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A Positive Future for Rochester Businesses

Robert Duffy and the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce logoGuest Essay - September, 2018

By Bob Duffy
President and CEO , Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce

Right now is an exciting time in the Rochester and Finger Lakes region as it is exploding with economic development projects.  New York State has invested more than $2 billion in our region since 2011 and almost all of that money is already earmarked for projects that have put us in the midst of a huge transformation. 

ROC the Riverway brings with it a number of development projects along the Genesee River corridor in the City of Rochester.  The University of Rochester’s Data Science Consortium and RIT’s MAGIC Center have us at the cutting edge of technology, LiveTiles has located its North American Intelligent User Experience Hub in the High Falls district, and many other projects from Geneva to Penn Yan to Batavia have the Finger Lakes moving forward at a pace I have not seen before. 

Sometimes, the public at large does not see what truly is happening on our region’s economic development front.  I do have a history of perspective from my time as Rochester mayor during the recession.  Money and investment were not flowing for our community and our region.  But fortunately, we’ve seen a change, and we are now benefiting from more investment in our region. The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council has been a great asset by convening leaders from across our nine counties to prioritize projects.  The council has done an excellent job to ensure that we invest in the most high-impact and geographically diverse projects that can benefit us now and well into our future.  

With growth always the goal, I believe that we are well-positioned now for a transformative future.

Now, as Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, I am so pleased to see what is happening around us.  Some of these projects are up and running now and some may take years to come to fruition.  With growth always the goal, I believe that we are well-positioned now for a transformative future.  

The challenge that we now face is to keep getting better with our teamwork and collaboration across the region. We have made great progress in this area in just the past year, but there is certainly more room to improve in the long term.  I recently traveled with a group of regional economic development and community leaders to Columbus, Ohio, a region that is doing superbly well economically.  We not only learned a great deal from their leaders about creating strong, collaborative relationships, but also came back feeling a sense of pride about what is going on here at home.  

Yes, we will periodically see companies and initiatives fail.  It happens across our region and across our country.  Not every startup finds success.  Sometimes these failures are publicized and magnified and viewed as a sign of a weakening Rochester and Finger Lakes region economy.  I take the opposite position.  I believe that when failure happens, we acknowledge it and remember that one thing that Rochester has been incredibly strong at is absorbing downsizings and finding landing spots for strong, displaced talent.  The workforce has assimilated into other areas and kept our economy humming.  That part of the story doesn’t make the news.  We focus on the downsizings but not the other growth opportunities that come out of them. 

In closing, I would like to thank ESL Federal Credit Union for its strong corporate leadership and stewardship in our region.  ESL consistently supports business and philanthropic investments that make Rochester and the Finger Lakes an always improving place to live, work, and do business.  Like I saw in Columbus, it is the community coming together that really makes a difference and we are seeing that happen here in Rochester. 

While we may not yet be where we want to go, we are getting there quickly and should all be pleased with the path we’re taking.