Press-Republican

August 31, 2008

Two get key posts at Empire State Development

By DAN HEATH

PLATTSBURGH -- Gov. David Paterson has nominated two people to key posts in the Empire State Development Corp.

In a news release, he announced the appointment of Citi Markets and Banking Global Head of Compliance Marisa Lago as the corporation's president and chief executive officer. He also announced the appointment of Greater Rochester Enterprises Inc. President and CEO Dennis Mullen as the corporation's upstate president.

"These two appointments will begin a new chapter for New York state. Along with the appointment of Robert Wilmers, the naming of Marisa Lago and Dennis Mullen will bring new vitality to our economic-development mission," Paterson said.

Lago and Mullen will report to Wilmers, the former chairman and CEO of Buffalo-based M&T Bank, who was named chairman of Empire State Development in June.

Lago will be based in Manhattan and have oversight of economic-development issues throughout the state. She will be working with Wilmers to choose a downstate president.

Prior to Citi Markets and Banking, Lago worked at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. She also has experience as chief economic-development officer for the City of Boston, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and as general counsel of the New York City Economic Redevelopment Authority.

Mullen will be based in Rochester and will oversee all upstate Empire State Development offices and projects. Prior to his stint with Greater Rochester Enterprises, he had 28 years of experience in senior leadership positions with Birds Eye Foods, Globe Products Companies, Nalley's Fine Foods and Comstock Foods.

Paterson said it is crucial to understand how to make the upstate region -- and all of New York -- attractive to business.

"Dennis Mullen's business and economic development acumen, paired with his deep appreciation for and understanding of upstate New York, will be vital as we bolster our growth strategy for the upstate economy," he said.

Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas welcomed the announcement of a new upstate president.

"Dennis is a respected colleague who has done outstanding work as president of Greater Rochester Enterprise. He knows upstate first hand, and his appointment fulfills the governor's pledge to provide us with strong leadership in the shared quest to revitalize upstate New York, including the North Country," he said in a separate news release.

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer split the department leadership when he appointed Patrick Foye to head the corporation's New York City economic-development efforts and Daniel Gunderson to do the same for upstate.

Foye resigned shortly after Spitzer did, and Gunderson resigned in June when it became apparent Paterson wanted to return the corporation to a single leader.

"There was some concern a few months ago when Gov. Paterson moved to reorganize Empire State Development, but the new structure makes sense, with a unified statewide CEO, which was lacking, but still providing an upstate president with a mandate to focus specifically on our regional needs and opportunities," Douglas said.

He said the chamber has already reached out to Mullen directly and through the governor's office.

"We are genuinely looking forward to what we know will be an active collaboration going forward," Douglas said.

dheath@pressrepublican.com