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RBJ event looks at economic outlook for the region

Rochester Business Journal
February 13, 2014

VIEW SLIDESHOW. (Photo by Kimberly McKinzie)

Business and community leaders met Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Rochester to discuss the region’s economic outlook for 2014. The event included an analysis of the results of an annual research study by the Siena College Research Institute that evaluated Rochester’s outlook for the next five years.

The event--2014 Economic Outlook: Rochester and the Upstate Region--was part of the RBJ Power Breakfast Series. Nearly 200 people attended. (View Slideshow.)

The RBJ-Siena Business Leaders Survey, a component of the Siena College Research Institute Upstate New York Business Leaders Survey, showed Rochester as the only market among the four Upstate New York markets surveyed—along with Albany, Buffalo and Syracuse—with a drop in confidence by area business leaders.

“What caught my eye was that there’s a little bit of a chip on Rochester’s shoulder this year whereas a few years ago Rochester actually stood out as the most optimistic region,” said Donald Levy, director of the Siena Research Institute. “Rochester feels a little bit this year that they’ve been passed by, that there is this excitement (at) both the other two ends of the Thruway.

“There’s an excitement about high tech in Albany and there’s excitement about the billion-dollar investment taking place in Buffalo, so as a consequence the business leaders in Rochester say a little bit of ‘Hey, what about us?’”

Rochester’s business leader confidence index was 85.7, compared with 94.6 across upstate, and well below the breakeven point of 100 where optimism and pessimism meet.

The aim of the event was to bring community leaders together to delve into the implications for the region behind the research. Optics, photonics and imaging; commercial and residential real estate; the automotive industry; and the legislative and policy initiatives of New York were addressed by a panel of speakers. ESL Federal Credit Union was the event’s presenting sponsor.

The five panelists were Levy; Thomas Battley, executive director for the New York Photonics Cluster; Laurence Glazer, CEO and managing partner of Buckingham Properties LLC; Bradley McAreavy, president of the Rochester Automobile Dealers Association; and Sandra Parker, president and CEO of Rochester Business Alliance Inc.

The annual survey’s participants included 651 CEOs in the upstate region, with 190 of them from Rochester. It took place from September to December 2013.

When asked if New York was a friendly environment for businesses, 65 percent of business leaders viewed the business environment negatively with their frustration stemming from the business relationships with government and the slow growth of the economy, Levy said.

The study also found New York business leaders usually fell into three categories concerning future perspective: optimistic, treading water and pessimistic. Rochester business leaders were found to be 24 percent optimistic about the future compared with the entire upstate region, which was 31 percent optimistic.

The challenges Rochester faces will require segments of the community to support each other, Levy said.

“It’s a new tomorrow,” Levy said. “What worked yesterday obviously is gone here in Rochester, and I think Rochester is adjusting to that. But the tomorrow is going to be created jointly by the business community, by the higher ed community, and by the workforce here. There is a tomorrow, but the transition is going to be a little rocky over the next one- to five-year period.”

(c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail

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