SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — They have wrapped up day one of the first ever Syracuse Surge Summit and while it had to be shifted to virtual only, it is not stopping the mission behind this massive initiative of Mayor Ben Walsh.

“The foundation we’ve laid with the Syracuse Surge before the pandemic is already paying dividends and will continue to as we recover,” said Walsh.

The city’s $30 million investment in smart street lights was the foundational investment in Syracuse Surge and helped attract local partners and global ones, like Microsoft. The company committed a year ago to help Syracuse build an innovation economy and connect people.

“We want to be there and help the city and its mission to be a regional hub of innovation,” said Donna Woodall, director of Citizenship and Market Development Northeast Region for Microsoft.

Microsoft not only won’t let a pandemic stop it from helping Syracuse Surge, it is also helping us get through the pandemic by doing things like developing a program to aid SUNY Upstate Medical with a flood of COVID-related calls.

“So, while the Chat Bot was a great go-to to help address some of the COVID-19 concerns and help people identify how severe symptoms might be, this is technology that can be used on-going,” said Woodall.

We’re inviting our local businesses and partners, global partners, to come to Syracuse, at least virtually, and say, ‘Okay, we’ve made this investment. Here are the other initiatives we have going, where can you plug and play, where can you invest, where can we do more.’

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh

The Steam School, expansion of the Tech Garden, attracted Microsoft here and are also keeping the company on board.

“We’re committed to Syracuse, we’re committed to economic improvement and economic development, we’re committed to helping the citizens thrive as much as possible,” said Woodall.

Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband service is live as of Tuesday in parts of Syracuse, which is something the mayor said is another key piece for the Surge.

Through the Surge initiative, Microsoft has been able to do some of the following things:

  • Support Syracuse University OI-school to analyze city data and find trends and where to put or reallocate resources
  • Provide a Microsoft AI Accessibility Grant to Our Ability to help people get hired for their capabilities vs. disabilities
  • Co-hosted the ESports Summit with SU I-School and Electronic Gaming Foundation
  • Hosted an Artificial Intelligence Summit called EPIC AI to help Syracuse high school students
  • SU and the Syracuse City School District collaborate using the TEAMS collaboration technology