Howard Zemsky

In January 2015, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo nominated Howard Zemsky to serve as president and CEO of Empire State Development and Commissioner of the New York State Department of Economic Development. Commissioner Zemsky was confirmed by the Senate on March 30, 2015.

Empire State Development (ESD) is the chief economic development agency of New York State.

Commissioner Zemsky and his colleagues — more than 450 people working in regional offices around the state — manage a broad range of programs, incentives and services designed to increase private sector investment and job creation in New York. Commissioner Zemsky works closely with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and with the regional co-chairs to successfully implement the plans of the 10 regional economic development councils, the governor’s decentralized, collaborative and strategic approach to economic development.

Prior to coming to ESD, Commissioner Zemsky co-chaired the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and worked on initiatives aimed at revitalizing the upstate economy. A longtime Buffalo business leader, Zemsky’s company, Larkin Development Group, has redeveloped approximately 1 million square feet of historic building space in Buffalo since 2002, with a particular focus on reclaiming Buffalo’s earliest industrial neighborhood, the Larkin Historic District.

In recent years, Commissioner Zemsky has also chaired the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and the SUNY (State University of New York) Buffalo State College Council. He has also served as president of the Richardson Center Corporation, a nonprofit board charged with rehabilitation of the 140-year-old Richardson Olmsted Complex.

Commissioner Zemsky has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and an MBA from the University of Rochester. He is a Brooklyn native, raised on Long Island, and a longtime resident of Buffalo, where he and his wife Leslie have lived for 30 years with their three children.

ESD leadership at a glance

See an entire organizational chart of Empire State Development.

Board of Directors

The Corporation is governed by a board of directors comprising two ex-officio members and seven members appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate. The chair of the Empire State Development Board is selected by the governor. Board members serve without compensation. 

Howard Zemsky, Ex-Officio Director
Empire State Development, President and CEO
NYS Department of Economic Development, Commissioner
Confirmed - March 30, 2015

Derrick D. Cephas, Esq., Director
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, Partner
Confirmed - January 29, 2008
Reappointed - May 20, 2009

Robert R. Dyson, Director
The Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corporation, Chairman and CEO
Confirmed - March 16, 2010
Reappointed - June 20, 2012

Hilda Rosario Escher, Director
Ibero-American Action League, President and CEO
Confirmed - June 16, 2015

Eric J. Gertler, Director
U.S. News & World Report, Chairman
Ulysses Ventures, CEO
Confirmed – June 20, 2018

Cesar A. Perales, Director
Confirmed - June 17, 2016

Maria T. Vullo, Ex Officio Director
NYS Department of Financial Services, Superintendent
Appointed - February 23, 2016

Board meetings

The board typically meets the third Thursday of every month.


You can find board meeting archives here.

ESD Executive Management Team

Howard Zemsky – President & CEO, Commissioner
Kevin Younis – Chief Operating Officer & Deputy Commissioner
Elizabeth Fine – EVP, Legal & General Counsel
Rhoda Glickman – SVP, Film, Arts & New Media Development
Ed Hamilton – Sr. Deputy Commissioner for Finance & Administration
Elaine Kloss – Chief Financial Officer
Michael Lefebvre – EVP, Public Policy, Planning & Incentives
Holly Leicht – EVP, Real Estate Development and Planning
Richard Newman – EVP, State Marketing Strategy
Jeff Nordhaus – EVP, Innovation & Broadband
Pravina Raghavan – EVP, Small Business Services & Community Economic Development
Kay Sarlin Wright – EVP, Public Affairs & Strategic Initiatives

For more information, contact:
ESD Office of Public Affairs
(800) 260-7313