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Rochester Top 100: THE CASE FOR ROCHESTER

When Leo Linder was looking for a place to grow his company, Emerging 1 Inc., which does business as Emerge, he considered locations like San Jose, Calif., Phoenix and North Carolina.

Rochester won out.

Linder, who is originally from Chicago and had no ties to the Rochester area before moving here, said the region offered some unique advantages to his staffing and managed services company.

“We looked at things like overall cost of ownership and quality of life for our team and found that Rochester was where we really wanted to grow,” Linder said.

Many of the businesses on the Rochester Top 100 list have weighed the costs and benefits of staying in Rochester against looking elsewhere for growth. Some have noted that the high taxes and overall difficult business climate in New York have led them to consider relocation, while others say they are anchored in Rochester with personal connections and the advantages of a ready and well-educated workforce.

For Linder, there were several factors at play. His company took advantage of incentives to move to New York, including Empire State Development Corp.’s Linked Deposit Program, which helps firms find reduced-rate financing to undertake projects that improve competitiveness.

His company runs only its corporate operations in Rochester and works with clients mostly from the Fortune 500. The ability to branch out to clients in Rochester was a big draw for coming here, he said.

“The biggest pause we took was to make sure we could build a new base of clients in the region,” he said. “We did our due diligence and after that saw a lot of great businesses in town that we could extend our portfolio of services to.”

Linder also says the region’s strength in higher education is a bonus.

“Probably the most important factor was the highly skilled workforces and the universities that have fantastic co-op programs,” he said. “We also looked at quality of life for the team and found that, compared to other places, Rochester really stood out.”

Ken Rosenfeld agrees. The president and CEO of eHealth Technologies said the region has a strong pipeline for talent. His company, which offers clinical referral services and serves more than half of the nation’s top 10 hospitals, can always find good candidates locally, he said.

“We’re always getting really good candidates, people who are well-educated, have computer skills and great communications,” he said. “It makes our lives a lot easier, especially when we’re hiring six to eight computer support people a month.”

Like Linder, Rosenfeld had looked into the advantages of growing in locations other than Rochester. The company may eventually grow more westward to follow opportunities, though that does not mean leaving Rochester, he said.

“We are thinking about some expansion, and the question we’re asking is do we expand in place or do we consider a facility in another part of the country,” he said. “We service the entire United States, and we have a lot of health care customers in California and the West Coast, so it might make sense to expand into a facility in the Pacific time zone.”

Rosenfeld moved to Rochester in 2003 from the San Francisco region, and his wife was raised in the Bay Area as well. But the advantages of Rochester beat out even his hometown, he said.

“It would be very hard for us to move,” he said. “We love the community and think it’s great. From the standpoint of raising a family and the quality of life, Rochester is hard to beat. Yeah, the winter is hard, but I’d take that over too hot and humid in the summer any day.”

Other firms have given serious consideration to leaving the Rochester area.

Christian Curts, CEO of Christian Flooring, said the company could find “huge savings” by leaving the Rochester area. If he was able to replicate the company’s infrastructure, it would make for a difficult decision on whether to stay in Rochester or leave, he said.

Some have considered a more regional move. Claude Wright, CEO of Wright Beverage Distributing, said he has considered relocation beyond the company’s site on Brighton Henrietta Town Line Road to one of its nearby hubs.

He notes he has a larger plant in

LeRoy and sales offices in Seneca Falls and Buffalo.

Taxes are a common factor for those looking outside Rochester.

Mark Matheson, president at Distributed Technology Group, said it made sense to grow the company here as this is where he had established customer relationships before starting the company. He admits, however, that the state’s taxes and overall business climate have led him to consider moving the business outside of Rochester.

Michael Linehan, co-CEO of Premier Laser Spa, also said that taxes have led him to consider moving the company. He added another factor: poor weather.

But for many, the personal ties to Rochester are too strong to break.

David Gardner, partner and president at Gardner Plus Architects PLLC, said Rochester is home, and the company has never thought of moving out of the region.

Rosenfeld said strong connections among community groups are another plus for Rochester.

“We’re able to do things here as a company that are more impactful,” he said. “We do work in the community and partner with the Arc of Monroe, which runs our bistro for breakfast and lunch. We love that we’re able to participate in a number of charitable events, and the fact that everyone can make a difference here is very cool. You can get crowded out in a larger metro environment.”

Linder said the advantages of Rochester surprised him. Coming from Chicago, he was pleasantly surprised to see the strength of the arts offerings and overall quality of life.

“From on outsider’s perspective, this is a fantastic town,” he said.

10/30/15 (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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