A panel of experts was guardedly optimistic about 2016, given the area’s skilled workforce and technological expertise, despite challenges such as increasing health care costs and government regulation.
RBJ Extra: RBJ-Siena Business Leaders Survey 2016
Optimism fades among area's business leaders
Leaders speak out about climate for business in N.Y.
That was a theme at Friday morning’s 2016 Economic Outlook: Rochester and the Upstate Region discussion, part of the Rochester Business Journal Power Breakfast Series. Nearly 250 people attended the event at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown.
The speakers were:
• Donald Levy, director of the Siena Research Institute;
• Jaison Abel, research officer with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York;
• Heather Briccetti, CEO of the Business Council of New York State;
• Kimberly Gangi, partner with Insero & Co. CPAs P.C.; and
• Anne Kress, president of Monroe Community College.
The RBJ-Siena Business Leader Survey, a component of the Siena College Research Institute Upstate New York Business Leader Survey, showed CEOs continue to cite challenges with state and national governments, noting only 4 percent of respondents rated both federal and state government leaders’ performance as good/excellent.
“They are succeeding in spite of, rather than because of, the role of government,” Levy said of the firms.
The majority—90 percent—of survey respondents oppose increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour and 71 percent believe the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has had a negative effect on business.
Industries that local CEOs believe have the greatest impact potential are in the technology and medical sectors, Levy noted. Those CEOs cite data security as the top risk associated with doing business.
Abel believes there is reason for optimism in the coming year, noting gains in health care, education and business services. Another plus for the area is its skilled work force and the potential for growth of the optics/imaging/photonics cluster.
“It’s a real asset that’s hard to replicate,” Abel said of the cluster. “I have every reason to believe the future in Rochester is bright.”
Briccetti said she believes a focus on workforce development is a key way to keep the local economy strong. A particular focus is on middle skills jobs in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Kress agreed, noting an aging workforce in those fields further strengthens the need to get younger people trained and in those jobs.
MCC has taken steps to help, including reducing the length of time it takes students to earn certain degree certificates. For example, a certificate in the tooling and machining field can now be completed in six months versus the year it previously took.
“Right now there is a mismatch with skills sets and what is needed (in the field),” Kress said.
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