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Young business leaders cite the diverse benefits of putting down roots here
Over the next couple of decades, Liz Brenna sees her company, Socially Good Business, becoming a leader in the values-driven business movement.
Brenna started her business this year to help companies and non-profits implement value systems that inform every aspect of business, from product sourcing to customer relations. She sees the area's young professionals as key to bringing needed change.
"Because of all the young business leaders and change agents I've met in this community, I think we're on the brink of a pretty profound comeback," Brenna said.
Jeremy Cooney, vice president of development for the YMCA of Greater Rochester, sees himself as a dot-connector.
"(M)y role is to connect the dots between good people and good causes," said Cooney, a Rochester native.
A beneficiary of the wisdom and support of mentors, Cooney said he hopes to mentor other aspiring young leaders while continuing to learn from those who came before him.
Daniel Goldstein, chief financial officer of Buckingham Properties LLC, expects to continue working for the developer as a partner, while creating and growing a real estate investment trust.
"My hope is that our fund will grow into a competitive force in the real estate investment trust industry, which will benefit our investors, my partner and the entire Buckingham organization," Goldstein said.
At present, Goldstein's work involves analyzing and evaluating new project opportunities; controlling banking and financing relationships and transactions; supervising accounting, human resources and administrative functions; and managing insurance and legal relationships. He works alongside Laurence Glazer, Buckingham CEO, to create development opportunities for the company.
For these young professionals, staying in the Rochester area is important.
"I recently found a poster from the 1980s showcasing the Chamber's 'I'd Rather be in Rochester' campaign," Cooney said. "I've lived in Albany, New York, and Washington, D.C. ... And, a few years ago, I made the decision to start my legal practice in Rochester. Today, I have a Highland Park townhouse and look forward to spending many more years in the city. It's fun to travel, but when it comes to 'home,' I'd rather be in Rochester."
Brenna is impressed with Rochester's improvements over the years and looks forward to growing her business here.
As sales manager with Financial Architects/MassMutual, James Traylor recruits and develops nine associates while running his own practice assisting those who have a child with a disability. SpecialCare helps families plan for a child's future without jeopardizing government benefits.
Traylor hopes to run a MassMutual agency in the Rochester area and would like to franchise SpecialCare to other communities nationwide.
Xerox Corp.'s Marina Tharayil, who grew up in India, now calls Rochester home. She foresees a leadership role in technology where she can impact policies, products and people. She also hopes to teach students and mentor younger professionals.
"(A) rewarding career includes leaving a legacy in the form of technologies and people development, and contributing to various local and global groups," Tharayil said.
She manages a research competency at Xerox's Innovation Group and is helping develop a new competency there to support the services enterprises.
Tharayil strives to work with people whom she can respect and learn from, she said. She seeks challenging roles that influence technical, business or societal domains and that help her grow as a person and leader.
The opportunity to contribute to the community motivates many of Rochester's young leaders.
Luis Ormaechea, an associate at Underberg & Kessler LLP and a former educator, has served on the board of Literacy Volunteers of Rochester NY Inc., on the diversity committee of the Monroe County Bar Association, and on the marketing committee of the Genesee Center for the Arts and Education. He is a member of the Rochester Hispanic Business Association.
Ormaechea said he plans to take on greater leadership roles with several organizations.
As ambitious as these trailblazers are with their own career plans, they're equally enthusiastic about Rochester's future.
What the region lacks in private equity and state funding, Cooney said, is a balance of business startups, continuing philanthropic legacies, and the ability to attract a new generation of leadership.
"As the leader of the statewide young professional movement, I help start new groups in cities across the state," Cooney said. Rochester has more than 40 young professionals groups, he said-many more than in
Albany, Syracuse or Buffalo.
"We are a community that attracts young people," he said. "The key is to improve retention through citizen engagement and workforce development."
Traylor agrees. Of all the upstate cities, Rochester's community of young leaders will be most effective in positioning the area as a place to live, work and educate children.
Tharayil is also upbeat about the area's future, citing its infrastructure, academic institutions, world-class medical facilities, beautiful parks and natural resources, talented workforce and people. Others mention Rochester's traditional strengths in business, agriculture and transportation.
Ormaechea cites rankings in several national publications and websites that place Rochester among the most livable, affordable and promising cities. He points to the community's diversified economy, relatively low unemployment, and stable real estate market.
Still, Rochester faces significant challenges. Goldstein notes that the downsizing among downtown's traditional employers is likely to continue. Only if those high-profile companies and the professionals who work for them are replaced, he said, will the area sustain commercial and residential growth.
Cooney offers another perspective. "Perhaps the biggest economic challenge is not the poor performance of our investments," he said, "but rather our willingness to divest ourselves of the ingenuity and creativity that built our community."
Cooney said more jobs and an increase in workforce diversity are needed to prepare the youth for the global economy.
"Rochester is talented at consistently pointing out where it stumbles as a business community," Cooney said. "After all, it's far easier to point a finger at Kodak and talk about the 'brain drain' than build upon the entrepreneurial spirit that inspired Chester Carlson, John Jacob Bausch and George Eastman."
If future leaders choose to stay here, Goldstein added, they can revitalize the city. As business owners, they'll realize that they're more likely to attract and retain top talent by locating their offices closer to where employees want to live.
Ormaechea sees Rochester as an ideal place to launch a career because startups are looking for new talent and some established companies are growing providing many opportunities for a young professional to stand out.
He also advocates investing in community organizations, which can empower young people to help ensure that Rochester shines.
Cooney sums it up. "Bottom line: People here care. So whether you're starting your career, making a change or looking to advance, why not do it in a community that supports you?"
Crystal Gulian is a Rochester-area freelance writer.10/12/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.