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Empire State Development President Steps Down

From left, Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, Howard Zemsky, former Empire State Development Corp. president and CEO, Cathy Young, former state senator, state Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Vince Horrigan, former county executive, in August 2016 when state officials announced Jamestown would receive $10 million in funding through the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative program. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

The Buffalo businessman who has been heading the Empire State Development Corp. since 2015 is stepping down.

Earlier this month, it was announced Howard Zemsky will no longer be the president and CEO of Empire State Development Corp., but will remain as the chairman of the agency’s board of directors.

During Zemsky’s tenure as Empire State Development Corp. he has played a role in the Consolidated Funding Application grants received by county organizations through the Regional Economic Development Council process. He also played a role in Jamestown being selected as the first recipient in the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council to be awarded the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative program funding.

Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, said he is disappointed to see Zemsky move on from being president and CEO of Empire State Development Corp., but appreciates the quality work he did during his tenure.

“I’m very, very sorry to see him move on, but as it is with positions like this and people of tremendous high-caliber like Howard, they come in do their due diligence and then move on to other chapters of their life,” Teresi said. “He is the real deal. One of the best people I had an opportunity to work with during my long term history in government.”

Teresi said he met Zemsky in 2011 after Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the Regional Economic Development Council, of which Teresi was appointed as a member of the board while Zemsky was the chairman.

“He did a tremendous job for us so much so that when the CEO for Empire State Development opened up the governor snatched Howard and brought him on to his team,” he said. “The next director will have huge shoes to fill.”

County Executive George Borrello said he enjoyed working with Zemsky and appreciated that Zemsky referenced Borrello’s workforce development report he created after visiting 100 business in 100 days during a presentation in Buffalo on the governor’s budget earlier this year.

“He had a keen awareness of what businesses faced in New York,” Borrello said. “That business savvy in that position was important. He will be missed in that capacity.”

Borrello said he appreciated that Zemsky, a native of Brooklyn who grew up on Long Island and then a long-time Buffalo businessman, not only understood economic development in large cities, but also in rural areas.

“He was very familiar with Chautauqua County because he owns a house inside (Chautauqua) Institution,” Borrello said. “He has seen the economic impacts in the county, both negative and positive. It helped him have a better perspective (of the county) when it came to decide what projects that should receive funding. Even though he had more of a background in Buffalo and New York City, he understood the challenges facing rural areas, especially in Chautauqua County.”

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