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Nozzolio tapped to lead FLX entrepreneurial initiative

FAYETTE — Mike Nozzolio spent a lot of time as a state senator working on economic development initiatives in his district.

And now he has been asked to a lead a new effort to promote the Finger Lakes as a great place to live and do business.

The Stardust Entrepreneurial Center, based in Auburn, was expected to announce the Stardust Finger Lakes Initiative today as part of an effort to build business and career opportunities in the Finger Lakes region.

“I’m thrilled to be participating,” said Nozzolio on Monday. “I love this area. It’s a wonderful area.”

And it’s an area where there is still untapped potential for more economic growth, he said.

The Stardust Entrepreneurial Center notes the Finger Lakes region’s “outstanding natural beauty and livability, record numbers of tourists and wine and craft beverage enthusiasts and growing national and international attention.”

It’s time to build off those assets, said the group, headed by the Auburn area’s Jack Bisgrove, co-founder of the Stardust Entrepreneurial Center, with his brother Jerry Bisgrove. Their family founded Red Star Express Lines trucking company, and the brothers have been involved in economic development efforts in Cayuga County.

“As the Finger Lakes tourism brand is growing, the time is ripe to further identify our region as the place to recruit new business ventures, as well as highlight our robust environment for innovation, business opportunity and entrepreneurship,” said Jack Bisgrove in a press release. “The Finger Lakes region is not only a great place to visit, but a perfect location to create new business and career opportunities, live, work and raise your family.”

The effort looks to cultivate regional job development for all business sectors, not just the tourism industry, where growth has been driven by the region’s reputation for great wine and food.

Nozzolio pointed to the area’s regional assets, including the work of Cornell University and its Geneva Agricultural Experiment Station. He said those strengths can be promoted on a larger scale.

Nozzolio also wants the counties and communities within the Finger Lakes to find ways to collaborate on economic development efforts. An example could include finding appropriate work space for an existing or potential business in a multiple-county approach.

He noted groups such as the Greater Rochester Enterprise and Center State in Syracuse, which focus on business development in their respective metro counties. The Stardust Entrepreneurial Initiative hopes to use a similar, but smaller scale, model, said Nozzolio, who left the state Senate at the end of 2016 after 24 years. He also served 10 years in the Assembly.

However, Nozzolio and the center stressed, the goal is not to do work already being done, but to augment efforts in a collaborative way.

“We’re not looking to replace or duplicate,” Nozzolio said, explaining that one of his first charges is to reach out to those involved in business development and education to develop ways the Finger Lakes can be more effectively promoted for business development.

That thought was echoed by Jack Bisgrove.

“Our initiative does not seek to reinvent the wheel, but rather we want our efforts to help make the wheel turn faster to move the Finger Lakes economy forward.”

He said Nozzolio “has the background, experience, respect (and) ability to encourage collaboration, and the proven track record to lead this effort.”

Nozzolio said the Stardust Entrepreneurial Initiative can provide “essential branding of the Finger Lakes as an excellent place to grow business enterprise.”

He said the center plans to roll out a number of business-development initiatives in the future, but stressed that the organization is still in the formation stages, including getting non- or not-for-profit status.

Among its other efforts, the group wants to cultivate internships for students attending established business and entrepreneurship programs at area colleges and universities.


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