There’s new energy and optimism for economic growth in Rochester and the Finger Lakes region, with commercial real estate developers playing a key role in the region’s resurgence.  That message was delivered during a developer’s roundtable on Apr. 27, in Pittsford, sponsored by The Commercial Real Estate Development Association (NAIOP), Upstate New York Chapter.

Bob Richardson, association chapter president, served as moderator.  “There are certainly positive signs in the Rochester.  Our members have been instrumental in revitalizing the downtown residential market and creating the housing options that the millennial generation is looking for.  You can see the success they are having and it’s being reflected in the latest population data,” said Richardson.

Vincent Esposito, regional director, Empire State Development, Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council (FLREDC), said downtown Rochester is coming back.  “No doubt, transformation has started. Buildings are filling up with commercial and residential tenants. It’s the type of life you want to see in your center city if you want your regional economy to grow.  This is being led by private investment and the state is doing its part to help.”

Finger Lakes Forward, led by FLREDC, is the five-year strategic plan to accelerate and transform the region to an innovation economy.  Its three pillars call for job growth, increasing regional wealth and driving private investment, with a primary goal of poverty reduction, particularly in urban areas.

Esposito said there is an unacceptable level of poverty in the Rochester area.  To address this critical need, FLREDC has partnered with the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, helping people to move out of poverty by overcoming myriad barriers, which include child care, transportation and skills training.  “We’re encouraging employers to hire people out of poverty.” He said there needs to be a different approach to addressing poverty.

Companies are also partnering to grow jobs.  Esposito pointed to Eastman Business Park, which once was home to Kodak, and now consists of 70 different companies employing 6,600.

“It’s a story of resilience, how the loss of Kodak jobs has resulted in companies that emerged from technologies developed by Kodak.  It’s an industrial city unlike any other in the world.

“We have momentum and we want to keep the momentum going forward,” Esposito said.

Vincent Esposito PowerPoint

Also presenting at the roundtable was Joseph Rizzo, regional manager, Economic Development, Rochester Gas & Electric (RG&E).

The utility is a catalyst to increase economic development by assisting in the growth of existing companies and attracting new businesses, working on about 250 to 300 development projects annually.

“We come up with technological solutions for businesses,” Rizzo said.  “We offer incentive programs, some that can help offset costs for developers.”

RG&E supports business development through its energy assistance programs and helps to market development sites and the region.

Projects eligible for potential funding assistance include new capital investments, facility expansions and relocations, repurposing of existing space and mixed-use development.

Joe Rizzo PowerPoint

“Rochester is on the map.  We’re getting calls from across the U.S. and outside the U.S. to look at our assets,” Rizzo said.