BlogFight for Our Fair Share from Albany

December 9, 20190
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FIGHTING FOR ROCHESTER’S FAIR SHARE OF JOBS AND INVESTMENT

For too long, our economy has not gotten its fair share of jobs and investment. Albany politicians have chosen to make massive investments in other cities like Buffalo and New York City, while Rochester is treated as an afterthought. Despite this, we have seen progress in recent years – as Chief of Staff of the City of Rochester I was able to secure an initial $50 million State investment to jumpstart ROC the Riverway, which promises to harness the power of the unique assets of the Genesee River and drive hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment. We have seen technology companies begin to flock back to our urban core, and a burgeoning food and beverage scene. We are moving in the right direction, but there is still much work to be done.

Through my work at the City I have come into contact with many broken systems that are holding back many people in our community, and preventing us from building a strong, inclusive, modern economy that works for everyone. We need big, transformational changes to how we prepare our workforce for the jobs of the future; how we support small business owners and entrepreneurs; how we invest in public transportation and infrastructure; how we defend the rights of workers and protect those working in the gig economy; and how we attract and retain young people.

Economic, community, and workforce development is crucial to the future of our community. We have unlimited potential – now, we just need to put the pieces together, make changes where needed, and build systems that can provide everyone the opportunity to provide for their family and achieve the American dream. Here are my plans to build a stronger and more inclusive economy.

PREPARE OUR WORKFORCE FOR THE JOBS OF THE FUTURE

Our systems of workforce development are outdated and are not currently doing enough to provide workers with the skills they need to be competitive in a changing economy. There are many individual organizations working hard throughout the community to provide training focused on the jobs of the future, but right now the system is disjointed and not nearly as efficient and effective as it needs to be. I hear from employers nearly every day that they are struggling to find talent for their growing businesses – and yet, we have many people out of the workforce and willing to learn new skills. Here’s what I plan to do as your Assemblymember to reform the system:

 

  • Secure State funding to support the replication of effective workforce training models across the community. There are many examples of programs that have high rates of success in training workers for in-demand jobs like the Young Adults Manufacturer Training Employment Program (YAMTEP) which has partnered with over 30 employers and placed dozens of workers in well-paying jobs. These programs should be expanded and replicated in other industries.
  • Introduce legislation to give priority in State workforce development funding to evidence-based programs that have been rigorously evaluated and proven to drive outcomes for participants. We know how to measure programs, and there is no reason that the State should continue funding programs that do not work.
  • Work with the non-profit workforce development sector, labor, and government partners to explore the expansion of the New York State Apprenticeship Program to growing industries, particularly in tech and advanced manufacturing. Apprenticeships have historically been very successful in creating career paths to the middle class – and we need to think differently about how we can use the model with emerging fields.

 

Together we can build a system that provides workers with a better leg up, and build an economy that works for everyone.

ATTRACTING AND RETAINING YOUNG PEOPLE

Attracting young people to Rochester, and retaining graduates of the 19 area colleges and universities, should be a major priority of economic development stakeholders. Look anywhere across the country – communities that are thriving are doing so in part because they are attractive places for young graduates to put down roots. Here in our region, “brain drain” is a major issue, with local grads fleeing to bigger markets like New York City. It does not have to be this way. We can do more.

Rochester has all the necessary ingredients – high quality of life, low cost of living, an exploding food and drink scene, and more. Recently, experts from MIT wrote that Rochester is the number one location nationwide to become a national driver of technology and innovation. However, despite this, we will not develop into a growing and thriving place for young people without effort We need our policy-makers to be intentional about how we work to make our community the type of place that young families choose to call home.

As Chief of Staff of the City of Rochester I’ve made this a major priority, working to bring diverse modes of transportation like bike- and scooter-share, build more pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and other initiatives to modernize our city. 

Here are some more plans I have to make Rochester a destination for young people:

  • Convene tech industry leaders, area colleges and universities, and other stakeholders to explore how we can leverage alumni networks to recruit technology companies to Rochester. We can do more to encourage businesses with younger workforces, like tech companies, to expand in Rochester.

 

  • Work with stakeholders to better-publicize and increase State support for home-purchase incentives. Young people looking to buy a first home would struggle to find a more affordable market than Rochester with many available grants and other support – and we need to stop keeping that a secret!
  • Continue to invest in groundbreaking projects like ROC the Riverway, which are setting the stage for Rochester to become a more vibrant and dense urban community. Millennials and other young people are flocking back to urban centers across the country, and with increased and sustained investment we can make Rochester one of the best options anywhere.
  • Continue to invest in multimodal public and private transportation options. Studies show that young people increasingly prefer public transportation to private vehicle – keep reading to learn more.

 

MODERNIZING INFRASTRUCTURE AND INVESTING IN PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Rochester’s infrastructure is in dire shape, and the time has come for New York State to make the needed investment to fix it. Reports tell us that over 100 bridges in the Rochester area are in need of immediate repair, our roads are deteriorating, and we are not doing enough. Infrastructure investment will help build a safer community and could create thousands of new, well-paying permanent and temporary construction jobs for area residents. 

Our roads and bridges are not the only part of our infrastructure that needs modernizing. If we want to become a truly vibrant, thriving, climate-friendly economy, we need to make the necessary investment in building an effective public transportation system that people choose to use over private vehicles. Here are some ideas we have to get it done:

 

  • Demand that State funding for Upstate transportation be on par with investment into the MTA in New York City. This year’s State budget allocated $25 billion – yes, billion with a B – for the MTA. Meanwhile, Rochester and other Upstate cities have to deal with crumbling bridges and a regional transportation system that is failing those who rely on it.
  • Continue to convene stakeholders like Reconnect Rochester and the Center for Disability Rights to explore new forms of transportation, and ensure that they are safely and equitably brought to our community. This was a major priority of mine as Chief of Staff, and will continue as an Assemblymember.
  • Fight for increased funding to the RGRTA to fully implement the vision of Redesign RTS, which promises to cure fundamental flaws with the bus system by offering high-frequency routes and cross-town options.

 

MAKE IT EASIER TO START AND GROW A BUSINESS

Locally-owned businesses are the lifeblood of a thriving community; they provide essential services to neighborhoods, offer well-paying jobs to residents, and create vibrancy across our community. Right now, it’s far too difficult for someone to start or grow a small business in Rochester. My time as Chief of Staff for the City of Rochester, where I oversaw the growth of successful entrepreneurship programs like Kiva Rochester, showed me many people in our community would rather be employers than employees. We need to make is easier for aspiring employers to start or grow a business.

Here’s how we’re going to do it:

 

  • Study and reform State laws and regulations that place undue burden on business owners. Issues like insurance requirements for government contractors, redundant permitting and licensing requirements, zoning law, and others get in the way of our job creators. However, we must also be sure that any changes made do not sacrifice public health and safety or worker protections – that is why I propose studying the issue in partnership with stakeholders like business owners, academia, and government partners.
  • Work to reform the State MWBE certification process, which is severely backlogged, limiting opportunities for historically disadvantaged business owners to benefit from government contracts. In my work overseeing the Mayor’s Office, I have seen the huge impacts of structured process improvement and data use, and will work to support the State in using the same principles.
  • Expand access to crucial early-stage capital for startup and growth-stage businesses. My work establishing the Revitalize Rochester Fund has shown me the importance of thinking differently about how we finance small business growth – as an Assemblymember, I will work with Empire State Government and other stakeholders to establish new forms of capital to aid the growth of our small businesses, creating jobs and opportunity across the community.

 

Creating a strong and inclusive economy, and securing Rochester’s fair share, is one of my most important priorities. If you have ideas, or want to discuss how we can work together to ensure that every person in our community has access to economic opportunity, please reach out at (585) 441-0508.

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