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Credit: City of Rochester

Credit: City of Rochester

An alarming report shows Rochester has a huge number of “disconnected youth.” These are young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not working and not in school. The report is by Measure of America.

In America, 13.8 percent – one in seven – people in this age group are disconnected. That’s 5.5 million people, equal to the population of Minnesota. Nationwide, 21.6 percent of black and 16.3 percent of Latino youth are disconnected.

In the Rochester metropolitan area, 13.4 percent of youth are disconnected. That’s on par with the national rate. It’s a large number: 21,701 young people. That’s slightly more people than live in the Town of Ogden.

Rochester’s black youth face a very high rate of disconnectedness: 30.8 percent, the third highest rate in the country. That means nearly one of three black young adults are not working and not going to school. The Latino rate is 23 percent. By any measure, this is a crisis.

But Rochester’s white youth are doing much better. Just under 10 percent of white youth are disconnected, compared to  the national rate of 11.3 percent.

Disconnected youth are more likely to live in poverty, drop out of high school, have a disability and have children at a young age.

Here’s why we should care, the authors of the report say:

The costs of disconnection are high, both for individuals and for society. Disconnected youth are cut off from the people, institutions, and experiences that would otherwise help them develop the knowledge, skills, maturity, and sense of purpose required to live rewarding lives as adults. And the negative effects of youth disconnection ricochet across the economy, the social sector, the criminal justice system, and the political landscape, affecting all of us. Our analysis of a very small subset of the direct costs of youth disconnection reveals an astonishingly high cost to taxpayers: $26.8 billion in 2013 alone, or nearly the entire amount the federal government spends on science.

This is a problem affecting all of us.


Links of the Day:


– This makes me sad. Sunday hours are going away at the Central Library. No Rochester branch will be open on Sundays.

– Did state budget cuts contribute to the inmate escape?

– Police often blame suspects’ deaths on “excited delirium.” Is that a diagnosis or a cover-up?

– A Florida city finds red light cameras don’t make people safer.

– Technology to prevent drivers from starting their cars when they’ve been drinking could become standard in the future.


Tweet of the Day:


I reported today on the explosive growth of the University of Rochester. The college has surpassed 20,000 workers for the first time and foresees adding 500 workers a year. The U of R’s impact on the regional economy is huge. In 2010, CGR estimated 47,000 direct and indirect jobs paying $2.3 billion in wages.

I visited iCardiac to show an example of a U of R spinoff company. Local leaders would like to see many such companies, but cofounder Sasha Latypova said there are two big barriers.

“The community needs to grow more entrepreneurs. The community needs to attract more people who are like us,” she said. “We may not be engineers, researchers or clinicians, but people who understand technology, are not afraid of it and can ‘productize’ things.”

I was surprised to find out Latypova and her partners are not scientists. They’re business people. “Steve Jobs didn’t know how to code,” she told me. She said Rochester needs more people who can envision the market potential of U of R’s research.

The other barrier to creating more spinoff companies is money. Latypova said access to venture capital is extremely difficult in Rochester. It’s tough to bridge the “Valley of Death.”

“They also have to think new ways of bridging the gap between research science and commercial products,” said Latypova.

iCardiac has 50 workers. Can you imagine what could happen if dozens and dozens of U of R startups emerge? What if a few of them end up employing hundreds of workers?

CGR’s Kent Garnder ultimately envisions some kind of “Research Triangle,” similar to the one in North Carolina. He said if the U of R and RIT can cover the geographical distance between them, the sky’s the limit.

Gardner and U of R officials believe the 390 Interchange project would help facilitate such a “research triangle.”

On a related note, I have been questioning the estimated 29,000 jobs local leaders say the highway upgrade could create. Gardner says 29,000 direct and indirect jobs could be created if the U of R follows through with its master plan, which calls for adding 4.9 million square feet. That growth would happen over many years. Gardner said the potential for 29,000 is there, but it’s not a firm number.

Potential is the word of the day. Let’s hope Rochester lives up to it.


Communications Bureau, City of Rochester

Is Rochester a victim of its own PR?

We felt royally snubbed by the Regional Economic Development Councils and the State of the State gifting of $1 billion to Buffalo.

Ken Warner, who advocates for union jobs, told the Democrat and Chronicle:

“It just seems like Rochester is getting punished for doing a good job,” Warner said. “Not only did we get the booby prize (from the economic development council awards,) we’re getting money we were already getting anyway” for the 390 work.

(I suspected as much about the 390 money in a recent blog post.)

I’ve long felt local leaders inappropriately downplay crises.

When reporters ask Mayor Tom Richards if he’s worried about Kodak going belly up, he says,”I wish them well…we’ll carry on.” That kind of dismissive attitude masks very real consequences for the city if Kodak cannot emerge from bankruptcy in a strong position. The company owns a ton of property, employs thousands of people and is part of the community identity.

Sandy Parker of the Rochester Business Alliance has also downplayed Kodak’s woes, saying her conversations with Perez gave her faith the company will not go bankrupt.

Rochesterians themselves don’t help their cause, tending to ignore the poverty of the inner city. Except when it comes to schools, downtown, and occasionally crime, a lot of people look the other way.

Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy astutely observed in the D&C:

“Rochester is not forgotten. We are not being penalized for our success at all. We are being recognized,” he continued, noting that the same people who touted the jobs report and other good news were among the first to criticize. “We can’t have it both ways.”

We can’t have it both ways. We want our local leaders to be cheerleaders, but we also want them to be honest.

Governor Cuomo is expected to visit within the next week to hail the state’s $100 million grant for upgrades to Route 390. Local leaders heralded the news, saying it would bring thousands of jobs and help the University of Rochester expand.

As I pointed out, the jobs claim is ridiculous. The Center for Governmental Research could not quantify how many jobs would be created beyond construction in an April 2010 report.  The U of R itself says it will create 771 direct and 1,000 spillover jobs over the next 20 years, according to the state environmental review of the project.

I’m also suspicious Cuomo announced something that was already going to happen. A public hearing had been previously scheduled for January 17. The project schedule called for construction in early 2013. Since it doesn’t appear the project is ready to immediately break ground, the schedule won’t be moved up a whole lot, if at all. Perhaps the $100 million is a guarantee it will happen?

Speaking of $100 million, the project website says the cost is under $70 million, although a chart details how the costs can escalate with inflation. (They still don’t reach $100 million.)

Despite these initial questions, there are good reasons to start construction that have nothing to do with new jobs.

The Department of Transportation’s formal name for the project is “Access 390” and the environmental review makes it clear why that’s appropriate. The report said there aren’t any problems with 390. Traffic flows nice and smooth. It’s the side roads.

Touting jobs and an exit for the U of R overshadows the biggest benefit: Relief for the more than 100,000 motorists who drive on Routes 15 and 15A where it crosses 390. They’re the ones who put up with traffic speeds of 16 m.p.h. at peak times and an accident rate six times the state average. They’re the ones who will benefit, jobs or no jobs.


Gannett reported Governor Cuomo is set to announce $100 million for Rochester’s long-awaited I-390 interchange at Kendrick Road. This would be a feeder directly onto the University of Rochester campus.

(Gannett linked the funding announcement to Buffalo’s $1 billion gift, as if to say, “See Rochester, you got money, too!” I fail to see the connection, especially since Buffalo will likely get heaps of additional infrastructure money.)

In praising the announcement, local leaders called the interchange a job-creator. Sandy Parker from the Rochester Business Alliance:

The Center for Governmental Research estimated that this infrastructure will be instrumental in institutional growth and business development that could add more than 20,000 direct and indirect jobs to the region over the next 20 years.

Joel Seligman, president of the U of R:

It will enable the University of Rochester to create literally thousands of jobs and help position us as one of the leading research universities of the 21st century.

But this is what CGR actually had to say in an April 2010 report on the college’s economic impact:

Initial estimates show the project may generate 1,660 jobs and produce nearly $83.5 million in labor income with the primary benefit resulting from the construction related work during implementation of the project. Non-construction or “catalytic” economic impacts have not been quantified.

I’m skeptical about whether highway projects create non-construction jobs or merely move them around. Highway projects shift neighborhoods, development and resources. Does the U of R want us to believe it would not continue its dramatic expansion without an off-ramp?

There’s no question Mt. Hope Ave. is too congested. But a huge widening and reconstruction is planned. The CollegeTown development is billed as a pedestrian-friendly, urban village, not a mall that needs an exit.

Finally, do you really want to make it so easy for people to leave the city? Learning from mistakes of the past, the city is trying to fill in the Inner Loop that acts as an escape hatch for visitors. A 390 interchange in the city could hurt – not help – Brooks Landing as people would be able to bypass the neighborhood altogether.

This project might be the just what the city needs, but I’m not convinced.