Developing a more skilled workforce for jobs in advanced manufacturing, photonics and the building trade is one of the goals of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.
The Vice-Chairs of the REDC discussed the $96.2 million recently awarded by the state during a luncheon hosted by the Rochester Downtown Development Council in downtown on Wednesday.
REDC Co-Chair Danny Wegman CEO of Wegmans Food Markets, says the 76 different area projects in the pipeline would create about 55,000 local jobs over the next five years. However Wegman said he's concerned if the local workforce would be ready, since the Rochester City School District currently has low graduation rates, (around 48% according to the Rochester School District).
"Because we have the jobs," Wegman explains. "There's no question about it...As I look at what's happening in America, I see many more jobs are going to come back here because manufacturing is changing from work being done by low-cost individuals to machinery and technical equipment. But you need people who know how to handle that."
Meanwhile, University of Rochester president and co-chair of the REDC, Joel Seligman, says this is a year of implementation. He adds the most pivotal projects are still financially incomplete. However, he adds the money is coming – just on "New York” time. Seligman says the region is off to a promising start.
"Our objectives are clear," Seligman says. "At the end of the day, if I can make it very simple, we seek the revitalization and strengthening of our local economy - particularly through job creation and economic development and strengthening of our quality of life."
Seligman says about $300 million have been pegged for the Finger Lakes region so far. Leaders say the Eastman Business Park remains an economic hub for renewable energy and advanced manufacturing companies. The official dedication of the RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability and the groundbreaking ceremony for the College Town project will take place in the next few months.
Seligman and Wegmans say the major difference between this year’s council priorities and last year's is the focus on workforce preparedness.
The governor's newly proposed Innovation Hot Spots, which are higher education-private sector high-tech start-up companies, will also be competing in the next round of state grants.
For more information on the Innovation Hot Spots visit the Innovation Trail here.