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Leaders voice optimism about economic outlook

Rochester Business Journal
January 23, 2015

Andrew Gallina is cautiously optimistic.

The president of Gallina Development Corp. said business is starting to pick up, with higher occupancy and a bit more activity in line for the future.

“While we’re not setting the world on fire, we hope that the market will continue its recovery,” he said. “As national trends tell you, there’s an uptick in the economy and I think we’re seeing that.”

Gallina is one of many local leaders whose outlook is improving. The annual RBJ-Siena Business Leader Survey, a component of the Siena College Research Institute Upstate New York Business Leader Survey, found CEO confidence has reached its highest point in the eight years it has been measured. Confidence was up across all regions of upstate.

Victor Salerno goes a bit further than Gallina; both participated in the survey.

“We’re a little better than cautiously optimistic,” said Salerno, CEO of O’Connell Electric Co. Inc. “We’re having an outstanding year, and there are a lot of opportunities for us, including in Rochester, areas that people may not even be aware of yet.”

Salerno said he has seen the construction industry picking up steam in recent years and, as a union trustee, has seen hours increase for employees across the field.

There is growth in the future for O’Connell Electric as well, Salerno noted. In December, his company acquired an Albany-area company and Salerno said he sees growth potential across the state.

“I’ve been here for 44 years, and we’ve had our best years in the last five or six years,” he said. “There was a dip in 2009 and the industry did get hurt, but we’re working to make sure we’re always headed in the right direction.”

Wayne Holly, president and chairman at Sage Rutty and Co. Inc., said he believes the Rochester area will continue to follow the national economy as it grows slowly but steadily.

“We still have some headwinds against us, but I think in general we will be improving,” said Holly, also a poll participant.

He is part of a group that includes many local executives, and Holly said the optimism about the economic outlook runs deep.

“Across all sorts of different industries, all of those CEOs are experiencing the same thing,” he said. “Some are growing faster, but they’re all growing and they’re all very optimistic about going forward.”

Holly noted there are challenges as well.

“Challenging is a word that comes to mind,” Holly said about looking forward. “For the small-business owner, it’s always challenging even when things are flying and really doing great. It’s always difficult with all the balls we have to juggle.”

Salerno noted there are some other uncertainties, including the effect of events overseas and the political climate back home. He also said there is always the possibility for an out-of-the-blue setback.

“We’re very optimistic based on the circumstances in general, but no one really saw what was coming last time,” Salerno said. “The stock market was cut in half and it scares people. No one saw that coming, and we could be staring at the next bubble to burst and not realize it.”

Falling oil and gas prices, which are a net positive for businesses, could have a flip side, Salerno added.

“With oil dropping the way it is, there could be an effect we’re not aware of yet,” he said. “We do a lot of work in the gas and fracking industry, a huge amount of electrical work, and we’re all happy to see that the price of gas is going down, but at the end of the day there could be a downside that we don’t know yet.”

But Gallina noted that as industries begin to strengthen on their own, they can pull up other sectors and the entire economy.

“We’re going through a bit of a recovery and at the phase where we’re again looking for opportunities,” he said. “That’s where we’re all at now, and we’re catching our breath and are all quite busy.”

1/23/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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