Steering Committee Member Spotlight: John Neri

John Neri

Bank of America

John NeriWhat is a fun fact about yourself? I recently started a YouTube channel. Simply search JohnNeriCNY and it should come up on YouTube.  I love small business, so I’ve started a DJ business and now am venturing into the Social Media Realm.

What are your guiding principles in life? Judging a man by his motives is not for man to judge.  I truly believe that anyone is capable of anything, good or bad.  I try to help people make the right decisions because I know that I’ve had some great mentors over the years.  The keys for me are feeding three aspects of my life: Spiritual, Mental, Physical.  If I’m able to do this consistently, I can develop and maintain myself. The greatest investment anyone can make is in themselves.  It’s a process.

Also, I truly believe in keeping people around you that will check you.  It’s great to have positive people around you, but the greatest lessons I’ve learned are from people that have challenged me.

What is one thing you want people in the community to know about you? The one thing I want people in this community to know about me is that I truly care about them and Central New York.

The relationships I had in my childhood, I maintain today and continue to develop.  Growing up in the 90’s, when manufacturing was booming, my childhood was amazing.  I grew up on W. Florence Ave on the Southside.  We had working families that help raise each other’s kids, just like the saying, “It takes a community.” Today, people may not realize the potential that this area has.  The potential is there and I want to be a part of it developing to where it once was and beyond.

Do you have any words of wisdom for other young leaders? Soak it in, challenge it with humility, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Also, risk taking is important only after understanding the consequences.

What attracted you to Syracuse and why did you decide to stay in the area? As mentioned previously, I’m from Syracuse.  I moved back shortly after college. I stayed because I know the potential this area has.  We can look at a modern day example of Flint, Michigan. When you don’t have clean water, life becomes very difficult.  I’ve been saying for years that our water quality is some of the best in the country.  People tend to laugh because who moves somewhere for water?  Well, when people realize that it is maybe the most important aspect of surviving, it is extremely substantial.

What do you like about Central New York? Central New York offers a variety of things within a short distance.  Whether it’s the beauty of the Finger Lakes or the Adirondacks, hiking, trails, downtown, athletics, theater…there really is something for everyone if you’re willing to explore.

What do you hope to improve in Central New York? I love small business.  I feel like I can really help small business grow in the area.  We need a balance of both Big and Small Business.  When Chrysler, GM, Carrier, etc are no longer the backbone of our workforce, we need to find other areas.  “Meds and Eds,” Ann Gallagher once said to me about Syracuse.  Which is true.  We do well with Healthcare and Education.  It’s my job to help small business, so that is what I am improving in Central New York.  We need to attract Big Business to become a power house like we once were.

How would you attract and keep the youth in the Syracuse area? I have an idea for the Say Yes program that I’m working to develop currently. The issue is that many tax dollars are invested into education, where the best students take that investment and make their living elsewhere.  I can’t blame them.  If they find the opportunity elsewhere, they have to do what is best for them.  I believe that Syracuse has what they need, locally. It’s a matter of connecting minds.  Syracuse has a cost of living that on a good income goes a long way.  In NYC, you have to make quadruple the income just to maintain a Syracuse lifestyle.  I mentioned earlier the sights and experiences you can have in a short distance.  Try finding a golf course in NYC.

Where do you see the community in the next 10 years? I see this community as a technology hub that specializes in clean energy production, specifically.   I would settle for another form of manufacturing, but I do think that this is the future.

Is there a local leader you admire and if so, why? Rob Simpson does a great job representing the community and breaking down the needs that are most pressing on Central New York economic growth.  Kim Townsend truly is a leader that makes time for young people.  She is consistently growing young leaders.  I truly believe Helen Hudson is as honest a leader as you can find, not only in modern politics, but in general.   I wouldn’t be responding to this piece if it wasn’t for Anne Tindall and Marianne Ferris. They have a great impact on people in both business and young leaders.  I know this question didn’t ask for a plural answer, but there are many others I know personally that have been tremendous leaders in this community.  These are few that have impacted people on a large scale.

On a personal level, there would be too many to mention, but they know who they are.  I try to reflect weekly and thank those that have impacted my life.

What have you learned while in YLU that you didn’t know before? It was on a Salvation Army tour, that I was able to see some of the different programs that the Salvation Army has to offer.  It was life changing. I thought that the Salvation Army was a thrift store and wow, was I mistaken to be so short sighted.  I didn’t understand what United Way did before.  Giving to United Way is the most efficient way to give to the most basic needs of the community.  They are a protection on your investment back to the community. Many of the times that I haven’t given, root from not knowing how that money is being utilized.

YLU has also helped me develop a network of people that truly care about others.  The people in this group are not looking for personal gain, first.  If it comes, that’s great.  Firstly, they are in this group because they are like-minded people that care about CNY.  For a little more than $20 a month,  I am able to develop as a person, increase my network, and most importantly – help those that need it in Central New York.

What YLU event had the greatest impact on you and why? The Community Build To End Homelessness was the most impactful moment for me.  Not only was a refreshing to know that I was a part of something to help people become independent, again, but also I was able to see leaders like Kim Townsend in action.  She wasn’t afraid to get dirty, bring her leaders, and show that true leadership is led from the front.

Why do you believe in giving back to your community through Young Leaders financial and volunteer commitment? This goes hand and hand.  It’s good to give. It’s good to volunteer.  When you’re able to do both, you feel the investment come to life.  That is a great feeling.