Longtime manufacturing association director, NextCorps founder to retire

Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association Executive Director Kevin Kelley will retire at the end of the month after 45 years in the Rochester business community.

Kevin Kelley
Kevin Kelley

Kelley has served as RTMA’s leader since 2003, but he also is known for his role as founder and executive director of NextCorps, formerly High Tech Rochester. Kelley served the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Inc. for nearly three decades in roles that include senior vice president.

Throughout his career with the Rochester Chamber, Kelley was responsible for technology commercialization, economic development, government relations and association management with a focus on manufacturing and technology.

When he joined RTMA, the organization was known as the Rochester Tooling and Machining Association and was affiliated with the National Tooling and Machining Association, a relationship that went back some 60 years.

As the local organization was experiencing a troubling downturn, Kelley began a thorough benefit analysis of its relationship with NTMA, ultimately determining that the two organizations should cut ties. While the decision initially was met with skepticism from local members and RTMA’s board, Kelley presented a concrete plan that would lower members’ dues by 20 percent, reinvest in the local community and economy and significantly expand member benefits.

It took several years to complete, but in 2011, RTMA emerged as the Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association and embarked on a rigorous plan to formalize its key pillars of manufacturing innovation, workforce development, political advocacy, strategic growth and access to markets.

To achieve those goals, RTMA launched a series of local initiatives to support the success and growth of its members. The organization subsidized trade shows, developed programs to help members access new markets, started a placement program and invested in advertising campaigns to promote careers in manufacturing.

Since 2003 Kelley has led the organization through four strategic planning cycles, restarted the apprenticeship program, secured nearly $3 million of revenue through grants and contracts, increased the organization’s assets by more than 1,000 percent and fostered critical partnerships with Monroe Community College and Rochester Institute of Technology.

Kelley also obtained his broker’s license so that he could develop a healthcare consortium that has enabled companies to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in healthcare costs.

Throughout his tenure with RTMA, Kelley was a fierce activist for the manufacturing sector, serving on regional and national boards to promote the industry. Kelley has worked directly with elected officials on both sides of the aisle in Albany and Washington, D.C., and started a Political Action Committee to support candidates who advocate for manufacturing.

Believing that manufacturing deserves recognition for its innovation, excellence and contributions to the community, Kelley worked closely with the Rochester Business Journal to launch the region’s premier event for manufacturing, the Technology and Manufacturing Awards, which has grown each year since 2017.

“Manufacturing had been written off in pursuit of technology and the service sector. During my years with the RTMA, we have been able to serve as an important resource to manufacturers by providing them with programs and services to enhance their competitiveness, leading to greater profitability,” Kelley said of his biggest achievement with the organization.

He noted that this year’s pandemic has underscored the need to keep manufacturing on our shores.

“During the past year, as the world scrambled to address the Coronavirus crisis, our local manufacturers responded swiftly and strategically by pivoting production to provide critical PPE supplies,” Kelley said. “These decisive moves not only kept the economic engines running in or community but also expedited the delivery of life-saving supplies across the country. We have been proud to provide support and resources to the manufacturing sector during these profound, historic times.

Bob Coyne
Bob Coyne

Kelley will be succeeded as executive director by Bob Coyne, who currently serves as director of workforce development for the RTMA. Prior to his current role, Coyne was president of the RTMA board and general manager for Acro Industries Inc. He will assume his new responsibilities on Jan. 1, 2021.

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