President, Passero Associates
Years in current role: 3
What are the biggest challenges you see in your industry currently?
The labor market. Every trade in the industry has a need for talented people that exceeds the local supply, especially in the five-plus years’ experience level. The result is a very competitive environment full of headhunters, offers and counteroffers. I believe most companies in our area would say that their potential is limited by our available workforce. Fortunately, we have a number of great, local educational institutions that have a lot of talented people entering the workforce.
What are the most common concerns you hear from clients?
Balancing volatile market conditions against the time it takes to get projects through local approvals. When a project is first conceived it may be financially viable; however, most large and more complicated projects can take a year or much longer before they have site plan approval and are shovel ready. By then, rates, construction costs and market conditions can be totally different, resulting in a lot of strain on owners, contractors and designers. We all do our best to adapt the project, value engineer and squeeze the margins but it’s a difficult needle to thread.
What is one thing you would change about Rochester if you could?
An active and vibrant downtown and riverfront, to me that’s the biggest difference I notice when I travel to other cities. Rochester has a lot to offer in terms of education, workforce, recreation and jobs, not to mention the Genesee, which runs through the middle of the city. Unfortunately, if you walk down main street or along the river at 8 p.m. on a Saturday you won’t see all that many people. It seems the administration has made revitalization of our urban core a priority and we’re starting to move in the right direction.
How do you manage work/life balance?
Work life balance is not prescriptive, it’s different for everybody. I learned to set boundaries and priorities around my family. If my daughter has a soccer game at 5 p.m. then I’m out of the office at 4; it’s not negotiable. During the evenings, weekends and vacations I make myself available to employees and clients for an hour here and there to stay up to speed, that works for me and I’m comfortable with that. Some people need to entirely disconnect and lock their phone away when they’re not at the office and that’s perfectly fine too.