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What Happened To The Proposed Microsoft Tech Hub In Syracuse? One Councilor Sits On Email Upgrade Until He Finds Out

microsoft announcement 11-19.jpg
Scott Willis
/
WAER News
Officials gather at SU's iSchool in Nov. 2019 for Microsoft's announcement of a planned technology hub in Syracuse. There's been no movement since.

Syracuse Common Councilors are holding off on spending more than a half million dollars of federal pandemic relief funds with Microsoft to modernize the city’s email and other office software.  At least one councilor is reluctant to move the item forward after nearly a month on the agenda.

It was nearly two years ago, in early November 2019, when Microsoft came to town to announce a new partnership with Syracuse University and the City of Syracuse. Remember this?

"...will officially kick off a new digital alliance. Under the agreement, Microsoft would make Syracuse its first Northeast Technology Hub..." reported WAER's Katie Zilcosky in a Nov. 7, 2019 newscast.

Council finance committee chair Michael Greene says even more troubling is the city’s request to waive competitive bids for the email and software upgrade and just hand the deal to Microsoft after no movement on the hub.

"They were going to make an investment in Syracuse, open up a physical location, create jobs, and then, they've gone dark. The administration will say they can't get an answer from them, they can't get any kind of communication. To then turn around and say we're going to give them a half million dollars when they have not been a good partner on [their previous commitment], that concerns me."

Greene says in communications with the administration, the company makes vague references to the pandemic and economy for the delay on the technology hub. But Greene says Microsoft’s stock price has doubled while they’ve left the city waiting in limbo.

"They certainly have the resources. If they don't want to open a physical location in the southern end of downtown, they can invest in the community by hiring people remotely or doing something else. Instead we've gotten no answer, and to me that seems like a good time to ask them if they're still committed to the city of Syracuse."

Microsoft’s technology hub was slated to be part of the Syracuse Surge plan for the struggling neighborhood just south of downtown. Greene says administration officials are scheduled to meet with the company next month to get more clarity. Meanwhile, he says he still has questions about the email upgrade, including if the company will raise prices at the end of the proposed three year contract.