For those who aren't familiar with the coalition, let me give you some background. The Rochester Community Coalition is a group of 22 representatives of business, labor, government, non-profits, education and the faith community who have united to speak with one voice on key issues for our region. Each year, we compile an agenda of the major projects we're asking the state to support, projects that with funding and support will result in economic benefits and jobs for our region. Our mission is to let our elected officials in Albany know that we are united as a community and willing to work together to secure what is needed for our success.
This is the third year we've convened the coalition, which got its start as the Rochester Fair Share Coalition. Then we had a single agenda item-parity in state funding for the city of Rochester. Last year, after numerous meetings with organizations and leaders across the community, we decided to take an unprecedented step for this community and expand the coalition's message to include seven projects. We took that message to Albany and were successful in obtaining full or significant funding for six of the items on our list.
We learned a lot in the process. For one, we learned that more can be accomplished when we are united. Rather than pitting many worthy community endeavors against each other in a battle for limited money from Albany, we identified those projects and programs we felt were most important. Our elected local leaders told us they appreciated that, because it allowed them to work with us to support items on which we-as leaders of the community-all agree.
This year, the coalition convened with a clear understanding of the serious financial issues facing our state. Still, we feel it is imperative that the state invest in Upstate economic development. An improved Upstate economy will ultimately draw more business and generate more revenue, which will benefit all of New York. The state's tight finances simply make identifying our region's top priorities for investment even more important.
The 2009 Rochester Community Coalition agenda lists six projects totaling $78.5 million. It's a far smaller request than the $215 million in projects the coalition put forth last year. But as with last year's agenda, each item on this year's list meets the coalition's criteria of promoting job growth and improving the local economy.
I'm going to briefly recap the list. For more information, you can go to www.RochesterBusinessAlliance.com. The agenda includes:
--Continued progress toward equity in state Aid and Incentives to Municipalities funding and mandate relief for the city of Rochester.
--$8.5 million of investment in child care for low-income families through supporting a community plan developed by United Way of Greater Rochester and the Early Childhood Development Initiative.
--$30 million for Renaissance Square. The projected return is $60 million in additional spending by the time the theater opens and a 100 percent return on this investment in tax dollars within seven years after the theater opens.
--$38 million for the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at Rochester Institute of Technology. Last year we requested $50 million and got $12 million for this project, which is expected to create 6,000 permanent jobs and $650 million in local earning potential.
--$1 million to expand the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, a national model, doubling graduation rates for at-risk middle and high school students by providing academic counseling and work experience.
--$1 million for the Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science, funding that would be used to involve thousands of students and their teachers in activities that promote interest in math, science and technology.
--Legislative reform to allow wine sales in grocery markets, convenience stores and drug stores, expected to add jobs at wine and grape producers and to boost state revenue-including $150 million in franchise fees and $50 million annually in taxes on increased sales.
Today the coalition's members met with Rochester-area state legislators to present our agenda. We'll be sending a letter about it to Albany leaders, and we're planning to meet in the coming weeks with officials and staffs involved in budget negotiations. New this year: The coalition plans to meet with the area's congressional representatives to discuss ways in which the economic stimulus package and other federal spending can be targeted to meet local priorities.
In the coming days, we'll be asking the community for support as well-asking people to send messages of support for the Rochester Community Coalition's agenda to our state leadership. Stay tuned for more on this important campaign.
Sandra A. Parker is president and chief executive of the Rochester Business Alliance. She can be reached at SandyP@RBAlliance.com.
01/16/2009 (C) Rochester Business Journal