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Advanced assets

A 2015 report by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program highlighted the importance of the advanced industry sector as an engine of innovation and jobs. With its concentration of technology research and development and workers with science, technology, engineering and math skills, this sector generates more value per worker—and higher pay—than the average in other parts of the economy.

The report contained some good news for Rochester: This region was one of only four U.S. metropolitan areas to rank in the top 50 globally in terms of patents per capita. And Rochester ranked fourth nationally in STEM graduates per person aged 20 to 24.

At the same time, the report delivered a sobering fact: With 47,730 people employed in advanced industries, the sector represented 9 percent of total jobs in the Rochester area—down from 113,250 people and 26 percent of total employment in 1980.

This month, the Metropolitan Policy Program released a follow-up report that examines the 2013-15 period. Again, the data for Rochester are mixed. The number of people employed in the advanced industries sector has grown slightly to 48,636, and it now represents 9.1 percent of all jobs; that percentage ranks 38th among the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

But the jobs growth rate—0.4 percent—is 79th among the top 100 metro areas. By contrast, in Buffalo it was 0.8 percent—or double Rochester’s rate—and for Albany it was 3.1 percent. The leaders nationally were San Francisco and Nashville, tied at 7.9 percent.

Another yardstick is the compound annual growth rate in the sector’s output. For 2014-15, Rochester ranked 91st, with a rate of minus 0.4 percent.

To be sure, downsizing by Eastman Kodak Co. and other manufacturers here has taken its toll over the last three decades. That’s history now, though. Looking ahead, Rochester continues to have key assets in advanced industries and soon could gain more with the photonics hub.

The challenge is to translate these assets into jobs and increased economic output, restoring growth to this vital sector.

8/19/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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