Update: Greater Rochester Chamber’s talent team projects

In previous columns I have talked about Greater Rochester Chamber’s talent team with great regard and I’d like to provide an update on some of the activities that this group has been engaged in.

Finding and retaining talent continues to be one of the biggest challenges for our region and across the country. Post-COVID, this has certainly been a challenge for the entire business community. Most employers have had to adapt their work schedules, flex their remote working capabilities and accept new employee expectations in order to meet the demands of business and the changing world of work.

In the Greater Rochester region, our Chamber has been charged by the ROC2025 partnership to take the lead on talent, which we have very passionately accepted. Our talent team is led by former Constellation Brands executive Barb Egenhofer, and we have recruited a group of superbly talented leaders to help advance our priorities.

The first update I would like to provide is on CampusROC, which focuses on engaging and retaining college students in our area. CollegeFEST, this program’s yearly signature event, was held for the second time on September 17 at Innovation Square, and it was a smashing success.

Innovation Square, which has been transformed by Andy Gallina and the team at Gallina Development, has hosted the last two CollegeFEST events, which could be described as combination of job fairs and Disney World for college students. There was a tremendous collection of employers and recruiters from our region, with activities and networking opportunities to connect college students with the numerous amenities in downtown Rochester and its surrounding region.

The goal of this effort is to create strong relationships with college students from our 19 colleges and universities so that when they complete their senior years, they look favorably upon the Greater Rochester/Finger Lakes region for their future employment opportunities.

CampusROC and CollegeFEST, led by our talent team member Julia Pagano, are “must-attend” events for students, vendors and employers. Pagano has done a terrific job working with the three groups and we know that the program and further events will continue to grow in attendance and results each year.

The next update is on our Veterans Connect program. This effort started three years ago when a group visited Fort Drum to reestablish relationships with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum. The group made the trip with the hopes of recruiting men and women who have completed their service with the U.S. Army and are open to career opportunities.

Fort Drum graduates 300 soldiers each month, most of whom are from other states. To my knowledge, Rochester has never had a robust talent pipeline between here and Fort Drum, but that has now changed. This effort is led by our Chamber teammate Yashira Rodriguez, who is a U.S. Army veteran along with her husband and parents. Rodriguez has a unique perspective on not only military life and service, but on what soldiers would be most attracted to when being recruited for future employment.

On October 7 and 8, Veterans Connect hosted the first cadre of soldiers from Fort Drum. Twenty-one men and women arrived on Friday night. We joined them for dinner at Fiamma Centro in Rochester, where we had a chance to meet these true American heroes. From Friday night through Saturday afternoon, the group was exposed to meals, tours, visits, fun activities, and interactions with a number of local employers and hiring managers to try to convince them of the opportunities that exist in the Greater Rochester region.

There are many highlights of the weekend but one that stands out was when these soldiers visited the Pittsford Wegmans. Here they were greeted by Danny, Colleen and Nicole Wegman, which made their visit all the more special. I commend Yashira, the entire talent team and all those who supported this incredible weekend.

While at the Friday night dinner, I thought we might be fortunate to attract one or two veterans back to the region, as most of the discussion was about weather. But by Saturday night there was no doubt that we had a great opportunity for at least half of that group to make a new life after their service career here in Rochester. Most importantly, these men and women will return to Fort Drum and speak very positively about their visit to Rochester. Thanks to Yashira and the group, the hospitality was simply outstanding. More to come on this.

The third program update to mention is Greater ROC Remote. This effort is being led by Melanie DellaPietra and is modeled after similar programs in Tulsa, Oklahoma and other cities. Greater ROC Remote offers a stipend of up to $10,000 for people who work remotely from other cities to move to Rochester. The team did a tremendous job advertising this program, and we have received over 1000 applications from 49 States to date.

On Saturday, October 15, we welcomed 21 of our newest residents and their families who have accepted the offer to move to Rochester. These men and women bring great talent and energy here. While many of our newest residents still work for companies in other cities and states, their spouses and family members are looking to start employment in Rochester, which we are happily assisting them with. There is no doubt that this first group will bring an array of economic activity to our region through home, car, and other purchases and investments. They also represent terrific talent that we hope will seek employment with a Rochester area company.

I and others joined our talent team for dinner last Saturday at Next Door on Monroe Avenue. It was a wonderful chance to meet our newest residents, see how much they appreciated this program, and to witness how they all mingled with each other and were establishing new relationships.

This program would not have been possible without the support of Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce board and ROC2025 board chair Rob Sands and a cadre of investors, as well as the full support of ROC2025 CEO Joe Stefko. It was a terrific night with such a positive atmosphere for our newest Rochester residents. There were too many stories to tell from that night, but we will keep you updated about this effort in future.

Governor Hochul recently announced the creation of a new strategic workforce development office in her administration that will be led by Amber Rangel, who was a longtime executive at the New York State Business Council and is now focused on the workforce development challenges among our businesses. This office will be a great addition to all of our efforts: as I mentioned in my last column, we have already requested that the New York State Department of Education and our RCSD leadership consider changes in their curriculums to better prepare our students.

We are aligned, and work very closely, with other partners such as RochesterWorks, Monroe Community College and the Forward Center, and all of our regional partners. Workforce preparation is a challenge everywhere, but I’m proud of the work that is being done here. While our job is far from being completed, we are on the right path. I do believe that we can be a model for the state and country if we continue to work closely together as a team.

In closing, thank you to our Chamber team for all of their hard work and support to make these programs such a success. We want to again thank Rob Sands, all the investors and Joe Stefko for their support for all these programs. Recruiting and maintaining talent is not easy; it is a challenge, and we are competing with every city in the country to retain what we have and recruit new talent.

These three Chamber programs have been a terrific investment into our overall talent strategy, and I would consider each one of those so far as being a smashing success. I’m proud of the people who worked hard to make them successful and I’m proud of the investors who have invested their hard-earned money. I’m also thankful for all of the sponsors that have been part of this effort as well. It is important to note that private sector investment, not tax dollars, support these efforts. It has been a collective team effort and one that has been a huge value-add for the Rochester region.

These talent programs aren’t just in the pipeline – they actually create results right before our very eyes, and I expect them to grow commensurately over the next several years. Talent is just one of the resources that contribute to this region’s incredible potential, and Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce is proud to be playing a role in strengthening that pillar even further.

Robert J. Duffy is president and CEO of Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at [email protected]

Rochester buys into an economic development trend: paying remote workers to move here

For years communities have rolled out the red carpet in an effort to lure new enterprise to town.

Now, scores of municipalities, including Rochester, are rolling out the green (as in money) carpet to entice remote workers to plant roots in their city.

The Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, through its Greater Roc Careers program, has partnered with Indiana-based MakeMyMove to sell remote workers across the country on the merits of life in the Flower City.

In return for relocating to the area and staying for at least one year, individuals as well as families, can receive up to $19,000. The program provides a $10,000 stipend, paid in three installments, while up to an additional $9,000 in homebuyer grants are available for newcomers buying a house in the city of Rochester.

Barbara Egenhofer

“Everyone has this war for talent and if we’re going to win, we have to be creative,” said Barb Egenhofer, director of talent strategy for the chamber. “You’re a remote worker, you can work from anywhere; we want you to work from here.”

The chamber, in collaboration with ROC2025, launched the program in the spring after studying the model and the success of a similar recruitment effort used by Tulsa, Okla.

Tulsa Remote kicked off in 2018, later joined forces with MakeMyMove and now is recruiting more than 1,000 people a year. Better than 90 percent stay beyond the one year that is required to receive the $10,000 in cash and enticements, said Evan Hock, co-founder and chief operating officer of MakeMyMove.

“Communities are telling their story,” Hock said. “It’s a competition for talent.

“Historically you think about economic development and you think recruitment of businesses to a community. Well, rather than recruit a company with 200 employees, I can recruit 200 people who bring their jobs and their income with them.”

In theory, as more workers in a certain business sector relocate, an area becomes more attractive to businesses in that field as well.

The chamber moved forward with its program after seeing the success in Tulsa, analyzing the return on investment and then raising about $2 million in initial seed money. The 2022 cohort provided funding for 40 moves and is full, with 22 families already making the move, Egenhofer said.

The short-term goal is to boost the annual total to 100 recruits, with an ideal target of 200 a year.

Participating communities pay to place its recruiting content on the MakeMyMove website. Remote workers considering relocation then shop for cities by region, by offer or even by amenities of a community, such as small town, college town or available prominent activities.

The premise is simple: If you’re a totally remote worker, then why not live somewhere that you love, and get paid to go there.

“People are moving where it’s more affordable, to be closer to family, to be closer to the things they like,” Hock said. “And they’re bringing spending power with them.”

The Rochester program, like most communities, requires that interested persons fill out an application. To be considered, they must provide proof of income, generally $50,000 and above; proof that the job is fully remote; and proof that they’re able to work in the United States without any restrictions.

“And then we place a priority on certain industries like tech and software, healthcare and optics,” Egenhofer said.

She said this is very much an equal opportunity campaign, and the recruiters want people that are engaged in their community, either by serving on boards or by volunteering with groups or organizations.

So far, more than 1,600 people have submitted applications. “Having our content on MakeMyMove is driving a lot of traffic,” Egenhofer said.

There is an initial payment of $4,000 to persons when they move to Rochester, followed by $3,000 after sixth months and another $3,000 after 12 months. About half of the newcomers have already bought a house, Egenhofer said.

There are 150 communities using the site to extol their virtues, with 78 offering incentives. MakeMyMove initially began working with the state of Indiana to attack remote workers, then morphed into a site for all communities.

“Our workforce in Indiana was shrinking,” Hock said, “and we were asking, ‘How do we help our community grow?’ MakeMyMove sprang up from opportunity during COVID-19. The pandemic made millions of people suddenly recruit-able.”

[email protected]/(585) 653-4020

Pop-up marketplace comes to Parcel 5 on Sept. 9

Downtown Definitely’s Market Place, a pop-up shopping plaza in the heart of the city of Rochester, debuts on Parcel 5 from 4 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 9.

The event features 40 retailers with a variety of product lines, from apparel and jewelry to home décor to confections.

Free classes will be conducted between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. by creators and business owners, giving shoppers a chance to learn how to make some of the products being offered for sale.

Class hosts include: 81 Degrees Beauty Parlor & Jewelry, Elaine Schmidt Jewelry, Hive Creative Works, Jusmixit, Lorraine’s Natural Hair & Products, Pease in a Pod Treasures, The Groom Room Men’s Spa and Redemption Wellness Therapy.

Wine, beer, cider and spirit tastings will be available for free from Bellissima Organic Wine, Black Button Distilling, Citizen Cider, Glenora Wine Cellars, Great Lakes Brewing and Living Roots Wine & Co.

The participating businesses: 81 Degrees Beauty Parlor & Jewelry, Anamora Candles, Beaute Noire, BlakeRyan, Butter Me Up Body Care, CMS Aromatherapy, Designs by Val, Eastside Dog, Elaine Schmidt Jewelry, Fleet Feet, Fresh Did It, Geo Grown Rochester, Gods N Gladiators, The Groom Room Men’s Spa, Hive Creative Works, Indie Rose & Co. Boutique, Innova Girls Academy Charter School, JCD FluidArtWorks, Jusmixit, Light My Candle Co., Little Red Door, Lorraine’s Natural Hair & Products, Love, Lo Lo, Lulu & Juju, MansaWear, Nayam Ama’s Waist Beads, Pease in a Pod Treasures, Props and Pots, Redemption Wellness Therapy, Revampnation1, The Robyn’s Nest, Savvi, Self Care Essentials by Liz, Skin’d and Scalp, SmoovByNature, Sweet Treats by Momma K, TMobile, Viotea, Wanted Jem and The Xen Barkery.

Downtown Definitely is a joint initiative of Empire State Development, ROC2025, the Rochester Downtown Development Corp., Rochester Downtown Partnership and the city of Rochester that strives to grow economic vitality in downtown.

[email protected]/(585) 653-4020

Rochester to get new branding

A new effort is underway to build a greater story for the Rochester region.


ROC2025 — an alliance of Greater Rochester Enterprise Inc., Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Inc., Rochester Downtown Development Corp. and Visit Rochester, as well as the city of Rochester, the State of New York, multiple county officials and higher-education representatives — has launched Greater ROC as a unified brand identity that represents the values of the Rochester region.

Greater ROC is designed to communicate the essence of the region to tourism, business, education, nonprofit, arts and culture, health care and other economic sectors locally and nationwide, officials said.

The initial launch includes a video that will be shown on TV and digital media, as well as a webpage, social media channels, public relations outreach and a toolkit for local organizations and individuals to support and promote the Greater ROC brand.

Joseph Stefko
Joseph Stefko

“The central message of Greater ROC is that Greater Rochester is more than a place and more than geography — and that ‘greater’ is actually what the region and its people are truly made of,” ROC2025 President and CEO Joseph Stefko said in a statement. “The brand embraces the region’s individual strengths to unleash its united potential, tapping the talent, ingenuity and positive energy of Rochester’s many voices, beliefs and experiences. It’s a collective spark that celebrates who, what and where this nine-county region is to ignite a new way forward and a new way of talking about Rochester, and boldly says that this is one region, many strong and made greater by all. It’s galvanizing, empowering, inclusive and about the growth of our community. This new platform boldly asserts — on the local and national stage — that ours is a region on the move.”

The branding was created following months of interviews and opinion gathering with more than 100 community members and leaders representing a broad cross-section of sectors and demographics about how the region identifies itself.

The Greater ROC initiative supports each of the five pillars that form the foundation of ROC2025’s collaborative model: coordinated capacity-building investments in business retention and expansion; talent strategy; business attraction; downtown growth; and regional branding/marketing.

“Developing a unified Greater ROC brand platform enables us to showcase the myriad assets that make the Greater Rochester, New York, region a competitive and attractive place for tourism, talent attraction, business attraction and retention,” GRE President and CEO Matt Hurlbutt said. “Together, we can amplify the highly skilled workforce, world-class universities and cultural arts that make our community a greater place to grow a business and raise a family than any other high-tech hub around the country.”

Greater ROC encompasses Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties.

“I see great strength in our region’s many voices and economic sectors sharing a single message to promote all of the outstanding features that make Greater Rochester an attractive place to live, work and play,” Rochester Chamber President and CEO Bob Duffy said. “With our laser focus on workforce development and talent attraction, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce is pleased to partner with stakeholders across the region to share the message that we are, indeed, ‘Greater’ ROC. I encourage the business community to join the effort as we take our region to new heights.”

One of the key inputs heard frequently during the development of Greater ROC was the importance of hearing from and actively seeking the participation of as many voices and points of view as possible, a concept that’s taken on even more importance given recent events — including the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing dialogue about racial inequity — that have put the collective strength of the region and the world to the test, officials said.

“Like Rochester itself, Greater ROC finds inspiration in our rich business and human tapestry, from farms and Main Street businesses of the Finger Lakes to corporations and startups in our urban center to everyday contributions made by people of all ages, colors, creeds and ethnicities,” RDDC President Heidi Zimmer-Meyer said. “Welcoming unique voices and spurring the movement that Greater ROC seeks to inspire will change how this region thinks about itself, and how the rest of the world thinks about Rochester. Greater ROC represents a totally new and different narrative.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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