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      Say Yes to donations: Matt's Memo

      Bob Congel.
      The man behind the newly expanded Destiny USA is taking a little off the top of his fortune and sending a check to the Say Yes to Education foundation that helps send Syracuse students to college tuition free. Bob Congel and his wife Sue are donating $100,000 to the foundation. It is a generous donation. A positive example for other titans of business in our region.

      Say Yes to Education is intimately involved with the running of the Syracuse school district. It had a hand in selecting the current superintendent, it offers educational support in conjunction with Syracuse University and it provides college scholarships to students who meet broad requirements. Mayor Stephanie Miner has put great faith in the program for improving education across lines of poverty in the city. The scholarship piece also adds value to families choosing to reside within city limits instead of heading for the suburbs.

      In addition to the financial donation, the Congel's are offering up their seats at the table of a NY City gala event to Syracuse Say Yes students to attend. Great idea and what an experience for the teens.

      Back to the magnitude of the donation. About ten years ago Bob Congel's wealth was estimated by Forbes at $700,000,000. He was listed as one of the Top 400 wealthiest people in America. Most likely the total wealth has dropped a bit since those heady days. But consider the numbers. Compare a man who has $700,000,000 in the bank to one with a more common sum of $70,000. On a relative scale that $100,000 donation is equivalent to a $1 donation.

      Many of us have enjoyed a visit to the expanded Destiny over the last few months. The added food, entertainment and shopping options have breathed a little new life into a Central New York winter. The deal to build out the mall and give it a new name has suffered well documented criticism. The breaks and benefits from the state and federal tax dollars have measured in the tens of millions of dollars.

      In 2011, Mark Bergen wrote in Forbes about the enormous public investment in the giant retail complex known as Destiny. "Mounting evidence shows that these lofty public investments bring rewards to a few, at the expense of city businesses and taxpayers."

      One of those few who has reaped those rewards has now given back a bit for the future of students in the city where he grew up.

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