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Forward thinking

Now, the waiting begins.

With not a day to spare, the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council on Monday submitted its plan for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative competition. Sometime before the end of the year, the state will announce the winners: three of seven upstate regions, each of which will receive $500 million to carry out their plan.

The 136-page “United for Success: Finger Lakes Forward” is an impressive document. The council went to great lengths to solicit the views of community members, drawing more than 1,500 people to four URI public forums alone.

“This is a decisive moment for the Finger Lakes region and its urban core, Rochester,” the plan notes.

To build on its current strengths and competitive advantages, the plan focuses on three industry sectors or pillars: optics, photonics and imaging; agriculture and food production; and next-generation manufacturing and technology.

The plan also contains a trio of “core enablers” that will foster growth within the pillar industries: workforce development; entrepreneurship and development; and higher education and research.

The council believes that $500 million in URI funds could leverage up to $6.4 million in private investment over five years, creating thousands of jobs. This includes $3.8 billion in URI-eligible projects already identified.

Among the initiatives mentioned are Project Cataract, a still-confidential project that could bring $400 million in private capital and 600 jobs to downtown Rochester, and the Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in Genesee County, which this week landed its anchor tenant.

The URI competition has drawn its share of criticism, some merited. But clearly, the contest has been a strong motivator to get each of the upstate regions to think big and build consensus about their way forward.

Local leaders naturally are confident about their URI prospects. But the worth of the Finger Lakes plan truly will be demonstrated if it guides the region no matter the outcome of the contest.

10/9/15 (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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