Chamber outlines top areas for action in 2017
Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce celebrates its 130th anniversary this year. Since 1887, when a group of business owners gathered to find ways to address issues such as Canadian trade, railroad and canal use, and banking concerns, Rochester Chamber has worked in the interest of helping businesses grow and prosper.
Over the years, the chamber has gone through several iterations from Rochester Chamber of Commerce to Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce to Greater Rochester Metro Chamber of Commerce to Rochester Business Alliance with the Industrial Management Council merger, to today’s Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, which serves as the voice of business for the entire nine-county Finger Lakes region.
In 2017, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce will continue work to make a bigger impact on the region. You will see us get even more actively involved in efforts to improve the economy and quality of life in our community. We must first retain the businesses that we have and then attract and recruit new businesses to the region.
Our priorities in 2017 will continue to focus on creating a more business-friendly environment for employers, assisting members on issues important to the success of their organizations and supporting key initiatives that improve the community as a whole. Here is a summary of several key areas of focus:
Economic development: Maintaining and growing private sector jobs is key to the region’s economic future. Rochester Chamber remains committed to the priorities of the Regional Economic Development Council, including optics, photonics and imaging; agriculture and food production; next-generation manufacturing; and technology under the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. AIM Photonics continues to progress and holds great promise for creating jobs and boosting Rochester’s reputation as the world’s optics leader. We will also continue to support signature projects such as North American Breweries plan to create a Genesee Eco-Brewery District, which will invest millions of dollars into our economy by creating over 100 jobs and attracting a projected $20 million annually in tourism, and the American Packaging expansion, which will create more than 360 new jobs.
New York State mandates and taxes affecting business: The Rochester/Finger Lakes region can be made more competitive through mandate relief, responsible stewardship of local finances and reducing state and local regulatory burdens. Rochester Chamber passionately works to support broad-based tax reform, reduce outdated and complex business taxes, oppose costly labor laws, promote making the tax cap permanent, oppose prevailing wage mandates and support business-backed tort reform legislation.
Health care: We will continue to look for ways to control the rising costs of health care in our region. Members of the Rochester Chamber Health Care Initiative work on plans designed to generate affordable, quality health care and to improve the health of our community. This past year, the Chamber Health Care Initiative received national recognition in winning the 2016 American Chamber of Commerce Executives Regional Innovation Award. Rochester Chamber supports the work of the “Million Hearts” Initiative, a national program that aims to prevent heart attacks and strokes, and the ongoing work of the High Blood Pressure Collaborative, led by the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency. On the legislative front, Rochester Chamber will continue to oppose state and federal health care mandates that increase costs for employers.
Education and workforce development: If the Rochester/Finger Lakes regional economy is to grow, it must have a supply of skilled workers to meet employer needs. Rochester Chamber is committed to helping improve the education and training pipeline to develop a skilled labor supply. Rochester Chamber supports efforts of ROC the Future to improve student achievement in the city, increased opportunities for career and technical education, FLREDC Workforce Development Committee initiatives, Rochester Market Driven Community Cooperatives Corp. and the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative.
Workers’ compensation: High workers’ compensation costs are a frequent concern heard from members. The Rochester Chamber Workers’ Compensation Committee continuously advocates for reforms to reduce costs and improve system efficiency. We oppose rollbacks of cost-saving measures and continue to defend against costly new legislation that is introduced each year. This summer, Rochester Chamber led an effort with Unshackle Upstate and other business groups to produce a NYS Workers’ Compensation Employer Survey that included feedback from over 200 companies. This data has been shared with state leaders and is playing a key role in current reform efforts. Rochester Chamber’s Workers’ Compensation Conference was well-received this past year and had over 100 members in attendance. We will continue our educational outreach to help businesses better understand system cost-drivers and ways to navigate this challenging area.
Transportation/infrastructure: Rochester Chamber recognizes that a solid infrastructure and transportation system is crucial to the economic success of our region. Working with UNICON and other local partners this past year, Rochester Chamber successfully advocated for greater parity in upstate/downstate infrastructure funding, including $10.9 million for the I-390/490/Lyell Interchange project. Rochester Chamber supports the legalization of upstate ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, arts and tourism growth in Rochester and Monroe County, increased upstate investment in road and bridge repair, and stabilization and a funding increase for the national Highway Trust Fund.
Constituent support: If there is an issue impacting your business, we urge you to contact Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce for assistance. This past year, we responded to numerous requests for assistance, developing more than 100 letters of support/opposition to decision-makers, testifying at hearings and helping members have their concerns heard on legislative and regulatory matters. In 2017 we will once again host our “Policy Matters” series, which allows members to network directly with elected officials and community leaders.
We will continue to serve as a voice for the employer community by actively responding to legislative and policy concerns that develop over the course of the year.
As we celebrate Rochester Chamber’s 130th anniversary, we look at the great prosperity that our region has experienced as well as the challenging times. Through it all, the strength of our business leaders has helped bring Rochester the reputation as one of the most giving and most resilient communities in the nation. Our best days are still ahead of us, but they won’t come easy. Our world, our technology and our customers are changing every day. Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce stands ready to help the Finger Lakes region stay ahead of the curve.
If we all focus on the greater good and future growth of our region and not get mired in turf, destructive politics and other behaviors that stunt our growth, we will achieve the potential that our leaders first envisioned when forming the Rochester Chamber of Commerce 130 years ago.
Robert J. Duffy is president and CEO of Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at rduffy@GreaterRochesterChamber.com.
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