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Most readers voice optimism on outlook for local economy

Nearly two-thirds of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll are optimistic about the local economy over the next year. This is a sharp increase from December 2009, when slightly more than half of poll participants were optimistic.

The Rochester area ended 2011 with more than 440,000 private-sector jobs—up 12,500 from the previous year and slightly more than the total before the recession began.

Half the respondents say they are somewhat optimistic about the prospects for the Rochester-area economy over the next 12 months, and 15 percent say they’re very optimistic. Twenty-one percent say they are neutral, and 15 percent say they’re pessimistic. In the December 2009 poll, 31 percent were pessimistic.

January brought mixed economic news locally: After months of speculation, Eastman Kodak Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but a week later Xerox Corp. said it would build a new customer care center in Webster that will create 500 jobs over the next two years.

The plurality of respondents to this week’s poll—44 percent—say their own firms’ Rochester-area employment is likely to be flat. But 37 percent expect an increase, while only 19 percent predict a decrease.

This is an improvement over April 2011, when the majority of Snap Poll respondents predicted that Rochester-area employment at their firms would remain flat through the rest of 2011. In that poll, some 28 percent expected an increase, while 21 percent predicted a decrease.

Roughly 520 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Feb. 13 and 14.

How do you personally feel about the prospects for the Rochester-area economy over the next 12 months?
Very optimistic: 15%
Somewhat optimistic: 50%
Neutral: 21%
Somewhat pessimistic: 11%
Very pessimistic: 4%

How would you describe your own company’s outlook over the next 12 months? Would you say that your firm’s Rochester-area employment is likely to:
Increase: 37%
Decrease: 19%
Neither increase nor decrease: 44%

COMMENTS:

We have a good thing going here in Rochester and just need to realize how good we have it. Sure, there are challenges—some pretty notable. Given what’s happening in the world, I think we’re doing darn well.
—Dave Vanable, Honeoye Falls

Unless Kodak gets rid of CEO Perez and the current board of directors for their incompetence, there is little hope, as they have ruined a great company while lining their pockets.
—Bob Rutt, Kodak retiree

As the owner of a professional and executive search firm, we are quite optimistic about Rochester and its regional hiring prospects in 2012. Most of that hiring will continue to be in the small-business sector.
—Gary M. Baker, Cochran, Cochran & Yale

Xerox is unquestionably decreasing the technology spending in products that have been key to its success. The workforce in Rochester is continuing to decline to the point where it is doubtful that the company has any future commitment to quality employment in the area. This is a paradox, since Ursula Burns is a key member of Obama’s jobs council.
—Dave Coriale, Xerox retiree

I think with a strong private sector, Rochester can add jobs and grow its influence nationally. There is a great deal of entrepreneurship and new ideas in the Rochester market. Personally, I am optimistic the area economy will remain strong and continue to grow in the coming year.
—Joe Horn, GMR Associates Inc.

The Rochester area has a unique combination of very special assets: a highly skilled workforce, excellent colleges and universities, a spirit of community giving, an entrepreneurial bent and wise leadership coming from many quarters. Those assets, once again, have saved Rochester from the lows of recession, just as they have saved Rochester from the excesses of boom times. Very few cities are as fortunate as Rochester. Just as we are the beneficiaries of our predecessors’ wisdom and hard work, we must ‘pay it forward’ to our next generations.
—Don Adair, Adair Law Firm PLLC

Austerity in Europe could set back our economy and jobs as we do export significantly there. In addition, with the Kodak filing, should the retirees be dumped on the taxpayers via the government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., they most likely would lose their health benefits and one-third of their pensions. Considering the number of Kodak retirees in the area, this could take much money and demand out of the local economy, which in turn would hurt job creation.
—Jim Bertolone, president, Rochester AFL-CIO

Keep your chin up, everybody! We’ve seen it happen before, and we will continue to thrive!
—Lou Calarese, Applied Audio & Theatre Supply

With a little good fortune in the November election, I would then be really optimistic. At this point, we hang on, hoping the government doesn’t borrow itself and the rest of us to death.
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan
There are many factors that lead to optimism about the Rochester area—talented workforce, great educational institutions, affordable housing, high quality health care and more. Unfortunately we are located within New York State, with high income and property taxes, high utility costs, high workers’ compensation and "gold-plated" welfare systems that stifle many of the prospects of growing your business on your own. It seems much of our growth is fertilized with "corporate welfare," as in the case of Xerox’s call center. But when you gain 500 call center jobs but shed high-paying engineering jobs, the prospect is not as bright as some would make it out to be.
—Peter Short, J.J. Short Associates Inc.

Much hinges on the outcome of November’s elections, both federal and New York State. Continued movement away from capitalism, toward socialism, will have a strong negative impact for several years to come.
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency, Inc.

Independent of our horrible taxes, if we want to improve our economy in the area, we need to focus intensively on three practical economic priorities: (1) Consolidate the Rochester and Buffalo airports in Batavia so that we can drive more direct air traffic and create a hub. (2) Offer businesses the opportunity to expense capital purchases in a single year for the next three years.  (3) Build high-speed rail between Buffalo and Rochester and Rochester and Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C. Let’s make western New York the gateway to economic liberty.
—Peter DeMarco, Priority Thinking

I think that the prospects for the Rochester economy are pretty optimistic. There are many positives that the core of hardworking people provide to this community. Our efforts have overcome the extreme taxation that social engineering foists upon us. The local environment that held incompetent Kodak management in high regard, yet drove a philanthropic entrepreneur to move to Florida just doesn’t jibe with logic. That should change. Please leave government out of the private sector. There is such a litany of failed attempts at government "public projects" that 90 percent of the people reading this know what the list is (the remaining 10 percent are from out of town). The untapped potential of this region is absolutely stunning when one considers the natural resources alone. The Finger Lakes, Lake Ontario, Genesee River, Black, Salmon and Oatka Creeks, Letchworth Park, Hamlin Beach, Braddock’s Bay, Sodus Bay and more. Good community, jobs, educational resources and recreation are what attracts quality people to live somewhere. Quality people equal good economic health. As a whole, the prospects for our region have the potential to be good. Coming to fruition takes leadership combined with fiscal prudence that keeps taxes low and the community vibrant. Maintaining infrastructure, and public safety, while lowering taxes is the simple recipe for success.
—Lou Romano

Unfortunately the employment picture nationally is trending more toward a service-oriented businesses. This may also be the path that Rochester takes as in the Xerox new jobs report. However, I submit that a large service-oriented economy is not good for the nation and we cannot prosper with this as our majority business. It has long been our history that the greatest success comes from manufacturing, i.e. Henry Ford, George Eastman, Chester Carlson, Lomb, and others. Yes, those were different times during the rebuilding of America and other countries from "the Great War." But unless you make something original your customer will eventually go away. We may have a boom in health care because of our aging population but the customer is going to die. We may have a boom in online shopping but without good jobs this will also decrease. As we see now, some manufacturers are bringing jobs back to the U.S. because of logistics and parts costs, as well as quality issues. This unfortunately has been repeated before, but our managers acted like lemmings and followed the herd. So the bottom line is the best jobs are in manufacturing, which can rebuild our economy given the proper market timing, quality, and cost. China will soon have our social problems and their costs are now going up. We must get fair compensation for all workers and rein in top management. Our companies must drop their arrogance and concentrate on the consumer. Not the CEO. Manufacturing can be reborn but only with honest, forward thinking managers that are willing to work for the customer and not themselves.
—Bob Stein, Advantage Quality Consulting

I’m optimistic that after Nov. 6, "freedom from tyranny" will replace "hope and change."
—George Thomas, Ogden

As much as it would be good to be optimistic, nothing has changed as far as the bloated government in Albany and Washington. The tax cap was a hoax as most municipalities have simply voted to ignore it, the unions continue to run Albany, the regulatory climate continues to get worse and there is no sentiment to deal with the exploding government debts. Politicians at all levels have failed in their fiduciary responsibilities.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield

Until this state get’s its socialist/corporatist head out of the… sand…we are going to continue to see a decay of everything around us. The loss of companies left and right should a pretty good indication of the viability of our region (recently of course highlighted by a former fortune 100 company). It’s sad, too. As you hear from “the eyes on the future,” RBA, GRE, HTR, etc., groups, there are plenty of resources in place here…but yet we continue to drive companies out with our tax/regulate and spend mentality. That’s alright; I’m sure big brother really knows best!
—Devon Michaels, Chili

Paradoxically, the free-fall of the Kodak culture has proven to be a positive acceptance of reality as most of those affected accept EK’s demise as inevitable—and often beneficial—opportunity to move on to thrive and grow in another world.
—Bruno Sniders, Webster

I am looking for the longterm outlook, since guessing about the next year is futile. With Kodak out of the way, Xerox laying off its researchers and Paetec divorcing us suggest a sad state of affairs, and not much hope seems to be there for the next year, or on the horizon for the coming years. Nevertheless, I am hopeful for Rochester. We have the brains, innovators and initiative in our population to create more advanced businesses and jobs. This is the core of my hope. For instance, my own business, Crystallization Consulting, is the only professional and up-to-date crystallization consulting business in the world. New models and help for my customers are created daily. Ideas abound to create additional businesses. Rochester has the basics, both in people and resources that can make it a star shining over the USA. What I wish is that our businesses and entrepreneurs give up the stupid idea that “making money, the bottom line, huge profits” should be the driving force for their businesses. Money is a tool, in principle not different from a toothbrush and pliers. Good bookkeeping and stewardship are the core as far as money is concerned. Important parts and positive driving forces for successful and growing businesses are: outstanding products, more than outstanding customer service, enthusiastic customers (the source of the income, and key to publicity), dedicated employees, and leadership that is fair and dedicated to their employees. This business model, which makes Germany’s companies successful, could really pull us ahead. We have the brains and resources; now let’s create winning businesses, business models and strategies. The death of Kodak, the fate of Paetec, the down-slide of Xerox are all aspects of the currently dominating failing, and proven failing business models and all the recent economic disasters in the US. Paychex seems more a model of a successful approach; except that their leader sadly refuses to contribute to the country by paying taxes, reflecting the popular focus on greed (see “Tea Party”) instead of the well-being of our country. To repeat, Rochester has all the ingredients and existing fair business models to live, grow and prosper for all its citizens for a long time. Let’s go for it!
—Ingo H. Leubner, Crystallization Consulting

2/17/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

 

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