Designers to pay tribute to Louise Slaughter, Rochester architecture during Fashion Week

Fashion Week raises hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for the Center for Youth. This year’s extravaganza will celebrate the late Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Rochester’s iconic buildings. (Provided)
Fashion Week raises hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for the Center for Youth. This year’s extravaganza will celebrate the late Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Rochester’s iconic buildings. (Provided)

Because it’s the 10th anniversary, the flashy Fashion Week Rochester (Oct. 14-19) had to shake things up a bit.

The five-day extravaganza, which raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for the Center for Youth, became a six-day event, starting with a children’s show on Monday. And now on Friday night a Rochester-themed show, “Runway to Rochester,” is scheduled, featuring two special collections.

What could be more Rochesterian than a tribute to the Kentucky-born Louise M. Slaughter, who represented Rochester in the House of Representatives for 31 years?

“Runway to Rochester,” will include a collection of women’s suits and clothing created by a Hickey Freeman executive and clothing designer in tribute to the late congresswoman. Ten outfits — most of them suits with skirts or pants — will be exhibited to pay honor to the woman who saved Rochester’s best known clothing manufacturer more than once.

The show will also include a joint effort by local architects and interior designers, as well as support from national materials suppliers to create structures and clothing inspired by buildings in Rochester. Local chapters of the professional organizations representing both of those groups are working together on a concept that has been featured in other city’s fashion shows. But here, expect to see something reminiscent of the winged Time Square building, the First Federal Plaza, the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Bridge, the former Rochester Savings Bank building, the Strasenburgh Planetarium and other iconic Rochester structures.

Jeffery Diduch, vice president of technical design at Hickey Freeman, had promised to make Slaughter a jacket after seeing an interview with her in a documentary about the history of Rochester’s garment industry. In that documentary, “Tailor Made,” Slaughter noted how her male colleagues in Congress often flashed the linings of their suits to her when passing, acknowledging they wore suits made by in her home district by Hickey Freeman. Diduch met Slaughter when she visited the factory to see the Olympic uniforms created by the menswear manufacturer and tried on one of the jackets.

But Slaughter died not long after her visit, and before Diduch could make good on his promise.

“I like to do what I say I’m going to do, so I felt bad about not making it,” Diduch said. Slaughter “was really somebody who did help the company out a lot. So it was important to do something to honor her memory.”

He approached Fashion Week to see if he could make an outfit or two as a tribute to Slaughter. But Elaine Spaull, the city councilor who also is executive director of the Center for Youth, was thinking bigger. She thought of Slaughter’s immediate support for the homeless (including some of the center’s clientele) once she got to Congress in the 1980s. She also thought of her involvement in finding federal aid to keep Hickey Freeman from closing down.

“She basically saved the factory twice,” Spaull said of Slaughter. “She used to say she was their Washington office.”

With Spaull’s encouragement, Diduch’s one or two outfits became an entire collection, “For Louise.”

He’s having all the outfits made in a winter white shade of Italian wool crepe.

“It went from a very small idea to a big thing in the space of 48 hours,” Diduch said, after Spaull quickly gained approval from others working with Fashion Week and from Slaughter’s family.

The decisions to go with an entire collection were made just before the Hickey Freeman plant closed for summer break, so Diduch himself cut and sewed some of the garments — something he often does when new garments are being created — during his vacation. He’s having some of the garments made at the factory now that it’s up and running again.

Diduch has designed the garments like menswear in that they have sufficiently wide seams to allow for alterations over the lifetime of the clothing.

“We make luxury clothing. It’s not inexpensive,” and should be able to be altered for the wearer as her body changes over time, he said.

The line should appeal to women of various ages, Diduch said, and the models will reflect different ages and body types.

“Some of the pieces were designed to appeal to somebody like Louise … some of them were just made for show,” Diduch said.

And what about after the show? That has to be worked out. Diduch has purchased crepe in black, navy and red as well as the white that will be shown in the Fashion Week show. People who are interested can contact him through a web page that has been established for the Louise Slaughter Collection.

One of the outfits is inspired by the Times Square building. (Provided)
One of the outfits is inspired by the Times Square building. (Provided)

At the same time that the Louise Collection was coming together, Jason Streb, an architect with the CPL firm who is president of the Rochester chapter of the American Institute of Architects, reached out to Fashion Week to see if designers from that realm could participate in some way.

When Blynn Nelson, an interior designer who works for the CJS Architects, heard about Streb’s idea, she came up with the way the architects’ professional organization and the Rochester chapter of a similar organization for interior designers, the International Interior Design Association, could participate. She suggested something she’d seen in other larger cities before: a product runway.

“Outfits are curated and designed from raw materials that vendors supply to (architects and interior designers.) They really have to create a dress or garment out of carpet, for example, or tile,” Nelson said.

But some of the materials may be unrecognizable on the runway. Streb said carpeting, for instance, might be stripped of all the cushy materials so the designer can use the flexible, shimmery backing on the underside.

Nelson said commercial products meet different standards than those used in home construction, so the carpet backing can be quite different than what homeowners are familiar with and have the appearance of leather.

Streb said 12 teams of interior designers and architects are participating. Each team has been assigned two product suppliers, one providing hard material, and one providing soft. Some are local, like glass artist Nancy Gong, who is working with the team inspired by the planetarium, but many of them are national companies.

“It’s kind of a wild concept that has never been done here,” Streb said.

Marrying the product runway idea with a community’s local architecture is unique to Rochester, Nelson said.

It’s unlikely any of the garments will go into production after the show, but Nelson said the organizers are looking for a gallery to show them again.

Megan Mundy, the “chief fashion officer” for Fashion Week, said she is often asked after each Fashion Week how the organizers will top the show next time.

“We’re so lucky that people like Jason reach out and say, ‘I’ve got this idea,’ and Jeffery. I’ve learned to be open to every single idea,” Mundy said. “We’ve always just had these amazing ideas just come to our doors.”

Friday’s show will begin with architecture-inspired garments, followed by Rochester-area firefighters and then the For Louise collection. Other groups and designers will also show that night, including craft breweries, several fashion-oriented businesses, and Indian fashions, ending with the traditional wedding gown.

Spaull said every afternoon and night of Fashion Week is meant to feel like a party, even though the fundraising is for very serious needs. For the first time this year, each night will have a theme related to one of Center for Youth’s programs, such as its crisis nursery, or shelter for homeless youth who are in the LGBTQ community.

“We’re going to say something every night about the program,” Spaull said. Last Fashion Week raised $825,000; this year’s 10th anniversary goal is $1 million. Costs are high for an event like this, Spaull noted, but kept as low as possible by many outright donations and deeply discounted services. The event is held under a tent constructed on a parking lot owned by Midtown Athletic Club.

Spaull holds that Fashion Week is about community more than fashion. Tickets to each event are kept reasonable — $35 to $100 — and they’re even free for teens coming to Wednesday’s show, which features teenagers on the runway. “We never want teenagers to be left out,” Spaull said. Some shows sell out — they hadn’t yet this week — but individual tickets are usually available even after ringside tables are all gone.

While fashion is the draw for Fashion Week, even those who are not into fashion should feel comfortable attending, Spaull said.

“This is not a fancy pants world. This is bringing together the most amazing assets and the most amazing vibrancy of the city,” she said.

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Fashion Week Rochester

Fashion Week will be held Oct. 14-19 with six shows benefitting six different Center for Youth programs. Go to for more information and to purchase tickets.

Monday, Oct. 14 — A Family Affair. Benefits Crisis Nursery and Owen’s House.

Tuesday, Oct. 15 — Afternoon Rendezvous. Benefits Safe Harbour.

Wednesday, Oct. 16 — Lead The Way. Benefits Street Outreach and Safe Place.

Thursday, Oct. 17 — On the Edge. Benefits Arnett House—By Their Side.

Friday, Oct. 18 — Runway to Rochester. Benefits Our Rochester—Expanded Host Home.

Saturday, Oct. 19 — The Final Look. Benefits Emergency Shelter.

Slaughter’s papers will be kept at University of Rochester

Louise M. Slaughter’s congressional papers are being donated to the University of Rochester.

The late congresswoman, who died in 2018 while still in Congress, represented the Rochester area for 31 years and 16 terms. The university announced the donation from Louise and Bob Slaughter’s family Wednesday morning.

The late Louise M. Slaughter. Photo supplied by University of Rochester.
The late Louise M. Slaughter (University of Rochester)

“Serving as a member of the United States House of Representatives was the highest privilege and honor of our mother’s life, and we are delighted that the University of Rochester will be the steward for the official records, documents and memorabilia associated with her entire congressional career,” said Robin Slaughter Minerva on behalf of the family. “The results of her leadership will long remain evident in Rochester, and viewing the breadth of this collection will give students, faculty and the public a sense of the enormous scope of our mother’s accomplishments.” She added the hope that future leaders would be inspired by Slaughter’s legacy.

The papers will be housed in the River Campus Libraries’ Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation.

UR President Richard Feldman said Slaughter’s “legacy in Congress, throughout the state, in Rochester, and across this university was profound and will never be forgotten—it is a distinctive honor for the university to curate and steward her collection. I want to thank the Slaughter family for entrusting us with this wonderful opportunity.”

The collection includes legislative research, proposed and passed bills, speeches, awards and visual media.

“There’s incredible scholarship potential here,” said Mary Ann Mavrinac, university vice provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of University of Rochester Libraries. “Students, faculty, community members, authors, artists, visiting scholars and others across far-ranging areas such as education, political science, public health, and women in government and leadership can draw from her papers to inform their work.”

“Congresswoman Slaughter’s papers will offer nearly endless opportunities for research, teaching, collaboration, community engagement, and service learning,” added Jessica Lacher-Feldman, assistant dean and Joseph N. Lambert and Harold B. Schleifer Director of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. She said the university will now hire a project archivist to prepare the collection.

The university also expects to create a searchable online guide to the collection to promote use of the collection, a digital exhibition and collection, and a physical exhibition and programming highlighting Slaughter’s contributions.

Slaughter, the only microbiologist in Congress during her tenure, was a major supporter of higher education institutions in her district. Acknowledging that support, UR awarded Slaughter its Presidential Proclamation in 2014 and its Eastman Medal in 2009, the same year she gave the undergraduate commencement address.

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Stendardi’s behind-the-scenes work fosters RIT growth

You won’t find Deborah Stendardi’s name on the buildings at Rochester Institute of Technology. She’s not listed on the mastheads of various centers and institutes at the university. But her imprint is just about everywhere in Brick City, playing a role as important as the mortar that holds the bricks together.

Deborah Stendardi (Photo by Gino Fanelli)
Deborah Stendardi (Photo by Gino Fanelli)

Stendardi, who began working at RIT in 1979, is vice president of governmental and community relations. What that means, basically, is she gets stuff done. Really big stuff.

When a professor or even a university president has a great idea for a new initiative at RIT, Stendardi works with staff to hone the idea into a sensible proposal. Then she shepherds that proposal and the people representing it through agencies and legislatures to find funding to make help make the idea a reality. Along the way she tutors the PhDs on how to promote their ideas in a trustworthy manner, and she continues building on decades-long relationships in government.

“It’s really keeping up with RIT’s evolution as a national institution,” Stendardi said during a visit to her office, which is somewhat hidden on campus. The office’s location is so obscured – much like the work she does – that a security guard offers one of her visitors a parking pass to a different building, assuming a vice president would be located in the main administration building. Nope. She’s tucked away in the University Services Center.

That sense of anonymity seems to be just fine with Stendardi, who spends much of her interview talking about and praising others instead.  Some would argue that Stendardi’s work isn’t keeping up with RIT’s evolution, but having the much more central role of making that evolution possible.

“I give Debbie a lot of credit for the work I’ve done myself, the things the University has been able to accomplish,” said Nabil Nasr, who leads both the Golisano Institute for Sustainability and the REMADE Institute, a national research initiative based at RIT. “She did magical things for the university over the years.”

Stendardi said of the work, “It’s just energizing and fun to work with other people.” She takes on major community issues as a personal challenge, such as how to prevent the brain drain caused by young people going away for education and never returning, or coming to Rochester for education and leaving immediately afterward.

“Our students are enormously talented,” Stendardi said. Incubating entrepreneurship programs are starting to provide reasons for students to come to Rochester and then find a company that has spun off from campus into the community. She cited RIT’s MAGIC Spell Studio, as an example, describing it as “a convergence of film and animation and interactive gaming.”

“One of the things that makes it so much fun here is seeing how RIT can impact the community, having projects that are inspiring,” she said.

Stendardi is such an institution in the Rochester business and education community, it’s a little hard to believe she’s not from here. She started out in Ridgewood, a part of Queens, and moved to Garden City on Long Island when she was 12. She attended State University New York at Cortland, majoring in early secondary education with a concentration in French, but found that education systems were more interesting to her than the classroom.

After college she returned to Long Island, married her husband and then got work as an assistant to the president of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities in Albany. When Ed Stendardi was hired to teach at St. John Fisher College, Debbie Stendardi started looking among her college contacts for work.

“I knew all the colleges” she said, because of her work on the commission. In 1979, M. Richard Rose was the president of RIT and looking to expand governmental relations, so he hired Stendardi to take that on. The title and level of responsibility have changed over the years, but governmental affairs have always been part of what she does. Stendardi said she works with every level of government, from town officials when physical campus issues are impacting the neighborhood, to state and federal funding opportunities.

But Stendardi’s job has also brought her into close contact with the area’s economic development leaders, particularly as RIT has grown into a major job-creating force. She chairs the board of the Rochester Downtown Development Corp. and currently sits on four other boards, including that of High Tech Rochester, the Catholic Family Center and The Children’s Agenda.

“RIT Is involved in all the pillars of regional economic development,” Stendardi said, once again neatly omitting her own role. She noted that RIT played a significant part in LiveTiles’ decision to locate here, as more and more high tech companies are looking to set up shop in a place with the entrepreneurial and technical skills already available in a ready-made workforce.

Another aspect of her job is overseeing the university department that puts on special events, from robotics competitions to corporate events.

“We have a staff of folks who help these organizations with the planning and logistics of these events, and coordinating the RIT services and facilities that they need, bringing many visitors to the campus during the year,” she said. “Thanks to their efforts, RIT has become a true ‘venue of choice’ for these kinds of events, and it is an important part of our community outreach.

But she earns her greatest praise by helping to build up the still-expanding university.

 “In my role for RIT, it’s about building long term relationships for the university that transcend individuals,” Stendardi said. “I try to ensure that our elected officials feel a strong connection to the university, what we are trying to achieve for our students as well as for the region, the state and the nation. Being responsive and understanding of their needs and interests and ensuring that the university appreciates them as well is just the right thing to do.   I think we have been successful because they trust us to do what we say we will do, and we work very hard to share with them the results and outcomes of their investments in RIT.”

Nasr said Stendardi really works with a project’s participants to help them find a focus before presenting the proposal to potential funders among governmental agencies.

“She always pushes hard just to make sure what we’re presenting to any agency is correct and well thought-out,” Nasr said. “She teaches a lot of subject-matter experts.”  Nasr said he learned from Stendardi to keep in mind that every grant application is part of a larger, long-term relationship. “She is very genuine about relationships, she cares about people.”

After working in government relations for 39 years, Stendardi has some deep relationships. Many of those people, including two US presidents (Clinton and the first Bush), are pictured with her on the walls of her office.  One of the deeper relationships was with Louise Slaughter, the late congresswoman. It’s hard for Stendardi to talk of her without becoming emotional.

“Her impact on RIT was very significant,” Stendardi said. Slaughter had a greater than usual ability to “connect the dots” both on scientific and economic development issues, she said. “The legacy she leaves is understanding the assets (of the Rochester community.) Whoever wins the seat will have big shoes to fill.”

Liam Fitzsimmons, who served Slaughter as chief of staff until her death, said of the two women, “Debbie and Louise had a deep and lasting bond. They shared a commitment to strengthening RIT and worked together to create economic opportunities for the entire Rochester region.  Neither shied away from a fight to do right by Rochester and no detail was too small. I can fondly recall the two of them poring over pages of Member target lists in Louise’s Capitol office as we worked to put together the successful coalition of support for the REMADE Institute.”

Landing the REMADE Institute at RIT was a huge accomplishment, Nasr said. The Golisano Institute for Sustainability is the lead entity of the partnership between 26 universities and labs, he said.

Stendardi is, characteristically, modest about her role in the initiative.  “It’s not just a singular effort. I partner with development, philanthropy, research…, working together on the question of ‘How can we really optimize what we’re doing?’ ”

She has seen the university grow significantly in her 39 years. Upon her arrival, the school was largely focused on career-oriented undergraduate degree programs and catered to a local and regional audience. Now the graduate enrollment is significant, owing to the addition of doctoral and research programs. And Stendardi notes than 50 percent of the students come from outside New York State.

“RIT has evolved into a major university since I came here,” Stendardi said.

She won’t take credit for that but others will place a lot of the credit at her feet.

“Her fingerprints are on so many buildings around campus, so many programs,” Nasr said, even though she always seems more comfortable staying out of the limelight. “I give Debbie a lot of credit behind those several hundred million dollars we received over the years,” he said.

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Deborah Stendardi

Title: Vice president of community and government relations, Rochester Institute of Technology

Age: 67

Education: B.A., early secondary education and French, 1973, SUNY Cortland; M.A., public administration, 1978, SUNY Albany

Family: Husband Ed Stendardi, Jr.; a daughter Bridget Williams; a son, Matt; and two granddaughters

Home: Pittsford

Favorite pastimes: Traveling, photography and attending country music concerts.

Quote: “One of the things that make it so much fun here is seeing how RIT can impact the community, having projects that are inspiring.”

RoCo to preview 6×6 artwork

6x6An online preview of Rochester Contemporary Art Center’s (RoCo) annual 6×6 event will begin Friday in advance of the exhibit’s opening June 2. Some 6,600 entries were received this year, the largest number since RoCo limited entries to four per person.

Now in its 11th year, the small-scale artwork comes from all over the world; this year art was received from Katmandu, Nepal. The in-gallery preview has extended its hours from 1 to 9 p.m. May 28 through June 1. Artwork in all styles, genres, types of media and in 2- and 3-D will be for sale for a flat $20 to benefit the gallery.

Artists names are anonymous until purchase.

“We are amazed by this year’s turnout,” said RoCo Executive Director Bleu Cease in a statement. “It is always fun to receive artworks from all around the world, yet when the total number of artworks takes a big jump up, we were surprised and thrilled. As always, we are so grateful for everyone’s generous contributions to 6×6 and look forward to the opening reception on June 2 and an exciting 6×6 season ahead.”

Louise Slaughter's final submission to 6x6.
Louise Slaughter’s final submission to 6×6.

Just before her death, the late Rep. Louise Slaughter sent in her 6×6 entry of the downtown train station, “Memory of the old and rejoicing in the new.” It will be given a place of prominence during the exhibit and will not be for sale. The train station will be named in her honor.

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren have submitted works of art for the exhibit, as have Monroe Community College President Anne Kress and St. John Fisher College President Gerald Rooney.

Attendees at the June 2 Opening Party and Artwork Sale may enter a raffle to win one of the first 20 buyer positions beginning at 7:30 p.m.; all others can begin purchasing works of art at 8 p.m. Both the raffle tickets and the colored dots signifying that an artwork is sold can be purchased on June 2 from 4 until 7:30 p.m.

As RoCo’s biggest fundraiser, 6×6 runs through July 16, with special hours during the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.

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Funding looking up for UR laser lab, thanks to Slaughter and others

Louise M. Slaughter may be getting her name on a train station for which she fought for years, but the late congresswoman’s last act of consequence for the Rochester area could be her insistence that the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester deserves full funding.

On Wednesday, Congress shared omnibus bills including the $75 million the lab had requested from the federal government. Earlier this year President Donald Trump’s proposed budget included the first of several years of cuts to the lab’s budget. The lab employs more than 300 scientists and supports the research work of more than 400 from around the country.

UR President Richard Feldman expressed his thanks on Thursday with this statement: “The bills include significant investments for higher education and research, including critical support for our Laboratory for Laser Energetics, which is welcome relief given our recent concern about the future funding of the national security and energy research conducted there. We want to thank Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, and Representatives Collins, Reed, Katko, Stefanik and the other members of our delegation for their strong bipartisan support. And we are especially grateful to the late Louise Slaughter, our U.S. Representative who lent tremendous support to this issue, and who was one of our institution’s greatest champions for more than 25 years.”

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Congresswoman Louise Slaughter in hospital following fall

Louise Slaughter
Louise Slaughter

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter has been hospitalized with a concussion following a fall in her Washington, D.C. residence. Slaughter’s Chief of Staff Liam Fitzsimmons released the following statement today:

“Congresswoman Slaughter fell at her Washington, D.C. residence last week and was taken to George Washington University Hospital to receive treatment and monitoring for a concussion,” Fitzsimmons wrote. “She did not suffer any fractures or broken bones and is receiving excellent care from the world-class medical staff at GW hospital. The congresswoman is tough as nails and she will bring that same spirit to this recovery. We appreciate the outpouring of support and the community’s patience during her recuperation. We will release additional information as it becomes available.”

Warner School wins $800,000 research grant

The University of Rochester has won an $800,000 grant that will be used to help study potential barriers preventing students with learning disabilities from going into science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

The grant from the National Science Foundation will fund work by a team headed by Samantha Daley, assistant professor in counseling and human development at UR’s Warner School of Education. The award was announced Tuesday, March 6, by U.S. Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport.

Daley said the grant will fund two focus areas. The first will look at attitudes of middle school and high school students with learning disabilities toward classes or careers in STEM fields. Students with learning disabilities, including issues such as dyslexia, constitute the largest group among students receiving special education services, Daley said.

The second focus of the study will try to identify classroom environments that are likely to support or encourage students with learning disabilities to go into further STEM study or careers.

With other groups that are underrepresented in STEM, Daley said, “differences in whether they stay in science are not just about academic performance, but they’re also about choices and motivation and whether they can see themselves being successful in science fields and careers.”

Previous study has suggested the barriers are complex.

“Usually we focus pretty exclusively on improving academic skills, which is important, but that’s not everything that shapes a students’ goals or academic careers and trajectory,” Daley said.

“Some of it is that we need to improve academic skills. A lot of students with learning disabilities in particular are below their peers in basic reading and math skills. Also, there are some signs that there are lower expectations that really shape what courses students with disabilities are enrolled in, and those really shape future outcomes,” Daley said.

The schools where the research will be carried out have not been finalized yet, but Daley said interested families and schools can contact her to be considered for participation in the study. She can be reached by emailing [email protected].

Daley said national statistics suggest 8 percent of people with all kinds of disabilities work in STEM fields, but 12 to 15 percent of the population have disabilities. Just 6 percent of people with disabilities hold doctorates in science or engineering, she said.

The grant will pay for research to be conducted over five years, starting May 1.

“I congratulate the University of Rochester on receiving this federal award,” Slaughter said in announcing the grant. “This funding will help ensure that students with learning disabilities get the support they need to enter into and ultimately succeed in careers in the growing STEM fields. I’m proud that our region is playing a leading role in training educators so all our students can fulfill their potential.”

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Slaughter attempts to woo nuclear official for laser lab

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter has invited the administrator of the national Nuclear Security Administration to visit the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics in an attempt to persuade her to reverse proposed budget cuts that would close the federally supported research facility.

Slaughter’s letter was sent to NNSA Administrator Lisa Goden-Haggerty Friday; a staff member for the congresswoman said no response had been received yet.

“I invite you to Rochester for a tour of the LLE so that you can see firsthand the world-class facilities that draw more than 400 scientists from around the world to Western New York every year to carry out fundamental research and to meet the more than 360 scientists, engineers and technicians, and support staff that work at the lab,” Slaughter wrote in her letter to Gordon-Haggerty. “Investing in LLE is an investment in the technical capacity of our nation’s nuclear and optical scientists that is a crucial component of our national security and critical for our country.”

Cuts to the LLE and research at other national science facilities were included in the budget proposal President Donald J. Trump gave to Congress in February. The proposal prompted LLE Director Mike Campbell to travel to Washington DC immediately to confer with legislators representing Western New York districts. They all—Republican and Democrat—promised support, he reported. While the president proposes the budget, Congress has the power to amend it.

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Love Beets to add 100 jobs here

Love Beets USA LLC has launched two new products, honey & vinegar golden beets and beet salsa (photo by Gino Finelli)
Love Beets USA LLC has launched two new products, honey & vinegar golden beets and beet salsa
(photo by Gino Finelli)

Love Beets USA LLC plans to add 100 middle-skill and high-tech jobs over the next two years, allowing the company to maximize its crop output and source 100 percent of its products from U.S. growers, company officials said this week.

That expected growth is a result of increased production and two new products: Beet salsa and Golden Beets with honey and vinegar.

“Some of those new jobs will be about how we make the best of agriculture in this area using digital technology,” said Love Beets managing director Daniel Cross at a press gathering Tuesday. “We’re working with Cornell, RIT and pulling some of the expertise that’s in this region to really make this a world-class center for beet growing.”

Love Beets expects to capitalize on exports to South America and elsewhere, Cross said.

“Beets are a healthy, delicious, nutritious product. They have fantastic benefits for heart health, blood flow, circulation, but they are difficult to prepare,” he noted. “And that’s where we come in: cooking them, juicing them, turning them into powder. Because we want to make those beets more accessible. That’s our mission.”

To do so, Love Beets will take advantage of all Western New York has to offer.

Love Beets USA LLC sources 75 percent of its beets from Rochester-area growers. (Photo by Gino Finelli)
Love Beets USA LLC expects to source 75 percent of its beets from Rochester-area growers.
(Photo by Gino Finelli)

“We’ve got great agriculture in Western New York, but how do we build on that agriculture with food manufacturing to make those products more convenient and get them to market,” Cross said. “And we believe there’s an opportunity here, in the Eastman Business Park, to make this one of those food hubs and really be an area of innovation in this region, which will help propel our growth.”

Love Beets—a pairing between LiDestri Foods Inc. and G’s Fresh Ltd. of the United Kingdom—processes and packages fresh, marinated and organic beets and beet products at the LiDestri Foods manufacturing complex at Eastman Business Park.

The local facility grew from 51 staffers in January 2016 to 125 today. All of the company’s products for sale in North America come out of the Rochester manufacturing plant.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Perinton, was instrumental in attracting Love Beets to the region. She met with company representatives in 2014 to entice them to locate here.

“When I think you could have gone anyplace in the United States and you’re here, it not only says a lot about Rochester and our agriculture and what we’re able to produce and the best workforce you’ll ever find anywhere, but we are so proud of what you’ve done in such a short time,” Slaughter said while sampling Love Beets salsa. “And now you’re planning to add 100 more employees? That’s music to our ears.”

Rep. Louise Slaughter samples the new Love Beets salsa (Photo by Gino Finelli)
Rep. Louise Slaughter samples the new Love Beets salsa
(Photo by Gino Finelli)

Love Beets has grown its sales from $15 million in 2015 to $26.3 million in calendar year 2017, Cross noted, and the factory still has capacity, putting the company in a good position to continue to scale up.

“Over the next 26 months we’re very focused on launching more of these new products—nutritious, healthy, delicious—and getting them sold across North America to create the next 100 jobs here in Rochester,” Cross said.

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Slaughter announces $770,000 grant for URMC


Offering substantial investment into the University of Rochester Medical Center, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter has announced a $770,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services. The funding will go toward Dr. Danielle Benoit’s research into drugs to prevent radiation damage to salivary glands in throat and neck cancer patients.

“This major federal award is yet another example of the important research happening right here in our community,” Slaughter, a member of the Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus, said in a press release. “Rochester is helping lead the world in some of the most groundbreaking medical breakthroughs. Dr. Benoit’s research will help carry that legacy while also playing a big role in helping the hundreds of thousands of people diagnosed with throat and neck cancer every year.”

Damage to salivary glands and loss of function is a common side effect of radiation treatment for neck and throat cancer patients, at a rate of approximately 550,000 per year.