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Community Agenda sets priorities for Rochester's prosperity

On Business
Rochester Business Journal
February 21, 2014

The Rochester Community Coalition has identified the top local priorities for state investment and attention in its 2014 Community Agenda. The Community Coalition, a group of leaders representing business, local government, education, labor and non-profits that is convened by Rochester Business Alliance, delivered the agenda to the local delegation in the state Legislature this month during a meeting at RBA headquarters.

The Community Coalition represents diverse interests and views within our community. These leaders have come together to create the Community Agenda for a greater Rochester. All coalition members urge state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to support the priorities that the coalition believes will promote job creation and strengthen our region.

The 2014 Community Agenda identifies six areas of importance:

  •  Aid and Incentives to Municipalities funding.
  •  Graduate medical education.
  •  Child care funding.
  •  Centers of excellence.
  •  Ongoing commitments.
  •  Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council priority projects.

Aid and Incentives to Municipalities funding finances critical public safety, education and economic development services in Rochester. However, a massive disparity exists among upstate cities in aid per capita. We need a new, more equitable approach to AIM funding. It is time for New York State to replace the current flat-rate system with a formula-based system that takes need and other factors into consideration.

Rochester’s health care system has the unique advantage of collaborative community planning and has long distinguished itself as able to develop innovative approaches for health care financing and delivery. By spreading the costs of graduate medical education not currently funded by Medicare and Medicaid across the community and investing in community health infrastructure, we can ensure that the Rochester area maintains a necessary supply of skilled physicians and still maintains private health insurance costs that are among the lowest in the country. The Community Coalition asks that the governor and Legislature support this proposal.

Well-established evidence shows that high-quality child care opportunities for working families lead to improved academic readiness for children, better health and greater workplace productivity. Monroe County seeks an increase in state child care funding of $6.5 million over its 2013 allocation. This would restore subsidies to the 2010 level, serving about 982 additional children.

The Center of Excellence in Sustainable Manufacturing at Rochester Institute of Technology has exceeded its target goals for the number of industry and research and development projects supported. Advanced manufacturing is a critical industry segment in the Greater Rochester region. The Community Coalition seeks continued state support for the center in 2014-15 and funding parity with other centers of excellence around the state.

The University of Rochester has proposed a Center of Excellence for Data Science, the first of its kind in New York State. The center will focus initially on three domains: predictive health analytics, cognitive systems and analytics on demand. The Community Coalition seeks a state designation and an appropriation on par with those for other statewide centers of excellence.

The Rochester Community Coalition also asks the state for continued support of ongoing commitments, including the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute at RIT and Phase II of the Facilities Modernization Project for the Rochester City School District. The Facilities Modernization Project is the city’s largest construction project in history, costing $1.3 billion; it will make our schools competitive for the 21st century and provide the foundation for the construction industry’s giant effort to diversify its workforce.

The Community Coalition also supports the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council’s 2013 progress report and its 24 transformational priority projects. Efforts to preserve and strengthen Eastman Business Park remain the region’s top priority. The coalition calls for full funding of the priority projects as well as economic development priorities including the Finger Lakes Business Accelerator Cooperative Phase 3, the Science, Technology, and Advanced Manufacturing Park in Genesee County, and the Innovation Agenda.

Along with me, this year’s Rochester Community Coalition leaders and partners include Lovely Warren of the city of Rochester, Ann Marie Cook of the Council of Agency Executives, Mark Peterson of Greater Rochester Enterprise, Anne Kress of Monroe Community College, Maggie Brooks of Monroe County; Jennifer Leonard of the Rochester Area Community Foundation, Dave Young of the Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council, Bolgen Vargas of the Rochester City School District, William Destler of Rochester Institute of Technology, Ken Warner of UNICON; Peter Carpino of the United Way of Greater Rochester and Joel Seligman of the University of Rochester.

The Rochester Community Coalition traces its roots to 2006 as the Rochester Fair Share Coalition, an organization that lobbied state government for a much-needed boost in aid for the city of Rochester. After the success of that campaign, the group adopted a broader agenda of annual items deemed most important to the Greater Rochester region.

Sandra Parker is president and CEO of Rochester Business Alliance Inc. Contact her at

2/21/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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