a presence, working with and providing support for not-for-profit service providers, educational institutions and arts and cultural organizations.

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

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

Business of the Year Winners

CenterState CEO also announced its Business of the Year award winners at the event, recognizing the outstanding achievements of regional businesses and organizations in five categories. This year’s winners are:

Raymour & Flanigan Furniture
More than 50 Employees

Additional finalists: JMA Wireless, Oneida Nation Enterprises, LLC

In the past year, Raymour & Flanigan experienced exceptional growth, including adding 300 employees, and investing more than $25 million in capital expenditures. Its eCommerce revenue grew 40%, contributing to total company growth of more than 30%. To support this growth, the company invested in additional warehouse capacity, a multi-million-dollar transformation of its eCommerce platform, new store acquisitions and robust hiring campaigns. Raymour & Flanigan also earned designation as a Great Place to Work-Certified Company in 2021 for the fourth year in a row.

Wireless Business Group, LLC
Fewer 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 their 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 each year since it opened its doors. WBG has helped its business partners reduce cellular expenses by an average of 18 to 20%, while reducing the time companies spend managing mobile solutions. In 2021, the Wireless Business Group received a 100% customer satisfaction rating. 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.

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

Liberty Resources support nearly 18,000 individuals and families through it array or services, which it continually diversifies to meet the growing and changing needs of those it serves. In 2021, it filled nearly 300 vacant positions and expanded its overall employment to 1,600, in part to aid with crises brought on by the pandemic, providing support for mental health, substance abuse, child care and more to our community. To provide the utmost quality experience to its patients, Liberty Resources relies upon one of its core values of diversity to fuel recruitment strategies, and it actively encourages growth opportunities and career development for its employees.  

Kinney Drugs, Inc.
Community Involvement

Additional finalists: CH Insurance, Drive Research

Founded more than 118 years ago, Kinney Drugs has deep roots in Central New York and a strong legacy of giving back to the community. It contributes approximately $1 million to nonprofits each year through its foundation; its pharmacists routinely donate their time to speak in schools, hospitals, and other public forums; and it supports numerous local organizations in its facilities to host fundraiser and drives. The pandemic also highlighted Kinney’s leadership role in community health and awareness, including its "Be the First to Know" COVID communications program, helping keep the community up to date on CDC guidelines and vaccination availability.  

Gwen, Inc.
Minority-owned Business - presented in partnership with the Upstate Minority Economic Alliance

Additional finalists: ACCESS Dental Laboratories

Gwen, Inc. is a premier private sector leadership development corporation based in Auburn, with clients concentrated in New York, and work that spans the country. The firm specializes in leadership development consultation; organization development consulting; executive coaching; strategic planning and diversity, equity and inclusion strategy development. The company has distinguished itself in its industry, notably developing a specialize executive coaching practice for emerging and established women leaders of color, and by being intentional in its commitment to the community and the clients it serves. Over the course of the pandemic, it has added additional capacity to accommodate the increased demand for its services and expertise. Gwen, Inc. also donates thousands of dollars in support of nonprofits and emerging women and minority entrepreneurs. 

Visit to watch video from the event, including Business of the Year recognitions, remarks from Rob Simpson, and the event’s keynote panel. Download CenterState CEO’s 2021-2022 Annual Report at 

Presenting Sponsors of the 2022 CenterState CEO Annual Meeting are Equitable, Nascentia Health, Inc. and Tompkins Trust Company. Corporate Sponsors are Bond, Schoeneck & King; Bowers & Company CPAs; Breeze Airways; C&S Companies; Harris Beach; INFICON; Saab; L. & J.G. Stickley, Inc.; SWBR; Thomson & Johnson Equipment Co., Inc.; and Wegmans Food Markets. Supporting Sponsors is The Bonadio Group and SRC. Technology Sponsor is Visual Technologies. Media Sponsor is the Central New York Business Journal. 

About CenterState CEO
CenterState CEO is an independent and forward-thinking economic development strategist, business leadership organization and chamber of commerce; dedicated to the success of its members and the prosperity of the region. We serve as an advocate and resource for smart business, catalyze and facilitate regional growth, and promote community prosperity through results-driven partnerships, planning and problem-solving.

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