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Urban edge

Some two decades ago, Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter’s research brought him to an uncommon conclusion: By aiming to reduce poverty, traditional inner-city initiatives had chosen the wrong target.
"We must redefine the challenge as one of creating income and wealth" by harnessing market forces, he argued, "rather than trying to defy them."
In 1994, Mr. Porter launched the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a non-profit research and strategy organization. Among the success factors it has identified are anchor institutions such as colleges and universities that can drive economic growth in urban areas.
President William Destler and other officials at Rochester Institute of Technology clearly understand that potential. RIT’s decision to open a Center for Urban Entrepreneurship at the site of the former Rochester Savings Bank on Franklin Street could be a key milestone in the resurgence of downtown and surrounding areas.
The school’s plan calls for investment that could top $5 million. Slated to open next fall, the facility will be a multi-use venue for RIT programs and activities.
The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship will be the centerpiece, however. Said Mr. Destler: "With a focus on entrepreneurship, we see potential for reshaping the region’s economy through new business development."
The recent arrival of dt ogilvie, dean of RIT’s E. Philip Saunders College of Business, gives a real boost to this effort. As founding director of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development at the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers Business School at Newark-New Brunswick, her hands-on experience should be invaluable.
Plans for the center were made possible by Rochester Historic Ventures’ donation of the historic landmark building. "This is a donor’s dream come true. It hits all the buttons: education, historic preservation, entrepreneurism, job creation and urban revitalization," said Amy Tait of Rochester Historic Ventures.
In praising the move, Mayor Thomas Richards referred to Rochester as "a city grown through innovators and entrepreneurs." In the eyes of many, however, the inner city long ago ceased to be a place where entrepreneurship can thrive.
ICIC and others have shown that’s not so. With RIT’s new center, Rochester can become a leading example.

10/26/12 (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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