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Area's top economic asset? Higher ed

Rochester Business Journal
November 1, 2013

Higher education institutions top the list of the area's most important economic assets, cited by 85 percent of this week's RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll respondents.
Real estate price affordability was second with 70 percent. Quality of life and a highly educated workforce tied with 69 percent.
Poll participants chose one or more from a list of key assets that have played a significant role during the area's economic transition.
Less than one-fifth of readers cited the area's manufacturing sector as a primary economic asset.
Like many other metro areas, especially in the Northeast, Rochester has an economy undergoing considerable change. Gone are the days when Eastman Kodak Co., Xerox Corp. and a few other companies were dominant; today, the regional economy is much more diversified.
The transition has been challenging-especially with Kodak's decline and eventual Chapter 11 reorganization-but also notable for Rochester's resilience.
During the recent recession, the Brookings Institution's MetroMonitor, a quarterly barometer of the health of America's 100 largest metro economies, consistently rated Rochester among the top 20. (More recently, its performance has been mixed.)
In a similar Snap Poll conducted three years ago, the area's highly educated workforce edged its higher education institutions, 21 percent to 20 percent. In that poll, respondents were asked to name Rochester's single most important economic asset. Real estate price affordability ranked seventh on the list, with 3 percent.

Roughly 590 readers participated in this week's poll, conducted Oct. 28 and 29.

In your view, what are Rochester's primary economic assets?
Higher education institutions:  85%
Real estate price affordability: 70%
Quality of life:  69%
Highly educated workforce: 69%
Abundant freshwater supply:  65%
Knowledge economy sectors: 62%
Tradition of entrepreneurship and innovation: 44%
Competitively priced labor supply: 38%
Vitality of the small business sector: 29%
Geographic proximity to major markets: 27%
Manufacturing sector: 18%
Strength in exports, international trade: 18%
Other: 3%

We have all the assets and unfortunately too many impediments-high taxes, over-regulation and an anti-business state government!
  -Tom Zimmerman, FAIA, Z2 Architecture PLLC
It's pleasant to list Rochester's economic assets. There are many, including colleges, quality of life and strong presence in health care and biotechnology. Sadly these strengths are cast against a backdrop of highly segregated schools, city schools failures and continuing excessive property tax structures. In Monroe County, we go one step forward and two steps backward.
  -Wayne Donner, Rush
The question is not as much "What are the assets?" but "How can we leverage our assets to grow the economy?" And "How can we mitigate our weaknesses?"
  -Sergio Ruffolo, JR Language Translation Services
Manufacturing was and should be our greatest asset. Manufacturing was dismantled by our state, county and city-taxes, regulations, fees, corruption and utility costs. They have beaten manufacturing out of our economy. That is why most of "we the people" of this state are trapped here, and our educated children that cannot find jobs here and profitable businesses are all leaving.
  -G. Palis
The real estate is a two-edged sword. People move here when they see the price to buy a home is lower than other places, but people leave here when they see the cost to keep a home here (property taxes) is double or triple what it is in other states.
  -Tom Walpole
Rochester's primary economic assets are the many startups and young entrepreneurs investing in our area. Indeed, many of the large companies that supplied jobs throughout the history of Rochester were formed right here in the Flower City.
  -Peter J. Gregory, Rochester
I think two of our basic assets that are ignored mostly are the river and the lake and also our proximity to the Finger Lakes and the Thousand Islands. Viewing, fishing, swimming and boating are a tremendous asset. Syracuse has views of the No. 1 polluted waterway in New York State, and viewing is its only use. We are very lucky here for our clean water and quantity of it.
  -Daniel Mossien, architect
I believe the premise of the question is wrong. Too many community leaders focus on one economic driver, and when its cycle is down the community is hurt. Good economies have multiple economic assets which allow (them) to survive through different economic cycles.
  -Joel Stauring, Hornell
Rochester has a highly skilled workforce, which gives this area a true advantage to potential employers. I distinguish highly "skilled" from highly educated, as the two are not necessarily equivalent.
  -George Thomas, Ogden
The Rochester area has so many economic assets it makes you wonder why it has not been more successful at attracting and keeping top-quality people and businesses. The answer is the high-tax structure that keeps new businesses out and encourages businesses to leave. In a phone survey from Paychex about their service, they asked me if there was anything they could do better. I said, "Please get Tom Golisano to come back to Rochester." I still remember his words, "I have better things to do with $13,700 per day." I love the water. Rochester has a Great Lake, the Finger Lakes, a river and a canal. Rochester's educational institutions churn out a great number of qualified graduates. Unfortunately, many leave for warmer climes physically and professionally. I love it here. How can we get others to stay?
  -Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services
For more comments, go to  To participate in the weekly RBJ Snap Poll, sign up for the Daily Report at

10/25/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email


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