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More than 250 attend event on region's economic outlook

Rochester Business Journal
January 27, 2017

The first of a series of annual RBJ Power Breakfasts kicked off Friday with the 2017 Economic Outlook: Rochester and the upstate region.

More than 250 people attended the event, which was held at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center. Citizens Bank N.A. was the presenting sponsor.

The purpose of the event was to help the Greater Rochester community understand how leaders view the local economy and the future of Rochester’s business climate.

The panelists were:

• Donald Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute;
• Kent Gardner, chief economist and chief research officer for the Center for Governmental Research Inc.
• Heather Briccetti, CEO of the Business Council of New York State;
• Anne Kress, president of Monroe Community College; and
• Ebony Miller-Wesley, interim director for Rochester Institute of Technology Center for Urban Entrepreneurship.

The 10th annual RBJ-Siena Business Leader Survey, a component of the Siena College Research Institute Upstate New York Business Leader Survey, gave a snapshot of how the overall Upstate New York and Rochester business climate are faring. Results of the survey and stories on it appear in Friday’s Rochester Business Journal.

The confidence levels of the general business climate have grown, however, optimism in Rochester is still hard to come by, Levy said.

“What we saw this year is a relatively flat appraisal of last year,” he said. “By in large CEOs say that last year was about the same as the year before in terms of their growth, their profitability. However, across upstate, the significant uptick this year is a growing number, 42 percent of CEOs this year, said they expect the New York State economy to be stronger over the coming year.

“Unfortunately, here in Rochester, we didn’t see the same degree of growing optimism among CEOs that we interviewed.”

Briccetti discussed greater economic freedom for the region, specifically in areas of ridesharing and increasing broadband for businesses.

“It is ridiculous that we don’t have ridesharing opportunities in Upstate New York,” she said. “If you go to any other state, there’s Uber or Lyft, and people come to New York and visit (and) can get off the train in Albany and you can see people trying to find it on their app. This is something that is really needed.”

“These are the kinds of things that we need to fix in order to experience greater economic freedom,” she added.

Hiring was a focus of the event as the survey data revealed 39 percent of CEOs in Upstate New York plan to hire in 2017, the largest number when evaluating the data for the past decade. During the recessionary period, CEOs’ plans to hire came in at 18 to 19 percent.

In Rochester, 37 percent of CEOs said they plan to hire in 2017, up from 28 percent last year.

“The employment picture is very strong, the United States economy is very strong; I think we have reason to be optimistic,” CGR’s Gardner said.

The CEOs polled expressed more confidence in the federal or state government to help the business climate prosper, officials said.

“Big change this year: We see a 25-point uptick in the degree that CEOs say they have confidence in the federal government’s ability to improve business conditions,” Levy said. “Clearly these CEOs are saying they hope for, and now they’re expressing, a level of increased confidence that they will see activity out of Washington that will be pro-business and will tend to lend itself to improving business conditions.”

Looking back to 2007 when the survey began, a lot has changed for the better, Levy said.

“Over this past decade, we started off with a sense of foreboding; that’s where we were in 2007,” he said. “The recession hit and we fell off the cliff, about 60 percent of CEOs were worried about whether or not they were going to keep their doors open. We’ve recovered; really just kind of hovered around that break-even point but now we’ve finally gotten above (it). Things are better today, in terms of the data we collected in the survey, than they were 10 years ago.”

Follow Kerry Feltner on Twitter: @KerryFeltner

(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail

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