While the RBJ 75 companies and organizations employ more than 130,000 people locally, with tens of millions of dollars spent on payroll, their impact on the regional economy is even broader through their purchases of goods and services from local suppliers.
Many place an emphasis on buying local whenever possible.
“Because of our size, we have a responsibility to (support) as much of the local economy as we can,” said Cameron Schauf, the University of Rochester’s director of campus dining services and auxiliary operations.
Schauf, who also serves as co-chair of the University Council on Sustainability, oversees food purchases for the UR River Campus and Eastman School of Music.
He said the university has placed a growing emphasis on buying local food, from roasted coffee and bakery items to meat.
On average, roughly 50 percent of the $8 million in food purchases Schauf oversees come from New York-based businesses. That is up from less than half of 1 percent eight years ago.
Some of the bigger food suppliers include Headwater Foods Inc. in Rochester and Kilcoyne Farms in St. Lawrence County.
At times, the cost of buying local may be higher, Schauf said, but it is worth it in the long run.
“You may pay more than before, but you are often paying for better quality,” he said.
Working with local businesses also gives those vendors a sense of pride in their products, Schauf added, with many actively involved in their displays and offerings at the campus.
Also important is the sense of community that working with local food suppliers can bring, he said. When you can tell someone a food they are eating came from a local producer, it helps give the region an identity.
“It tells a story of who we are and who we can be,” Schauf said.
Rick LaBour, IEC Electronics Corp.’s corporate director of facilities and equipment, said as a contract manufacturer, the Newark firm cannot choose the vendor or location for most of the components required for its manufacturing operation.
However, IEC does support local businesses in other purchases. Approximately 50 percent of its facilities budget goes to local services, LaBour said. That includes using local machine shops, equipment services such as refrigeration, and buying components, including wire.
In addition, IEC hires local residents through Wayne ARC for its janitorial staff.
The company also has a metals division in Rochester, which has more flexibility in choosing the source of its material. There, around 25 percent of the raw materials used are bought locally and another 13 percent of value-added work—such as painting, heat treating and silk screening—is performed by local firms, LaBour said.
Wegmans Food Markets Inc.’s use of local suppliers fluctuates by season, but the supermarket chain buys produce grown locally whenever possible.
“You need only walk in our stores during the season to see that we offer an abundance of local produce,” said Jo Natale, vice president of media relations.
Wegmans also carries branded products by local firms including Zweigle’s Inc., Upstate Farms Cooperative Inc., Lidestri Foods Inc. and Hartmann’s Old World Sausage. Natale noted that a number of such local suppliers also produce Wegmans-brand products.
In addition, the company makes most of its own Wegmans-brand bakery products locally. And Wegmans’ Culinary Innovation Center in Rochester produces many of its marinated meats, specialty burgers, and some of its prepared foods, she said.
Wegmans continues to place an emphasis on buying local.
“It’s increased because customers want to support local producers,” Natale said. “First and foremost, it’s what our customers want.”
Although Xerox Corp. is a company that operates worldwide, it has a strong presence in Rochester, where its global technology delivery unit is based, said Ken Syme, Xerox vice president of global purchasing.
In 2014, Xerox spent more than $470 million with New York suppliers, including many in the Rochester area, he said.
Syme noted that the amount of local spending has not changed significantly over the last few years, but over that time, the mix has shifted toward services and away from manufacturing, consistent with the strategic direction of the company.
Xerox’s procurement group encourages small and diverse businesses to partner with the company and makes an effort to recruit such suppliers locally, he said.
“It’s interesting to note that where we have elected to outsource certain aspects of our business to specialist providers, who may be national or international companies, much of the work is still done here in Rochester,” Syme said.
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