Over the last year, state dollars have helped accelerate the photonics industry, and revitalize downtown Rochester, its waterfront and cultural mainstays, the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council 2019 draft annual report claims. The report was open for public comment this week.
Established in 2011, FLREDC is one of 10 regional councils created to develop long-term strategic plans for economic growth. The councils are public-private partnerships of local experts and stakeholders from business, academia, local government, and non-governmental organizations. FLREDC represents a nine-county region composed of Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties.
While the draft report does not disclose the exact amount in total investments, officials say they are in line with the Finger Lakes Forward regional strategic plan that the council created in 2015. The plan is designed to serve as a guide to prioritize projects in the region.
The council also sought to analyze the impact of the $500 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative, which has been committed to 100 projects, two years ahead of schedule, the report says. The review resulted in five action items based on the strengths and opportunities of the region:
- A shift in focus to growing incumbent firms, especially on high-growth businesses to provide the support, resources and incentives to aid growth.
- Targeted, proactive outreach to increase return on investment on attraction of business and talent, and the capacity of economic development organizations to recruit new businesses, talent and innovations to the region.
- Create a regional brand to attract talent and reinforce regional assets and progress.
- Implement a two-pronged regional talent approach to fill immediate needs and secure a long-term pipeline.
- Continue investing in a vital urban core, quality of life, and greater regional connectivity.
The review process also led to the modification of the FLREDC strategic plan framework to better reflect the comprehensive nature of the region’s industry strengths, the report states, adding two pillars to the ecosystem. Health and life science and software and information technology now join optics, photonics, and imaging; agriculture and food production; and next-generation manufacturing.
“The strong growth, employment levels, and regional presence of the health care and life science industry in our region, coupled with extensive overlap with adjacent regional sectors make this very important for the Finger Lakes,” the draft report states. “The addition of software and IT reflects the emerging economic presence of software development in our region. Software and IT also has a high growth potential and strong interconnectivity to other pillars.”
The council also created specific targets around the regional goals. Going forward, the region will have defined metrics for each: 30,000 net new jobs; 20 percent increase in per-capita income; 20,000 individuals elevated out of poverty; and a 10 percent increase in private GDP. The timelines vary for each goal, officials say. Though the report suggests there are priority projects lined up for immediate state support, the number of projects, total investments and jobs created were undisclosed.
FLREDC will submit its final annual report to New York on Oct. 1 to compete for a portion of the funding made available in this year’s REDC competition. (Round IX of the REDC initiative includes core capital and tax-credit funding that will be combined with a wide range of existing agency programs totaling approximately $750 million.) Funding awards will be announced by the end of the year.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.