Facing financial troubles, the CNY Regional Market’s new CEO said he’ll focus on the parts of the organization that many marketgoers don’t necessarily see.  

A week after he was appointed to the new position of chief executive officer following the termination of the previous executive director, Bill Fisher said the core of the CNY Regional Market — the farmer’s market held on Saturdays and Thursdays — is going well.

“There are some other parts of the business that generate cash flow that’s needed for the farmers market and the flea market to be successful and that’s owning and leasing the buildings and land and that’s not going well,” Fisher said in a sit-down interview with Spectrum News 1 on Monday. 

Fisher took on the role following a state comptroller’s audit in May that showed the expenses far exceeded revenues.

Amanda Vitale was terminated from her position as executive director of the market during a board meeting a week ago, but a requirement in her contract for a 180-day notice will keep her working at the market for the next six months, but in a different role yet to be determined.  

Before becoming chief executive, Fisher was deputy county executive for Onondaga County from 2009 to 2018. In 1991, he founded his own software company and served as its CEO for 18 years.  

The comptroller’s report highlighted the purchase of a $3.2 million warehouse located on Hiawatha Boulevard that now sits empty as one financial drain.  

“We’re looking very actively at our entire real estate portfolio, looking at buildings, looking at storage sheds, looking at warehouses, that we have and trying to figure out in the short run. How do we turn some of that around and get some cash coming in here from those assets?” Fisher said.  

The Onondaga County Department of Planning has also put out a request for proposals for the warehouse, Fisher said. Additionally, a Middle Eastern grocery store will open there later this month.  

The store will fill the space previously occupied by Buda’s Meats and Produce, which closed in January 2022 after three decades operating in the space. Buda’s owner Vicki Griffith blamed the market’s previous management for her departure.

The buildings that make up the market have needed repairs for decades, and many were built in the 1930s. Last year, New York state didn’t fulfill a request from the market, a state agency, for $90 million to make infrastructure improvements. 

“The first priority is to take the buildings that we’re trying to rent and make sure that they’re in rentable condition,” Fisher said.  

However, investments are needed to make some of these repairs.  

“I’ll be meeting with local representatives of the New York state Legislature. I know Assemblyman [Bill] Magnarelli has been very supportive and I’ve worked with him on some projects. Sen. [Rachel] May has also expressed interest in getting involved,” Fisher said. May said in an interview that the state wouldn’t move forward with funding unless they saw a plan for change from the market.  

Magnarelli and May sponsored legislation this past session that awaits Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature that will add four new positions to the board of directors — two from the county and two from the city of Syracuse.

During the July 1 board meeting, Vitale said morale among the staff was low, however, Fisher said things have improved this week.  

“Now that [the staff] know that there is a plan in place, they know who the leader is, I’ve met all of them face-to-face. There has been a lot of communication, so I think we’re seeing a very quick turnaround, and the staff is very capable of doing what they were hired to do,” Fisher said.  

The previous facilities manager resigned, along with a cleaning person, and a security person retired. There are no plans to fill those positions.  

“We’re looking at how to cover all that work without replacing those positions because one of the things that’s needed here is to narrow the gap between our operating revenue and our operating expenses,” Fisher said.  

Vendors and tenants have expressed their encouragement for the new leadership.  

“It is with profound excitement that we welcome a new director at the market and the proposed legislation from Bill Magnarelli to improve transparency and oversight of the board. It’s our hope to have a business partner that takes a personal interest in seeing their tenants succeed in an ever-challenging environment,” Tony Imbesi, who owns the Market Diner with his wife Elaine, said in a statement.

Imbesi said the diner will celebrate its 50th anniversary, and this change in leadership is going to ensure the security of their business. 

“We hope to hand it off to our staff and children on solid footing. Our staff, guests and customers deserve it,” Imbesi said.  

As Fisher walked through the farmers market on Saturday, he said he was grateful to talk with some of the farmers as well about his plans going forward.

“We want to see them continue to thrive, and once they understood that they would only have more opportunities to be successful, they seemed very happy about that,” he said.