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Views from the top: Leaders of Top 100 firms share their views

What does it take to earn a place among the Rochester Top 100? Facing—and overcoming—many obstacles is one key trait. The Rochester Business Journal asked top executives of this year’s Top 100 firms to describe their toughest challenges. They also discussed what has driven their growth over the past three years, their employment outlook and the prospects for the local economy. Read all the responses to the survey at go.rbj.net/Top100survey.

Toughest challenge

What is the toughest challenge you have faced in building your firm?

Sticking to the plans and policies we put in place instead of doing what is convenient to avoid conflict in the moment.
—Eric Elwell
2TouchPOS

Three key challenges: cash flow, branding and right team, in the order of preference. Cash flow is key for the business; it’s like oxygen to the body. To get banks (to) lend us money, (we) need branding and products that have revenue success. To get brand and revenue, you need a great team. So they are all interlinked.
—Sameer Penakalapati
Avani Technology Solutions Inc.

Clarifying for ourselves and for our customers our unique products and services that drive bottom-line cost savings for our customers.
—Don Waltzer
H&C Tool Supply Corp.

Sales.
—Mihai Vieru
LMT Computer Systems Inc.

Finding the right-fit candidates for our growing company has been a challenge. It used to be that we advertised on job boards and we would get lots of candidates. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Finding candidates that are qualified and are a good fit with our culture has been very difficult.
—Sitima Fowler
Capstone Information Technologies Inc.

Managing rapid growth. Our opportunities have outpaced our infrastructure upgrades almost annually, so we’re continuously investing and shifting process. Recruiting talent has also been a challenge, although our social mission and B-Corp certification have been appreciated by prospective employees.
—Sue Kochan
Brand Cool Marketing

Navigating through the recent disruptive wave of mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical industry was a challenge. Fortunately, the industry has emerged in robust health, and Eagle emerged in a stronger competitive position.
—Robert Cannan
Eagle Productivity Solutions

Staying competitive while trying to maintain an acceptable profit margin in an environment of increasing price pressure.
—Dawn Smith
Pace Electronic Products

The continuing layers of regulation by both state and federal entities have both slowed credit to creditworthy borrowers and increased costs of compliance threefold. While these regulations may make good headlines, they are counterproductive in practical application.
—Michael Donoghue
Premium Mortgage Corp.

Competition within our market.
—Stephen Schwarz
Faraci Lange LLP

Navigating through two major strategic shifts in the past 16 years.
—Samuel Villanti
UTC Retail

Access to early seed capital to launch our investment funds and achieve critical mass is our greatest challenge. We are currently raising equity for the emerging sector of single-family home rentals—a new asset class for institutional investors.
—Amy Tait
Broadstone Real Estate LLC

Continually working through the disappointments.
—Thomas Schnorr
Re/Max Realty Group & Re/Max 1st Commercial

Since our founding in 1993 and for many years after, Kodak was our biggest client. When they filed for bankruptcy in 2012, we were right in the middle of doing their largest show of the year. But we acted quickly (in response) to the loss of revenue, downsized our staff and refocused our efforts on new business. The good news is that we emerged stronger than ever, not only replacing lost business, but actually growing beyond where we were at our peak with Kodak.
—Donna Shultz
Mirror Show Management

After completing four mergers over the past two years, our firm’s toughest challenge is maintaining the culture that enabled this level of growth. We are fortunate that our partners and people believe in our culture and our strategic plan. Keeping everyone going in the same direction with the same goals and values is the most difficult challenge for any business. Our success is directly related to our team’s common goals and values.
—Thomas Bonadio
The Bonadio Group

Cash flow management.
—Scott Hept
Accurate Acoustical Inc.

The toughest challenge has been controlling the growth. When we were growing too fast it was tough to manage all the additional business with the existing team I had in place. When we go through more rapid growth, I will make sure I have the appropriate staff in place to manage the growth.
—Jason Pignagrande
Five Star Improvements Inc.

The most important component of our success has been the quality of our people. They are our “brand.” Recruiting, training and retaining the absolute “best people” is a constant challenge.
—Thomas Judson
The Pike Cos.

Getting the word spread broadly and rapidly about the unique benefits of our products and by doing so, building a solid brand with loyal consumers.
—Ed Maguire
cheribundi Inc.

Getting the word out on how we are changing the delivery system of retirement plan services in our community.
—Robert Judd
Beltz Ianni & Associates LLC

Our staff provides professional guidance and delivers competitive advantages to our customers. Finding personnel with (the) right fit and industry experience who can consistently deliver outstanding service is one of our biggest challenges.
—RAD DeRose
L-Tron Corp.

Consolidation in the telecommunications space has hit many companies hard. IDI has responded by executing an aggressive research and development strategy that has positioned the company to enter burgeoning markets and use the cloud to diversify our client base. Core to our success has always been to hire and maintain the best, most innovative employees dedicated to exceeding the needs of our customers.
—Don Culeton
IDI Billing Solutions

Recruitment, selection, training and retaining high-caliber, talented and productive employees at all levels.
—Richard Dorschel
The Dorschel Automotive Group

We have had two challenges. The first challenge was finding new clients and increasing sales. As we improved in that area, the second challenge is finding qualified people to join our team.
—Michael Fowler
Capstone Information Technologies Inc.

The changing dynamics of IT technology and the industry have meant that we needed to change our business model.
—Michael Spoont
IV4 Inc.

Managing cash flow.
—Joe Fee
Fee Brothers Inc.

There is never one toughest challenge, but there are many opportunities. The daily challenge is to fully understand the strengths and gaps in your organization and do your best to apply those strengths to reap benefits from those opportunities.
—Richard Rosenbloom
Ambrell Precision Induction Heating

Proving in the market that corporate culture is the true driving force in service. The age of “conscious capitalism” is finally upon us. We have been at the vanguard of this movement for over three decades. (In human terms, “conscious capitalism” can be translated simply as “do the right thing.”) Living our culture and delivering positive results for our customers has provided wonderful returns to our firm—financially and emotionally.
—John Nichols
Nichols Construction Team

Finding and securing adequate resources. This includes cash, of course, but human resources might be an even bigger challenge.
—J. Daniel Ayer
Custom Courier Solutions Inc.

We think the toughest challenge is recruiting top individuals to serve our longstanding customers. We want our staff to be highly motivated and never settle for second best. Hiring the best employees is a never-ending task and vital to serve our clients’ needs. Staff, at times, have life-changing events involving spouses and/or family that require they leave to find employment elsewhere. We need quality replacements for our veteran team.
—Mark Costich
Costich Engineering, Land Surveying and Landscape Architecture P.C.

Managing our rapid growth in a tight financial market while continuing to maintain great design standards, maintain the highest quality standards and give great customer service.
—Katrina Beatty
id Signsystems Inc.

New York State government. My mother told me a long time ago if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it! I think most people will know (what) I am saying.
—Joseph Burke
Vanteon Corp.

New York State insurances and the Scaffold Law.
—David Vasciannie
Steve General Contractor Inc.

We opened the doors on our first store in Victor in 2005. For the first couple of years we faced all the typical challenges of a new company—funding, building a brand and perfecting a business model. But nothing compared to overcoming the economic challenges of 2008-2010, beginning with the financial (credit) crisis, followed by the government bailout of GM and Chrysler, the restructuring of GMAC, evaporating new-vehicle sales and franchise consolidation. The resulting increased competition in the used-vehicle space forced us to analyze every aspect of our new business to become more cost efficient to overcome those unusual, external influences and ultimately provide the financial strength and confidence to expand.
—D. Todd Hoagey
Auction Direct USA

Finding qualified employees.
—David Wolf
Just Solutions Inc.

Keeping abreast of new technologies
—James Campbell
Viewpoint Systems Inc.

The most recent challenge for our company has been finding and hiring qualified and technically minded personnel who would like a career in customer services in the material handling industry.
—Philip Robinson
Insley McEntee Equipment Co. Inc.

First and foremost, the overall cost of doing business (in) New York State. Maintaining insurance like workers’ (compensation) and liability along with the general state taxes make it difficult.
—Mike Sheridan
Sheridan Brothers Moving

Starting a business from conception to daily flow takes a daunting amount of time and energy. My wife, Luanne, and I have realized that often our family and friends become the “sacrificial lambs” of it. It is so difficult to miss an occasional child’s event or family gathering, but we have tried to combat it a little by having our children work alongside us, as their schedules allow. They don’t always like it, but it has given them a great appreciation of all that it takes to make a business thrive.
—David Mansfield
Three Brothers Wineries and Estates

There are many obstacles and challenges to opening and building a business. Two challenges that we experienced were related to market timing and the effective communication of our collective vison and value proposition. When we opened Re/Max Plus we were experiencing a softer real estate market. Even though the real estate market was down, we had confidence that if we offered an agent-centric focused business model and provided experienced real estate agents with the best available tools, technology and support, we would be able to increase the number of real estate agents at our company and in turn they would use those resources to better serve their buyers and sellers. The end result would be a superior level of customer service and better overall results for our collective clients and customers. Communicating our shared vision and investing time and resources in a weaker real estate market were a couple of challenges that we faced early on while building our business.
—Terri Granger
Re/Max Plus

Growth drivers

What has been the biggest driver of growth for your company over the past three years?

Developing a well-understood strategy and then executing it through a very successful targeted business development approach.
—Thomas Judson
The Pike Cos.

Expanding our geographical reach and also expanding our national product liability practice.
—Stephen Schwarz
Faraci Lange LLP

Major new contracts with both new and existing customers. Executing those contracts flawlessly.
—Samuel Villanti
UTC Retail

Our proven track record and excellent returns for our net lease REIT fund investors have now allowed us to attract capital from around the country to support ongoing growth in acquisitions and real estate assets under management.
—Amy Tait
Broadstone Real Estate LLC

Customer service along with referrals. Doing a great job for people allows them to not only be happy, but (also) pass our name along to the next person moving. Moving clients outside of New York has also helped. With New York ranking high on the list of states to leave, our business benefits on this revenue.
—Mike Sheridan
Sheridan Brothers Moving

Consumer awareness of the benefits of tart cherries, combined with rapid penetration into the retail market.
—Ed Maguire
cheribundi Inc.

A relentless focus on delivering services with real value at a lower cost.
—Robert Judd
Beltz Ianni & Associates LLC

The synergy and overall culture of our office has probably been the largest contributing factor of our growth at Re/Max Plus. In addition to our general meetings (partner, staff and office), we have workshops with attorneys and mortgage lenders, “Grilling Tuesday” lunches, family picnics and holiday parties. We also have a lounge area in our office that lends itself to discussion and networking. We have a very supportive and open atmosphere where mutually as partners, real estate agents and staff, we share ideas and work through the myriad problems and challenges that we experience within the real estate industry each day. That culture benefits not only us, but also the customers and clients that we collectively serve.
—Terri Granger
Re/Max Plus

The biggest area of growth has come from working more closely with our customers, understanding their concerns and needs and working with them to achieve desired results. This establishes business relationships based on respect and trust.
—Philip Robinson
Insley McEntee Equipment Co. Inc.

Great service to our agent-clients.
—Thomas Schnorr
Re/Max Realty Group & Re/Max 1st Commercial

Our talented and eager employee-owners have developed and delivered cost-saving ideas, services and technologies to our customers, who have rewarded us with increased business.
—Don Waltzer
H&C Tool Supply Corp.

Delivering value to our customers by focusing on business results, not products and services. We bring together services, hardware and software, combining capabilities in data collection, workflow processes and advanced technologies in barcode scanning, printing, data collection and industrial automation. Gayle (DeRose) and I are consistently investing in the company with the best personnel, latest technology, infrastructure and marketing to support our growth.
—RAD DeRose
L-Tron Corp.

Reputation.
—Mihai Vieru
LMT Computer Systems Inc

I have assembled a great team (started with my personal savings of $100,000), built great service and products. That helped us to build a brand and customers, then banks helped us (with loans) to grow our business.
—Sameer Penakalapati
Avani Technology Solutions Inc.

Working on the sales department, adding sales reps, developing a process for selling, getting television exposure.
—Eric Elwell
2TouchPOS

Our SaaS (Software as a Service) cloud-hosted model provides the ability to scale our service up and down, ensuring we can be cost-effective with any mix of services. We benefit from adding new customers and, just as importantly, through the growth of our existing customers. We continue to find the most efficient, fastest ways to solve business problems and enable our customers’ growth.
—Don Culeton
IDI Billing Solutions

An improving economy in the auto industry and helped by low interest rates and an aging average car on the U.S. roads.
—Richard Dorschel
The Dorschel Automotive Group

Quality wineries are not unique to the Finger Lakes region. When we created Three Brothers Wineries and Estates, we wanted to enhance quality with something that was not already available to the customer. Our satisfied customer has been our greatest asset, spreading the word to friends and family and bringing out-of-state visitors to our wineries. However, no winery, no matter how unique or fun, can survive without quality, award-winning wine. Over the past few years, we have continued to reinvest in the highest-quality winemaking technologies. Our seasoned winemakers Justin Paolicelli and Rick Clement, and Vineyard Manager John Wilkens, have worked science, technology and Mother Nature seamlessly, continuing to create outstanding bottles of wine. Increased sales of our wines, in the many Rochester liquor stores, has also increased growth. No business can grow, either, without a dedicated staff. They are second only to our top-notch general manager and partner, Erica Paolicelli, whose insight and dedication has been a catalyst to creativity and continued growth.
—David Mansfield
Three Brothers Wineries and Estates

Having a laser-sharp focus on our goals and getting the entire company working toward the same goals have been key to our growth. We don’t chase shiny pennies. We set a strategic path for our company and we get everyone pulling in the same direction. This creates the traction needed for (tenfold) growth.
—Sitima Fowler
Capstone Information Technologies Inc.

I think the seamless connection between our social mission of supporting brands that make the world a better place and our marketing, creative and business savvy. When your work has purpose, it has a power and energy that drives business opportunities.
—Sue Kochan
Brand Cool Marketing

Positive economy, great staff, added two additional salespeople. Tele Data Com is finally seeing the fruits of our labor after 30 years in business.
—Michael Grant
Tele Data Com Inc.

In 2012, MSM became an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) company, which made every vested employee a part-owner in our business. Since then, we have experienced explosive growth, more than doubling revenue in the last three years. We believe that giving employees a direct financial stake in our company has helped foster that success, energizing each person to bring extra passion to serving our customers on a daily basis.
—Donna Shultz
Mirror Show Management

The continuing development of powerful systems and tools in the pharmaceutical industry has driven the need for training and rapid organizational change.
—Robert Cannan
Eagle Productivity Solutions

Everything starts with providing a great service. Growth came by getting referrals and positive feedback from our clients. Then we leveraged that in our marketing.
—Michael Fowler
Capstone Information Technologies Inc.

Even though we have experienced double-digit organic growth recently, by far the biggest driver of our growth is mergers with other outstanding CPA firms in our existing markets and beyond. Our industry is consolidating and firms in Upstate New York realize we are a great merger candidate for them. Combined, organic growth and mergers have enabled our firm to grow more than 20 percent per year for the last two years. In the Rochester area, however, we have grown almost solely through increasing our client base and providing clients with more services—beyond traditional audit and tax—to help them cope with business challenges and grow.
—Thomas Bonadio
The Bonadio Group

The trust and belief placed in us by our employees, vendors and customers. Business is about relationships, and we have been blessed with great relationships!
—J. Daniel Ayer
Custom Courier Solutions Inc.

Organic growth within our current customer base.
—Dawn Smith
Pace Electronic Products

Good execution has driven growth in a shrinking market; we have taken over competitors who were unable to survive the changing market. Three of our largest competitors have exited the market, and we able to acquire some key employees that have driven sales to new heights. The pie is essentially smaller, but our slice has steadily increased in size.
—Michael Donoghue
Premium Mortgage Corp.

We believe the biggest driver of growth has been the success of our repeat customers and their trust and faith in our abilities. This is a result of our employees and their dedication. Without a top staff, we would not be able to retain our great client base.
—Mark Costich
Costich Engineering, Land Surveying and Landscape Architecture P.C.

The economic rebound, which triggered companies’ and organizations’ willingness to grow and banks’ willingness to finance construction projects.
—Scott Hept
Accurate Acoustical Inc.

In response to the changing dynamics of IT technology and the industry, we have successfully moved to a far more consultative model and are now well-positioned to serve the mid-market of 100 to 5,000 users.
—Michael Spoont
IV4 Inc.

1. Increased marketing and lead generation activities, and 2. The improved economy.
—James Campbell
Viewpoint Systems Inc.

The resurgence in popularity of pre-prohibition cocktails around the world.
—Joe Fee
Fee Brothers Inc.

The biggest driver in growth has been doing a quality job for our customers so they are comfortable referring us additional work. We also have a targeted marketing plan in place that has helped with our branding.
—Jason Pignagrande
Five Star Improvements Inc.

The continued effort to maintain and renovate our public buildings (schools and colleges).
—David Vasciannie
Steve General Contractor Inc.

Our business is more about people than it is about wheels and steel. Our recent growth has been entirely internally generated, driven by the associates in the stores. They deliver a great guest experience and rely on repeat and referral business. In a relatively stable, low-growth market, it’s very difficult to increase market share without exceeding customer expectations.
—D. Todd Hoagey
Auction Direct USA

As a design innovator and solution provider and having spent a lot of time on our medium- and long-term vision and marketing strategy, we have found customers have reached out to us as they become aware of our full product and service offering. At IDS, we believe we have a product that our customers can relate to and use to enhance their own brand recognition and elevate the environmental graphic efficiency of their facilities.
—Katrina Beatty
id Signsystems Inc.

Our balanced approach to continuous improvement in quality customer responsiveness, coupled with investment in our technology. It is a critical part of our DNA to provide better solutions, thus value for our markets. With new product capability and our reputation, we are able to address and enter new geographic and new industry market segments.
—Richard Rosenbloom
Ambrell Precision Induction Heating

Increased adoption of new technologies, such as cloud computing.
—David Wolf
Just Solutions Inc.

Our record of project success has resulted in continued opportunities with existing and past customers, as well as referrals from them.
—John Nichols
Nichols Construction Team

Great employees working with extremely technically challenging work.
—Joseph Burke
Vanteon Corp.

Jobs outlook

What is the employment outlook for your company over the next 12 months?

Re/Max Plus has consistently grown year over year to date. While we may not continue the same rate of growth as we have earlier, we are confident that as we continue to embrace new technologies and strive to remain innovative, we will have continued growth.
—Terri Granger
Re/Max Plus

Since receiving the honor of a Rochester Top 100 company, we have opened a satellite winery at Eastview Mall. It is the first of its kind in the area. We have added 25 new positions to our company and will continue to add as we approach the holidays. With the support of Albany, we now have the opportunity to extend beyond our vineyard, which will help all of New York as many wineries begin their expansion projects.
—David Mansfield
Three Brothers Wineries and Estates

We always project to hire new employees each summer.
—Mike Sheridan
Sheridan Brothers Moving

We have employment opportunities available and continue to explore several avenues in looking for qualified people for our customer services department.
—Philip Robinson
Insley McEntee Equipment Co. Inc.

We are still hesitant to hire significantly due to uncertainty about the economy.
—James Campbell
Viewpoint Systems Inc.

We will continue to struggle finding qualified candidates. We are implementing internal training programs for employees that have the aptitude so they can advance.
—David Wolf
Just Solutions Inc.

As construction continues to expand in the region, (we will hire) skilled craftsmen as well as qualified management.
—David Vasciannie
Steve General Contractor Inc.

We will be doing some very selective hiring.
—Joseph Burke
Vanteon Corp.

We are planning for double-digit growth in 2015 and project expansions in staff numbers and our real estate footprint to accommodate this growth.
—Katrina Beatty
id Signsystems Inc.

We desire managed growth at Costich Engineering. We are not aiming to be the biggest. We do want to be the best at everything we do. We also believe that maintaining a variety of services for different types of projects is important. We constantly search for ideas and solutions that help our clients do a better job.
—Mark Costich
Costich Engineering, Land Surveying and Landscape Architecture P.C.

Given the difficult economic and regulatory environment, we are anticipating managing our growth with existing resources.
—J. Daniel Ayer
Custom Courier Solutions Inc.

Growth creates demand for high-integrity, high-skilled individuals to join our team.
—John Nichols
Nichols Construction Team

Our employees tend to be steady and stay with us for a long time.
—Joe Fee
Fee Brothers Inc.

Small business in New York State has a monumental task to grow given the tax and regulation environment. We are not competitive with any other state. “Dead last today!” We must reduce regulation across the board and cut corporate, personal, property and sales taxes ASAP to survive!
—Richard Dorschel
The Dorschel Automotive Group

Gayle DeRose, chief operating officer and chief marketing officer, and I continue to invest in the company to drive growth, and are positioning the company for an outstanding 2015. The growth will result in adding several new staff positions.
—RAD DeRose
L-Tron Corp.

We will continue to invest in hiring highly talented, deeply experienced individuals that help us bring exceptional services to our clients.
—Robert Judd
Beltz Ianni & Associates LLC

We will continue to add production shifts and support staff to keep pace with our continued growth.
—Ed Maguire
cheribundi Inc.

We are constantly looking for the very best people in our industry.
—Thomas Judson
The Pike Cos.

We see our employment outlook to remain steady for the short term with additional growth in the next calendar year.
—Scott Hept
Accurate Acoustical Inc.

We are very optimistic about our firm’s employment outlook, because our partners are consistently creating new opportunities for people to do different work and move up in the organization. We are continually seeking thoughtful, energetic people to join the Bonadio Group to serve clients from our many teams and subsidiaries, and we are consistently rated a best firm to work for in Rochester and in our industry.
—Thomas Bonadio
The Bonadio Group

Our outlook is very bright. MSM has reached a point in terms of reputation and buzz within our industry where we are invited to pitch new business all the time. We believe that this momentum will continue to result in new wins, and we will need to add staff to service our growing client portfolio.
—Donna Shultz
Mirror Show Management

Stable paid staff; however, (we) anticipate attracting 10-plus quality real estate agents.
—Thomas Schnorr
Re/Max Realty Group & Re/Max 1st Commercial

I believe we will likely hire one or more additional younger attorneys.
—Stephen Schwarz
Faraci Lange LLP

We anticipate very little growth in the coming year as the housing market has cooled, and borrowers who are sitting on sub-4 percent interest rates are reluctant to sell and obtain a mortgage with a higher rate. Our employment levels should remain constant for the next 12 to 18 months.
—Michael Donoghue
Premium Mortgage Corp.

In 2014, we expanded our sales force by two and have plans to add additional engineering capabilities in 2015.
—Dawn Smith

Honestly, our goal is sustainable growth. This means we’d like a year or two to stabilize and integrate the changes associated with four years of rapid growth. We’re entering a phase that is strategically about strengthening our team and what we offer, as preparation for the future.
—Sue Kochan
Brand Cool Marketing

We are constantly looking for good candidates to join our team.
—Sitima Fowler
Capstone Information Technologies Inc.

Fairly steady, may add one or two field installers.
—Michael Grant
Tele Data Com Inc.

We are an employee-owned firm, so our people have more than a job—they have a career with an ownership stake in our success.
—Don Waltzer
H&C Tool Supply Corp.

We are developing portfolio of products that would be next-generation mobile enabled cloud-based enterprise systems. These would help us to build a dedicated support center, expand engineering teams, and build add-on services around these products and third-party enterprise systems.
—Sameer Penakalapati
Avani Technology Solutions Inc.

We attract a steady flow of interest in our products and services. Adding sales reps will increase our sales and as a result increase demand for technicians
—Eric Elwell
2TouchPOS

Rochester’s outlook

How do you personally feel about the prospects for the Rochester-area economy over the next three years?

Rochester is rich in entrepreneurial spirit and intelligence. As some industries, markets and major employers decline, new companies with new ideas and technologies emerge. This is a natural, healthy cycle and creates opportunities for those service firms that have the energy to serve the new, fast-evolving organizations.
—John Nichols
Nichols Construction Team

With the impressive skilled workforce that exists here and its high level of education, we can’t help but be very optimistic about Rochester. Nearly all of our recruiting is done locally, and we intend to be a part of this community’s success well into the future.
—Donna Shultz
Mirror Show Management

The Greater Rochester area has a lot of things going for it. Great talent, a history of innovation, a solid cadre of small- to mid-sized businesses. We need to spend our energy discussing how/why the area will continue to prosper rather than wasting our time trying to find all the reasons why we can’t be successful.
—Samuel Villanti
UTC Retail

Startups have the greatest potential to fuel growth. We need to encourage young entrepreneurs to stay in Rochester after college and to return to Rochester.
—Thomas Schnorr
Re/Max Realty Group & Re/Max 1st Commercial

We love Rochester!
—RAD DeRose
L-Tron Corp.

New York State business taxes will continue to drive economic activity away from Rochester.
—Joe Fee
Fee Brothers Inc.

I believe a key driver for our local economy will be the successful development of a lively and thriving downtown. It cannot come soon enough. I also think in Rochester, with our fantastic design education facilities such as at RIT, we should groom ourselves to be become a national center of design excellence.
—Katrina Beatty
id Signsystems Inc.

Look at where population and jobs are going (Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina). We need to revamp our tax structure and cut regulations in every direction.  People want to leave New York!
—Richard Dorschel
The Dorschel Automotive Group

I see positive signs in the local economy. We need to continue to revitalize downtown. COMIDA projects have been very helpful and should continue. Good skilled labor is an ongoing issue. We need more focus on teaching skilled trades at the high school level.
—Michael Grant
Tele Data Com Inc.

Rochester is blessed with many excellent manufacturing companies. We are committed to doing everything we can to help these companies grow and prosper. This is a key to our region’s future.
—Don Waltzer
H&C Tool Supply Corp.

It’s tough to comment on. By comparison to other markets, we generate very little local business. For as long as I can remember Rochester has never been a hot spot for growth or contraction.
—Eric Elwell
2TouchPOS

Our heavy tax/fee burden hurts not only businesses, but also our employees. Reduce/eliminate the state programs and lower taxes—(that) would benefit everyone for the long term.
—Joseph Burke
Vanteon Corp.

The concentration of technical talent, solid management experience and progressive educational institutes, further supported by state and local startup initiatives, paint a bright picture for the Rochester/Finger Lakes region. Couple this with it being such a great place to live, and it can’t help but shine.
—Ed Maguire
cheribundi Inc.

I don’t necessarily see lots of growth in the local economy, but Rochester’s economy is steady and has lots of opportunity as long as you have a product or service that is in demand. We must continue to improve our services to ensure we continue to increase market share.
—Michael Fowler
Capstone Information Technologies Inc.

I see no signs of economic optimism. New York State has a number of political, regulatory and tax-related issues that severely impede our ability to succeed. These challenges tend to choke the life out of any economic growth.
—J. Daniel Ayer
Custom Courier Solutions Inc.

The national and local economies are facing tough conditions and will continue to do so. We are in an environment where a total focus on client needs and having an efficient delivery system is necessary to compete. How well we do that as a community will determine how well our economy does relative to the national average.
—Robert Judd
Beltz Ianni & Associates LLC

I am very optimistic for the following reasons: 1. great schools: RIT, U of R and SUNY system of universities helping build local talent required for engineering and sciences, and 2. dedicated workforce. Flip side, not so much help from state or town to help small companies in taxes and credits; that’s disappointing.
—Sameer Penakalapati
Avani Technology Solutions Inc.

With the redevelopment of downtown as well as the continuation of the Schools Modernization Program and other projects, the local economy should prosper in the coming years.
—David Vasciannie
Steve General Contractor Inc.

We see Rochester as a stable area to do business. Our services are often tied to the construction industry. We enjoy being part of the development and redevelopment process. Our involvement in the rebuilding of Upstate New York and beyond is very gratifying and makes us proud of our work and our people.
—Mark Costich
Costich Engineering, Land Surveying and Landscape Architecture P.C.

New York State is a progressive state and as a result they are on the cutting edge of regulation. It is clear that state officials have looked to regulating entities as new revenue streams. While our firm has no consumer complaints, we are subjected to audits by several different state entities. Without exception, every audit results in a fine of some sort that we routinely pay as it would be more costly to fight. New York claims to be business-friendly, but our experience has been exactly the opposite.
—Michael Donoghue
Premium Mortgage Corp.

The local economy is thriving in pockets, but many businesses in Rochester are not doing so well. We understand that and we have a plan to aggressively find the companies that are growing. Those companies are the right fit for our services. Doing business in Rochester is tough, but that just means we have to do triple the amount of marketing and outreach activities as compared to other IT companies in Texas, Georgia, etc.
—Sitima Fowler
Capstone Information Technologies Inc.

The Finger Lakes wine region had its pains through the recent recession, as did many other industries. The “staycations” and day trips many were taking, rather than extravagant far-reaching ones, actually helped our industry weather the storm. The Finger Lakes wine region has seen steady growth, with new wineries, vineyards and additional quality winemakers seeking out this area, and exponential growth in the microbrew industry. It has become clear to us that the Rochester region is moving forward at a rapid pace over the last year, and we hope that our industry can continue its growth to add to employment prospects as well.
—David Mansfield
Three Brothers Wineries and Estates

The development projects for downtown are very promising, but we have to work harder at reducing crime. We don’t want people to avoid our city due to fear for their safety.
—David Wolf
Just Solutions Inc.

Recent trends in making it easier to do business in Upstate New York should lead to economic growth.
—Dawn Smith
Pace Electronic Products

We already have significant sales outside of Rochester, which allows us to see other more vibrant areas. Nevertheless, I am continuously astonished by the quantity and capability of people either starting or growing existing businesses. Despite the talk of high New York taxes, our regional low cost of living enhances our competitiveness outside of Upstate New York. We are helping to make our customers aware of the benefits of our area.
—James Campbell
Viewpoint Systems Inc.

The long-term outlook of our economy is poor at best. We rank virtually last in all growth areas and retired people with money are leaving this state in record numbers. It is imperative that our local political leadership work at lowering the continuing increased cost of doing business in New York. The burden put on small and midsize businesses is continuing to harm current companies and inhibit new companies from succeeding. People need to know that this ever-expanding governmental burden prevents a lot of companies from offering better wages, health care and retirement to their workforce. The insane overspending of our government and their desperate need for capital is driving them to put that burden on to businesses rather than individuals in order to not upset the voters. The voters have to realize that this affects them negatively. We must get our governmental spending under control. We must get New Yorkers back to work with real jobs, not try to force McDonalds to pay $10 per hour for a part-time entry level job.
—Scott Hept
Accurate Acoustical Inc.

Overall, the economy is looking pretty good right now. Rochester always stays stable for housing along with the job market.
—Mike Sheridan
Sheridan Brothers Moving

As is the case with most area businesses, Re/Max Plus will face challenges from increasing expenses like the cost of health care and feel the effects of higher property taxes. That said, we are optimistic and feel as though we also have a lot to celebrate as a community. The reasonable cost of living, top-rated schools, universities and colleges, area lakes and natural resources, commutable downtown full of arts and culture, and thriving suburbs are just a few of our local assets. The Greater Rochester area offers an exceptional quality of life that can’t easily be found elsewhere, which is why it is not only a great place to live, but also to do business.
—Terri Granger
Re/Max Plus

We see some improvement in the local economy and expect slow and steady growth. It appears there are still a lot of reservations about moving forward too quickly.
—Philip Robinson

Our geographic reach is a key component of our success.
—Thomas Judson
The Pike Cos.

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

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