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A chance to build relationships across regional boundaries

I could not be happier just a few weeks into the job of Rochester Business Alliance president and CEO. I have returned home to an excellent organization with a strong and experienced staff that provides important business services. I want to express my personal gratitude to Sandy Parker for her decade of leadership at RBA. It is a privilege to follow in her footsteps and carry on the work that she has done.

My initial goals at RBA are to listen and to learn. I have started out by segmenting my time between meeting with RBA employees, board members, and member businesses and organizations. I am looking for input on what we can do to keep moving RBA forward. Most important, I want to know how we can best serve our customers. Part of what I plan to do is attend RBA networking events to hear from our members as well as visit individual businesses for tours and discussions with company leaders and employees.

Rochester Business Alliance covers the nine-county Finger Lakes region, so I intend to not only focus on Rochester and Monroe County, but also do outreach in Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties. When I served as mayor of Rochester, I visited city businesses with then-neighborhood and business development commissioner Carlos Carballada. We would go out and tour one or two businesses every week. I found it to be an extraordinary educational experience. It gave me a sense of what these businesses were doing, what they were producing, and what their challenges were. This is information that I can use now at RBA to focus on how to help our members grow and prosper.

Since I started at RBA, many people have asked about some of my long-term goals for the organization. As we move deeper into 2015 and I learn more about the organization and those it serves, I plan to share some of those ideas. I will, however, share one idea now.

I have been blessed with creating great relationships over the last four years serving as lieutenant governor, not only with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature, but also with business, community and educational leaders across New York State. I believe we have a great opportunity here to look for ways that we can bring businesses from our region together with businesses in other regions to create more opportunities for them to serve each other and grow their respective businesses. Call it cross-regional promotion and networking.

I have already started contacting business organization leaders from across the state to discuss setting up meetings so we can look for tangible ways to connect businesses across regional boundaries from Albany to Buffalo and the Southern Tier and from the North Country to Long Island. The goal is to match up businesses and create relationships that can be beneficial to all. I’m a big believer in supporting our members and New York State businesses.

As the leader of RBA, I want to ensure that our members get a return on their investment. I plan to work hard every day toward that goal. Again, I have found in my past careers that the best way to do that is to listen, to learn and to take steps to assist in any way that we can.

Rochester Business Alliance needs to be relevant and an invaluable resource to our members and the business community. Please tell me how to accommodate that. As I said earlier, I expect the relationships that I formed and experiences that I had as lieutenant governor will help add value to RBA members. The main advantages that I now have in the RBA job are that I understand how New York State government works and I have had the privilege to meet and get to know a diverse, wide cross-section of people across the state. When I left the lieutenant governor’s office, I sent out about 400 thank-you notes to people who were so supportive over my four years in Albany. I can now call up someone as an old friend to see if we can look at ways to create a mutual benefit to enhance business success.

I am now asking for ideas, suggestions and assistance from anyone willing to get involved. We need people to come together as a team. The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, led by Danny Wegman and Joel Seligman, has done extraordinary work over the last four years bringing state investment to projects here at home. That, to me, is indicative of the importance of relationships that we have in place and plan to expand moving forward.

One of the greatest lessons in my political career was seeing the number of people who would complain about government and then choose not to vote. My core philosophy is that you cannot complain about something if you fail to take an active role in trying to change it and help it. So, I’m asking RBA members, those considering membership, and our community leaders to please take an active role with us. I see myself as part of a team that needs more team members to come on board to help us create economic development and jobs.

With Gov. Cuomo’s recent announcement on Upstate New York revitalization, we have a great opportunity at our doorstep. Let’s get to work—together.

Robert J. Duffy is president and CEO of Rochester Business Alliance Inc. Contact him at rduffy@RBAlliance.com.

1/16/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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