A historic victory marked Rochester's mayoral race this year, making it the business news story of the year as selected by Rochester Business Journal readers.
City Council President Lovely Warren's defeat of incumbent Mayor Thomas Richards was voted the top business news story of 2013 by a plurality of Rochester Business Journal readers. The story received 21 percent of the votes.
Warren, 36, next week is slated to become the first female mayor of the city of Rochester.
"I do think that that was the top story in the community, and I think from the perspective of why, first of all she's the first female and the first African-American female in this community to hold that great spot, she ran a terrific campaign, (and) she's young, so she has the opportunity to lead the community for a number of years," said Sandra Parker, CEO and president of Rochester Business Alliance Inc. "She's taking the reins of a community that has a lot of challenges facing it, so I think she definitely has her work cut out for her."
Parker added: "From what I can see, she's putting together a pretty good team to help her with those challenges. I think everybody was definitely very surprised (by the victory)."
The RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll asked readers to select the single news story in 2013 that had the greatest impact on local business and the Rochester community. The poll was conducted Dec. 16-17 and had 700 respondents.
"Being a PR person, I recognize that unexpected headlines always get more interest and are more exciting than the expected headlines," said Barbara Pierce, president and managing member of Tipping Point Public Relations, part of Tipping Point Media Inc. "Knowing that Tom Richards was the Democratic Party pick heading into the elections, yet he was defeated in that primary, it was a surprise.
"I think people in general aren't fans of change, and the mayor's office was a known entity, Tom Richards a highly respected business leader, and they knew what to expect from him."
Pierce said there were a lot of assumptions going into that election.
"Moving forward, what's next year going to look like and the unknown of looking forward? ... (That's) why it becomes so important," she said.
With a total of 15,283 votes cast in the primary election on Sept. 10, Warren received 8,772 votes to Richards' 6,309. In the general election, Warren got 18,794 votes on the Democratic line to Richards' 13,415 votes on the Working Families and Independence Party lines and Alex White's 1,784 votes on the Green Party line.
Warren was first elected to City Council in 2007 and served as its president from January 2010 until she resigned from the council after the general election. She represented the Northeast District of the city.
"Financial markets, stock markets move most sharply when there's something unexpected," said George Conboy, chairman of Brighton Securities Corp. "In the mayor's election you had something unexpected. You had an incumbent defeated in the primary, you had a potentially contested general election, and both of those things are the kind of things we tend not to see in Rochester mayoral elections. When you have something unexpected, it's always going to get more attention."
Conboy added: "I'm not surprised that Lovely Warren's election would be the story of the year. Everyone just assumed that if you are a mayor of Rochester and you are elected on a Democratic line, the assumption was when the time comes you are going to be re-elected until you don't want to run anymore, and that turned out not to be the case."
Seventeen percent of readers voted for Valeant International Inc.'s acquisition of Bausch & Lomb Inc., putting it in second place. Valeant acquired Bausch & Lomb for $8.7 billion in August. The Canadian company is moving Bausch & Lomb's headquarters to New Jersey after 160 years in Rochester.
The scandal over local development corporations that brought an unsealed indictment in November charging four men-including Robert Wiesner, the husband of County Executive Maggie Brooks-tied for third with 15 percent of the votes.
Daniel Lynch, president of Treadstone Development Corp.; John Maggio, president of Navitech Services Corp.; Nelson Rivera, former information technology manager for the county; and Wiesner, a former Rochester police captain and former director of security for the Monroe County Water Authority, all are accused of involvement in a scheme to steer Monroe County contract awards to preferred vendors.
The 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club, which generated more than $100 million for the local economy, also was picked by 15 percent of readers. How local businesses and health providers were affected by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act took the fifth spot with 9 percent of the vote by readers.
Other top stories that readers voted for included:
- Eastman Kodak Co. exits Chapter 11 bankruptcy (8 percent);
- Work on the $100 million College Town project at the University of Rochester begins (4 percent);
- The boards of Rochester General Health System and Unity Health vote to approve a definitive merger agreement (4 percent);
- Redevelopment of the 1,200-acre Eastman Business Park continues (2 percent);
- Windstream Corp. moves into its new home at the redeveloped Midtown site (1 percent);
- Ground is broken for the $20 million first phase of the Port of Rochester redevelopment project (1 percent); and
- The new Wegmans Food Markets Inc. store on East Avenue opens, (1 percent).
Eastman Kodak had ranked as the top business story in 2012 and 2011.
The acquisition of Bausch & Lomb by Valeant ranked as the No. 1 story in the annual poll of the Rochester Business Journal editorial department staffers with 31 percent. Eastman Kodak Co. exiting Chapter 11 bankruptcy received the second most votes. The impact on local businesses and health providers by the Affordable Care Act, the 95th PGA Championship and Warren's election as mayor tied for third.
The list of stories evokes different emotional reactions from readers throughout the year.
"If you were to look at an emotional response to each of the headlines, there's (the) unexpected, there's pride-things like the PGA Championship that we have pride in, there's B&L-a little bit of understanding the threat of that change, there's the scandal and understanding (that) there's so many people touched by this," Pierce said.
She added: "Those are data points that we're all looking for. We're excited to be validated about what we expected (that) happened or get the details."
With change comes uncertainty. The top story's significance in the business community is yet to be seen.
"Warren does appear to want to seek a different approach to some business interests in the Rochester area," Conboy said. "She hasn't said, 'We don't want to deal with businesses"; she has said she wants to focus on neighborhoods more and by implication perhaps business and development less. It remains to be seen how that plays out, but that's, I suspect, how the business community is viewing it."
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