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Hiring on the horizon

The Rochester Top 100 is ready to grow.

Many of the region’s 100 fastest-growing private companies are predicting growth as the local economy continues to expand from post-recession drops.

Though predictions vary by sectors and circumstances of the individual companies, many leaders say expansion is coming within the next year.

Overall, the Rochester metropolitan region has seen private-sector employment expand. The Department of Labor reported total employment grew by 4,300, or 1 percent, in the period ending in August.

The largest gains were in education and health services, with an increase of 5,900. Other areas saw losses, including a decline of 1,500 employees in the manufacturing sector.

A majority of Rochester Top 100 companies responding to a survey by the Rochester Business Journal predict growth over the next 12 months. A full 90 percent of companies—which cut across all sectors—forecasted growth, with 48 percent anticipating single-digit increases in total employment and 42 percent planning on double-digit growth.

Five percent of companies see no change for the next year, and another 5 percent anticipate a single-digit percentage decrease in their employee base.

Some companies predicted growth as their products and services increase.

Sameer Penakalapati, president and CEO of Avani Technology Solutions Inc., said the company is developing a portfolio of products that will foster growth. The new products will allow the company to build a dedicated support center and expand engineering teams, Penakalapati said.

Hiring can vary between different sectors of the local economy.

Steve Vaisey, a real estate broker and partner with Re/Max Plus, said the overall steadiness of the local real estate market has kept hiring fairly steady.

Rochester escaped the big swings other regions saw, avoiding the booms of the pre-recession period and the subsequent bubble bursting as the economic downturn began, Vaisey said. As a result, hiring within the sector has depended on the individual advantages a company can offer.

“It’s not like we’ve seen a big spurt in population and need to hire more people,” he said. “It’s more about how you compete with other businesses and hopefully improve the way you do business, how you can be innovative and improve the process.”

Re/Max Plus pushes its own advantages when hiring, including the technology and tools offered to agents, Vaisey added.

“We have big open areas to meet with clients, very interactive spaces where they can look at pictures and do customized searches on big displays,” he said. “Innovation is such a big part of hiring.”

Hiring also can depend on the growth of a given sector.

Michael Donoghue, president of Premium Mortgage Corp., is predicting little growth in the next year as the housing market has cooled. He anticipates employment levels there would remain constant for the next 12 to 18 months.

Other companies have noted that internal growth is leading to more hiring. Donna Shultz, president and CEO of Mirror Show Management Inc., said the company has reached the point of reputation and buzz within the industry where it is invited to pitch new business all the time. This momentum will lead to new business and new staff members to service the growing client portfolio, she said.

At Brand Cool Marketing Inc., four years of rapid growth have led to a period that executives say will focus more on sustaining that growth. CEO Sue Kochan said the firm plans for one or two years to stabilize and integrate the changes during the recent expansion.

This new phase will place a greater emphasis on strengthening the team and the company’s offerings, she added.

Local companies have an advantage in hiring, noted Gary Keith, regional economist with M&T Bank. A strong education system in the area has churned out graduates with expertise across many sectors, he said.

Local companies can turn to Rochester Institute of Technology or the University of Rochester where in other regions companies might have to conduct national searches for the same level of talent, he noted. 

“Rochester has an advantage with its workforce and feeder system with its higher education,” he said.

Many of the Top 100 companies are doing just that.

Paul Dudley, president of id SignSystems Inc., said the company prides itself on hiring strongly from the local market. Many members of his team have degrees in design, and the company often looks to RIT for employees.

The hiring at these smaller and growing companies will fuel the future of the Rochester economy as it continues a shift away from the larger manufacturing companies, Keith added.

“If you’re near the ground you see all types of smaller and midsize companies that are bubbling up and creating jobs,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a new thing, as Rochester has always been a magnet for smart people with good training who have that entrepreneurial bug.

“That’s become even more important given how much smaller the Kodaks of the world have become. If we’re going to grow the economy, it will be these 100 companies leading the way.”

10/31/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Top 100 supplement. Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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