InseparableMissionsLast Friday, I attended the third annual Eyes on the Future Summit in Rochester, NY discussing our regional economic efforts.

There were over 1400 people in attendance; made up of small businesses, large businesses, educators, government and students.

The keynote speaker was Richard A. Bendis, president and CEO of Innovation America. His topic was “Growing the Greater Rochester Innovation Economy”.

Addressing the audience, his central theme is that progress in innovation is driven by private and public partnerships in education, industry and government. He challenges us to focus on our regional economical strengths, rather than our weaknesses.

Economic development requires us to get three things right: attract, retain and grow our businesses.

Supporting these efforts takes coordination and a center point for the programs, resources and human capital. Greater Rochester Enterprise, High Tech Rochester, Excell  Partners and Rochester Angel Network play an instrumental role in being connectors.

Bendis seems to think Rochester is ahead of the curve ball as we climb out of recessionary times and we have laid a solid foundation for future growth. He asserts this conclusion after reviewing the best practices of cities that have been down the same path we are embarking today. Highlighted cities include:

In the last part of the program, Bendis joins a panel of key leaders who share their personal views of our local economic development. They are: Susan Holliday, president and publisher. Rochester Business Journal, Richard Kaplan, president and CEO, Pictometry International Corp, Dr. Anne Kress, president, Monroe Community College, and Mark S. Peterson, president and CEO, Greater Rochester Enterprise (GRE).

Having a skilled workforce is one of the strongest competitive edge assets we have in Rochester according to Peterson. How is it measured? One way to do that is with Intellectual Density Quotient (IDQ), and Rochester is at the top of the list.

One of the panelists, Richard Kaplan reminded us we still have problems to fix, for example, our taxation system in New York State. Doing business in New York State is not the easiest nor least expensive and even some of top executives are leaving for warmer climates.

To some people, he may have seemed to focus on the bottom half of the glass, though my take away is we cannot ignore issues, which create our economical fragility. It is too easy to focus on what feels good rather than deal with something that may require us to change. It appears that a two-prong approach would be more effective.

Reflecting back to Mayor Duffy’s initial remarks to the audience, he emphasizes the city’s leadership team approach is to make the right and sometimes – tough decision. Despite negativity, falling out of graces with constituents or special interest groups, their focus is to continue making cuts in government and delay starting up new programs.

The “let’s get the house in order” approach requires each of us to assess how to consolidate, cut or change the way we operate to free up funding for our growth and economic survival. It is making sure we are healthy before or as we start growing.

Therefore, it really is not about being half-full or half empty. It is being realistic that each of us may have to make some sacrifices or do some things differently to create our best opportunity for success.