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Greater Rochester—A Global Innovation Leader

Guest Essay – November, 2019

By Matt Hurlbutt
President & CEO, Greater Rochester Enterprise (GRE)

Matt Hurlbutt

Rochester, NY, has been a global innovation leader for more than 100 years. Laser printing, digital imaging, Ethernet, user interface technology, and countless other developments in software and hardware programming and design originated here, and new transformative technologies continue to emerge from the region’s ecosystem.

Higher education institutions, including Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), University of Rochester (UR), and dozens of others produce an exceptional tech talent pipeline to support artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, sensor technology, cybersecurity, audiovisual 3D, and robotics. Companies that locate in our region benefit from top schools and talent, affordability, globally influential R&D, low-cost power, a vibrant arts and culture scene, and a welcoming community.

Our industry profile—imaging plus a whole lot more

More people are employed in the Greater Rochester, NY region now than when Kodak and Xerox were at their peak employment in the 1980s. With approximately 97% of companies in our area employing fewer than 100 people, small and mid-sized companies are currently fueling our economy. We indeed remain the imaging capital, with more than 150 optics, photonics, and imaging companies to support this thriving sector. However, Rochester is a mix of different industry strengths including food and beverage manufacturing, supported by our abundant agricultural resources, fully integrated supply chain, and more than 250 food and beverage manufacturers such as LiDestri Food and Drink, Mott’s, Barilla, and HP Hood.

We are also becoming a hub for fast-growing information technology and software companies. There are hundreds of jobs available right now in Rochester at outstanding companies—Cannon Industries, Catalant Technologies, CloudCheckr, Datto, Garlock, IDEX Health & Science, ITX, Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning, L3Harris, LiDestri Food and Drink, Love Beets, Monro, Optimax, Palmer Foods, Panasonic, Paychex, Rochester Precision Optics, Orolia, Security Risk Advisors, Z-Axis and many more.

GRE helps to bring companies and jobs to Rochester

Since the beginning of 2019, GRE has managed 23 projects that have been winners for our community, yielding more than $144 million of new capital investments, creation of 835 new jobs and retention of 2,246 jobs. We pride ourselves on connecting business leaders to the right people and the right resources to expand in the nine-county Greater Rochester, NY region.

The rule in the economic development industry is that 80% of a local economy will come from companies that already have a local presence. ITX, Monro, Inc., and One Frozen, a joint venture between LiDestri Food & Drink and Crop’s, are just a few local companies that have expanded their operations in our community over the last year. Our region has also seen an influx of expansions from new companies investing here. Software companies like Philadelphia-based Security Risk Advisors and Boston-based Catalant Technology recently established offices in Rochester to benefit from our exceptional talent pipeline, lower cost of doing business, and tech ecosystem.

Businesses find Rochester has much to offer

We have much to tout about our region, including our ranking as the #1 market for degrees in STEM programs among large metro areas and commercial real estate rates 45% lower than the national average. However, it is often the intangible, positive feeling visitors get when they visit us that tips the scale in Rochester’s favor. Pat Petitti, the co-founder of Catalant Technologies, was “blown away by the quality of people” here. His team conducted a mini-research project to compare the quality and availability of talent in Rochester with Northern California, Austin, and Atlanta. In the end, they chose Rochester. For Security Risk Advisors, their HR team recently attended an RIT career fair and quickly realized there was no reason to recruit cybersecurity college graduates from any other school.

With 59 active business projects in GRE’s pipeline and 17 projects likely to be announced as wins in the next several months, there are no signs of a slow-down in our work to grow the Greater Rochester, NY region’s economy.

While the industries vary, there is a common theme across these projects. Each company is eyeing Rochester because of our highly skilled workforce and the deep industry expertise we have from our legacy assets in optics, photonics, and imaging to software, information technology to food and beverage manufacturing. We offer a lower cost of doing business without sacrificing the caliber of the workforce. And employees can enjoy an exceptional lifestyle, ranked by US News and World Report as the 13th best place to live in the US for quality of life.

How can you help grow Greater Rochester’s regional economy? It’s pretty simple. Be positive—on social media, and in your everyday interactions with others. We at GRE are here to help connect the business community to the assets that will help accelerate their organizations and keep our market growing.