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Robert Duffy

President/CEO, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce

Years in current role: 7

What was your biggest success in 2021?

The credit for our 2021 successes goes to the tremendous Chamber team that I am so fortunate to work alongside every day. Our team’s response to the 2020/2021 Covid pandemic would rate as our #1 accomplishment. Our Chamber team responded to over 15K requests for assistance, information, supplies, and advocacy, related to the pandemic. Thanks to our very strong relationships with leaders at the local, state, and federal level, we were able to expedite this assistance and serve both our members and our community. It was an “all hands on deck” operation and I am so proud of our team and so pleased with the service/relief that were able to respond with.

The pandemic also strengthened relationships that previously did not exist. In every cloud there is a silver lining.

What are your expectations for 2022?

My expectations for 2022 are for a renewed spirit of teamwork and collaboration among all of our region’s leaders and a focus on growing or economy and shrinking our levels of poverty and violence. We have a new Mayor who is a collaborator, and he joins other local/regional leaders with a spirit of teamwork and collaboration. We have so many great projects and investments both coming and in-progress, and I sense that 2022 will be a year of both excitement and measurable results for Rochester.

I am an eternal optimist and with good reason.

We should all share that excitement – and look for ways to contribute.

What is your biggest takeaway from dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?

The constant flow of misinformation eroded the credibility of factual information and has led to unnecessary divisions both here and around the country.

The pandemic is a public health issue and has been overly politicized.

Decisions that were arbitrary and without factual/scientific data to support them – led to huge human and economic costs, and eroded trust in government.

We have seen both strong and poor leadership throughout the pandemic that has added to the public’s distrust.

Leadership should unite people in a crisis. That did not occur to the level that it should have.

There are many lessons to be learned – and I hope there is sufficient time spent to learn from our mistakes and be better prepared for future pandemics.

What is your favorite thing about the Rochester community?

I love Rochester’s spirit and resilience. How many communities can survive the economic downturn of some of our largest companies and still keep coming back and growing new businesses and economic opportunities.

Rochester is like a boxer who takes a knee during a difficult fight – and then gets back up, keeps fighting – and wins.

That is Rochester – and that is what I love about this place.

If time were no issue, what would you do to help the community that you aren’t already doing?

The two key challenges/opportunities for Rochester continue to be the success of our City School District and the issue of violence. Both are multi-faceted complex challenges – but if we can succeed in changing the trajectory of outcomes in these two areas – there lies the key to true transformational change. The scourge of poverty has direct connections to both.

It requires political courage and full community support.

I would help in any/every way to bring about true change.

Rochester needs it.

This profile is part of Rochester Business Journal's Power 100 list for 2022. Information used in this profile was sourced from the honoree. View the full list at


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