• The Rochesterian in Your Inbox:

    Join 642 other subscribers

Buffalo to Rochester MapHow does the state decide where to lure companies with lavish government grants and tax incentives?

TThe state announced last year it’s spending $55 million to help IBM set up a data center in downtown Buffalo. It’s eventually supposed employ 500 workers. Aside from questions about the contracts awarded to the governor’s donors, there’s another question raised by a recent Buffalo News article. Why on earth did the state pick Buffalo?

“The skills we’re looking for are hard to find anyway. If we were sitting in the Silicon Valley, it still would be very hard to find,” Goodwyn said. A big part of IBM’s workforce development plan is to bring in a sizable number of entry-level workers by building ties with colleges from across upstate, from the University at Buffalo to the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester, to Cornell University and Clarkson University, Goodwyn said. UB lacks a specific data analytics major within its computer science and engineering school, but other schools, like RIT and the University of Rochester, have it.

“That’s part of our business plan: College and university hires,” he said.



Locating Solar City in Buffalo was also questionable. We have a giant industrial facility called Eastman Business Park that desperately wants to attract solar companies. In fact, Kodak specialized in material science and chemicals, the same stuff needed to innovate in solar. But the state chose to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build on a brand new site.

Locating photonics in Rochester made sense. We already have a lot of photonics companies, university programs and talent.

I’m not suggesting Buffalo doesn’t deserve nice things. I’m suggesting when the state uses carrots to attract companies, it should put some analysis into where these companies would be a good fit. I’m sure there are things more suited to Buffalo than Rochester. But Albany doesn’t seem to care.

Side note on high-speed rail:

Couldn’t people commute between Rochester and Buffalo? Unless Rep. Louise Slaughter gets her wish on high speed rail, we don’t have a mega-region. There’s no way to regularly commute between Rochester and Buffalo unless you have a car. Even if high speed rail becomes a reality, the last mile is a problem. How do people get to where they’re going when they get off the train? Inter-city buses would also be an issue. Jobs are no longer concentrated in downtowns. Right now, fewer than 2,500 people commute between Erie and Monroe counties. It’s possible that number could grow as transit and job opportunities grow. Any high speed rail or inter-city transit project must consider STAMP in Genesee County, a 100 percent car-dependent project. The bottom line is our regions are not connected via transit or economic development. They probably should be. I’m skeptical we’ll see a mega-region, as described in this New York Times op-ed, in our lifetimes.

Gothamist did a story titled, “Millennials are moving to Buffalo & Living Like Kings.”

In addition to profiles of young people who moved to Buffalo and love life, the article sites the following statistics to support its premise:

According to census data analyzed by the New York Times, from 2000 to 2012 the number of college graduates between the ages of 25 and 34 in Buffalo jumped 34%—more than Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago…

According to The Buffalo News, incomes in the Buffalo Niagara region grew about 1.5% a year (after inflation) between 2003 and 2013—double the average annual increase nationwide during that time. In 2003, per capita personal income in the region was 11% lower than the national average, but by the end of 2013, it was $44,301, just 1% less.

There are some problems with Gothamist’s analysis. Continue reading

Update: The New York Post reports state officials did not take into account updated snow totals from NWS. The Buffalo News appears to take a shot at TV stations over their forecasts.


When the Buffalo area is out of danger, there will be a lot of discussion about how local and state government prepared and reacted to this storm. Why wasn’t the Thruway closed earlier? Why wasn’t there a concrete plan to dig out? Why didn’t people understand the magnitude of what was about to happen? Despite the fact it would have been hard for anyone to wrap their heads around this much snow – and the dangers presented – these are still legitimate questions.

Governor Andrew Cuomo offered one theory. WGRZ reports:

Cuomo said the Weather Service did not indicate that the heavy snow bands would remain stationary and blast South Buffalo and the Southtowns with the incredible rate of snowfall.

Cuomo said that’s part of the reason why New York State is building its own linked weather forecasting system that will be superior to any other state system in the country.

“No one had an idea that it was gonna be that much snow that fast. Snow coming down at the rate of about five inches an hour. No one had an idea. The weather service was off. By the way, I said this in my state of the state last year we’re putting in our own weather detection system,” said Cuomo.

There might have been a communications failure. But this doesn’t seem to be a forecast failure. Meteorologists tweeted that the National Weather Service did predict this monster storm.




Links of the Day:


– Could climate change bring more lake effect snow?

– A government committee will decide if Buffalo area snow broke a record.

Fun lake effect memes.

– Downtown landmarks in Syracuse are illuminated with colored lights some call garish.

– DHD Ventures is renovating some well-known downtown Rochester properties.

– Denver Post explores our broken mental health system, one that only treats people after they’re far into illness.

– Adam Lanza’s mothers refused treatment recommendations for her son, who was 6 feet tall and weighed only 112 pounds.

– Washington Post goes very in-depth on Cosby accusations. Numerous women have same story of being drugged and attacked.


Terry Pegula and the Sabres are making a gigantic investment in downtown Buffalo. They will build a $123 million complex that includes two ice rinks, a hotel, retail and a “destination” Tim Horton’s. (It’s supposed be a really special Tim Horton’s.) It will be connected to First Niagara, where the Sabres play. It’s considered a first-of-its-kind concept in the NHL.

While the city is providing tax abatements, it does not appear Buffalo threw a ton money at the deal, the Buffalo News reports:

The Sabres will pay the city $2 million for the 1.7-acre parcel, and city residents will be sought for post-construction jobs. Local labor will be used for construction. Employees of the ice rink and parking ramp also will be paid a living wage, Brown said.

The Sabres are expected to seek a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement, which abates local property taxes, and state brownfield tax credits. Brown said he did not expect the city to provide additional financial assistance for the project, which Sabres spokesman Michael M. Gilbert confirmed.

WGRZ reports the Sabres will pay about $4.8 million in taxes a year once the project is done. The station also reports there are deadlines built into this deal:

Under terms with their agreement with the city, the Sabres need to have the parking garage and ice rinks open by no later than September 30, 2014…The Sabres have until May 30, 2015 to open the 200 room hotel.

This is very exciting for downtown Buffalo and hockey fans.

Rochester needs a Terry Pegula downtown. Maybe he’ll buy Blue Cross Arena, home to his minor-league club, and take a shine to Midtown?

So far, the fight over how no-show students factor into teacher evaluations has remained in Buffalo.

That will change.

When Rochester teachers first struck a deal on teacher evaluations, they had a clause requiring only students with a minimum 80 percent attendance be counted.

The state wouldn’t okay the evaluation plan unless the clause was removed.  The union agreed to substitute the state’s language, which said the ratio of test scores used to evaluate teachers would be proportionate to students’ presence in the classroom.

Sounds reasonable, right?

But the state only allows the ratio to be used on state tests – not local measurements, which count for 20 percent of a teacher’s grade. The possibility still remains a teacher’s score could be dragged down by no-show kids.

There’s only one reason the union agreed to the state’s changes. For this year only, Rochester teachers are “held harmless” by their evaluations. They can’t be disciplined or fired. Their evaluations won’t even go into their personnel files.

Next school year, the evaluations count. Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski said teachers will not agree to any evaluation plan that doesn’t have a student attendance exemption, setting up a showdown like the one we’re seeing in Buffalo.

“I fully agree with Buffalo teachers. I fully support them,” Urbanski said.

Urbanski says he’s writing to the state education commissioner about the attendance issue.

The stakes are incredibly high. Districts that don’t comply with the state could lose millions of dollars in funding.

More Links of the Day:

– CSX wants to tear down the Hojack Swing Bridge this fall, but it still needs a permit from the DEC. The permit process might be the only window preservationists have to save the structure.

– Cue the scary music! Every six minute a child goes to the emergency room who was injured in a stair-related accident. Most of them fell, but some took a tumble in a parent’s arms. One doctor suggests kids learn to “scoot on their bottoms.”

– Have you checked out those new Coke machines? They’re making their way to Rochester.

– Toronto is close to getting a casino.

Links of the Day:

– Who’s to blame when a child doesn’t go to school?

The Buffalo school district is engaged in a fierce fight with its teachers union over whether students who don’t show up to class should be counted in teacher evaluations. The state refuses to approve the district’s evaluation plan unless it removes the attendance clause. The district now stands to lose millions of dollars.  (The Rochester teachers union quietly agreed to remove a similar clause.)

The Buffalo News editorial board says teachers should own student attendance. Columnist Donn Esmonde strongly disagrees:

As Riverside physics teacher John Bihr put it, “You can’t teach an empty seat.”

The bureaucrats at the state Board of Regents may not want to hear it. Suburban districts that tout test results to justify higher school taxes may not want to admit it. But the overwhelming factor in how well a school “performs” is not the quality of its teachers. It is the quality of its students. And that comes back to the involvement of their parents –too many of whom are too overwhelmed, uninterested or uninformed to check in.


The Riverside High School teachers I talked with said they habitually send home report cards filled with failing grades. With rare exception, they never hear from a parent. Bihr told me he makes about 50 calls a week to parents of no-show or low-grade kids. Maybe five, he said, are “positive.” The rest range from from never-returned voice mails to disconnects to exasperated parents who say something like, “I haven’t seen him/her in days.”

There’s no question parents bear a lot of responsibility, but is it productive to bash parents? Esmonde hits on socioeconomic factors that are huge predictors of educational success. Instead of suggesting ways to elevate families out of poverty or integrate school districts, he blames parents. It’s just not that simple.

– City and county officials statewide are warning of fiscal doom. Syracuse’s mayor says, “Unless Albany changes its policies, we will be dead.”

– Flight Wine Bar in Corn Hill landed on Yahoo! Travel’s list of best wine bars in the country!

– Hedy Lamarr was a screen goddess who also invented Wi-Fi.

Links of the Day:

– The Buffalo teachers union refuses to drop a clause in its teacher evaluation agreement with the district exempting students with bad attendance. The state won’t approve the plan, which could cost the district millions of dollars. The union is getting a ton of heat from the Buffalo News editorial board:

So, is that it? The Buffalo Teachers Federation shrugs at tens of millions of dollars and walks away, all because of an issue that will affect only 20 percent of members’ evaluations? Welcome to Buffalo’s own Twilight Zone, a place where the tail wags the dog of public education, not to mention the entire city’s prospects of economic revival.

All that was necessary to get that money was for Buffalo’s teachers union to do what other urban teachers unions in New York have already done: accept an evaluation system that includes the performances of chronically absent students. It didn’t. Instead, the union’s council of delegates jammed a thumb in the eyes of every student of the Buffalo School District.

But teachers say absences are a gigantic issue:

More than half the students in Buffalo high schools missed 18 days or more — 10 percent of the year — in 2009-10, according to a study released last June.

Included in that number are the one-third of high school students who missed more than seven weeks of school, or 20 percent of the year. That’s the group known “severely chronic” absence levels.

While the problem is most severe in high school, it is also evident among the youngest children. About 4 in 10 kindergartners missed 18 or more days of school in 2009-10, including the more than 1 in 10 who missed more than seven weeks.


Many teachers say, though, that until attendance improves dramatically, they do not want to be held accountable in their evaluations for the educational growth of all students, regardless of attendance.

The Rochester City School District’s original agreement with the teachers union had an exemption for students whose attendance was below 80 percent. The updated agreement does not have the clause, presumably to comply with state regulations. (There are a lot of documents and rubrics about evaluations posted to the district’s website. You get a sense of the enormous paperwork ahead.)

Do you think it’s fair to judge teachers on kids who don’t show up to class?

– An extremely disturbing video of a fight between a male Rochester City School District paraprofessional and a female student was uploaded to YouTube. It’s now gone viral. We are only beginning to learn how the district and police handled this incident. Stay tuned.

– Speaking of fights being uploaded to social media, it’s become an issue in Batavia.

– Call it the “Wegmans effect.” Small stores in Massachusetts are feeling the pinch after Wegmans moved to town.

– Rochester’s exports have been in the news this week. It’s a source of pride. This link from Brookings shows just why we’re on the map.

More Links of the Day:

– Once a major postal center in Buffalo closes, intracity letters in Buffalo will be transported to Rochester’s Jefferson Road facility and then shipped back to Buffalo. Seems nuts, right?

Buffalo is fighting the move and the controversy is pitting one city against the other.

The Buffalo News obtained an internal study rationalizing the closure of the processing center:

It would cost $3.4 million less to operate Postal Service vehicles because of the Buffalo shutdown, the report said.

That would happen in part because the number of miles driven by Buffalo-based drivers would go from 495,873 to zero. Strangely, though, the number of miles driven by Rochester-based drivers would remain the same at 404,161, while costs there would go up by a mere $48,917.

That would seem to indicate that the Postal Service will rely on contractors to ship mail from Buffalo to Rochester and back again — but the report says it will save money on delivery contractors as well.

The agency is counting on $2 million in savings from delivery contractors in Buffalo — while paying only $409,774 more to delivery contractors in Rochester.

So where is the accounting for the shipping of all that Buffalo mail to Rochester and back again every day?

The Postal Service isn’t saying, but (spokeswoman Karen) Mazurkiewicz insisted that the Buffalo closure would trim costs overall for the Postal Service.


Rochester was chosen for the expansion because its location is more central than Buffalo’s, but (Rep. Brian) Higgins said a comparative analysis should have been done weighing the pros and cons of closing either facility.

Without that, the study “is devoid of integrity,” he said. “It’s devoid of credibility because it’s devoid of any kind of comparative analysis.”

– Wegmans is accused of trying to circumvent New Jersey liquor license rules by having family members take out permits.

– I love roundabouts, primarily because you don’t have to wait at traffic lights and everyone has to drive slow. Downtown Rochester is getting one at a fairly complicated intersection near HSBC Plaza.

– Is the GOP obsessed with women’s private parts? A Washington Post columnist runs down the evidence and comes up with this gem:

“If I wanted the government in my womb, I’d [expletive] a senator.”

– Wendy’s restaurants are getting a new sleek look. Just don’t mess with the Frosty.

– There’s a house that looks like a peppermint candy.

More Links of the Day:

– People got excited when news leaked this week that Google plans to sell glasses by year’s end. The Google Glasses would be mini-computers using cues in the environment to provide maps, facts, weather and other information.

Don’t recognize the person who just said hello? The glasses would have facial recognition software to remind you.

Google, however, is not a pioneer in this arena. Rochester has a company called Vuzix that’s been making consumer video and “augmented reality” eyewear for some time. A press release this month detailed new cloud-enabled glasses:

Applications, for example, can use face recognition to connect Twitter or Facebook users instantly with their Twitter name under the users face while using the glasses as a very natural human interface. NEC BIGLOBE expects applications ranging from sports to hobbies like skiing, snowboarding, mountain climbing and fishing. Being connected to the cloud can enhance these activities, for example, by helping the user identify fish and fishing techniques right on the river, to showing the user where his friends might be on the ski hill just by looking at icons that are geospatially correct inside the users view through the glasses.

It’s exciting Rochester has a company rivaling Google, at least when it comes to glasses!

– Wegmans is overhauling its store brand products to make them healthier. Mary Ellen Burris blogs about reducing sodium, adding whole grains and making some things gluten-free. I hadn’t realize the old Brooks Ave. store is now a test kitchen.

– The University of Rochester ousted a troubled frat from a campus quad. The move allegedly has nothing to do with a fatal stabbing.

– Buffalo is losing senior citizens. The senior population declined 3 percent between 2000 and 2010. The Urban Land Institute speculates they moved away. Rochester, however, is seeing a spike in its senior population.

– A snowy owl was spotted up in Charlotte.

City of Rochester Communications Bureau

Links of the Day:

– The Buffalo Backlash started almost immediately when Tom Brady said the city’s hotels aren’t very nice. “They’re not the nicest places in the world,” the famous quarterback said.

Brady has since apologized.

A Buffalo News reporter said Brady was right!

The problem with what Tom Brady said about Buffalo’s hotels isn’t that he was mean.

It’s that he was right.


Many locals viewed his comment as an unnecessary cheap shot and an inaccurate depiction of what the city has to offer.

Perception, however, is reality in many cases.


Most NFL cities have five-star options like Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Renaissance.

All of this had me thinking about Rochester’s hotel options. We may not be entertaining professional athletes, but we have world-class businesses that do their fair share of wining and dining.

A quick search of AAA ratings shows only one four-star hotel, the Del Monte Lodge in Pittsford. All of the downtown hotels, including Hyatt, Radisson, Plaza and Inn on Broadway have three-star ratings. Those are all wonderful hotels, but is it concerning we don’t have more four or five star options?

I’ve honestly never heard any complaints. But then, Tom Brady has never been here. Oh wait…

– The state comptroller says Rochester has regained an astounding 98 percent of the jobs lost during the recession. Does Rochester feel like a boom town? Not really. Maybe that’s because the median wage has fallen and things weren’t so hot before the recession hit.

– Xerox has a nifty new scanner. It’s small, mobile and connects to Wi-Fi.

– Remember that solar company that promised 2,000 to 4,000 jobs? Natcore Technologies moved into Eastman Business Park last year. It’s ready to build a factory, but it might not be built here.

Links of the Day:

– Buffalo is finally getting its fair share, according to the Buffalo News editorial board:

We understand why other upstate cities are covetous of the billion dollars’ worth of affection that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is prepared to lavish on Buffalo. They want some loving, too. We might feel the same in their shoes.

Yet, those cities are missing the larger point, one that Cuomo understands and that should help him stay firm in his commitment. Buffalo, the state’s second-largest city, is failing worse than others. Those two facts — the city’s size and its long-term trajectory — send damaging reverberations throughout the state economy.


What is more, as Cuomo also observed, Buffalo simply hasn’t gotten its fair share from Albany…

The idea that Buffalo has been comparatively neglected by Albany is laughable when you consider it has gotten more state aid per capita than Rochester for many years. Rochester is also required to give its schools twice what Buffalo is required.

The poverty rate in Rochester is worse. Buffalo’s schools perform slightly better. While Rochester’s regional economy is certainly performing better, the urban areas have the exact same challenges.

– Albany has a law against predatory towing that it will now have to defend in court.

– People have been killed making iPads. In an important piece of journalism, The New York Times exposes harsh working conditions in Chinese factories.

– Gerrymandering is alive and well. Rochester could be represented by six state senators.

– Kids in preschool and daycare don’t get to play, because providers are worried they’ll get hurt. Lenore Skenazy writes in the Wall Street Journal:

In striving to make our kids super safe and super smart we have turned them into bored blobs.

– The search for what is causing the LeRoy girls’ illness continues, even though doctors have already made a diagnosis of conversion disorder.

City of Rochester Communications Bureau

A fellow reporter asked Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy on Thursday about the billion dollars going to Buffalo for economic development. Rochesterians have been quite miffed. Here is his response:

We have some great football games this weekend and at the end of the first quarter you don’t declare a winner. We have, I believe the best governor in the country. We have one fourth of his term done. By my count about $200 million has been earmarked or on its way to Rochester in the last month or so.

Buffalo is the second largest city. Rochester is the third. The governor made a decision that put a stake in the ground. But what has happened in Buffalo, that investment, I would say if it’s as successful as I believe it will be, you’ll see the same things happen in Rochester and Syracuse.

And what I’ve told the governor is there’s this incredible Upstate competition with cities, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse. If we got the $1 billion, Buffalo would be up in arms. So I think you have that competitive issue.

Rochester is not forgotten. If the governor was here speaking, he would tell you how much is passed along and communicated about what goes on here and the needs. But in all honesty, I don’t argue with the decisions that were made. Our Regional Council here did an extraordinary job…They did not win. They did not win the top four, but the scoring was so close, anyone could have won. But there’s four more years…of that money coming.

Duffy was definitely defensive, but not overly so. Apparently, being the third-largest city behind Buffalo matters.

I was a little curious that the governor’s budget called the Buffalo initiative an attempt to form
“innovation clusters.” We have those in Rochester already and they sorely need funding. But it’s fair to say there’s still a lot of time in the Cuomo administration.


Communications Bureau, City of Rochester

Links of the Day:

– Some major websites are blacked out today in protest of SOPA. My favorite headline belongs to the Washington Post, “What happens when the Internet gets mad.”

– Buffalo really made out in the state budget. In addition to the $1 billion pledge for economic development, the area is getting $15 million for the Peace Bridge, $100 million for Roswell Park Cancer Institute, $2.94 million to retain the Bills and money to move the University of Buffalo medical school downtown.

Rochester is getting $28 million advance on state aid that remains below what Buffalo and Syracuse receive per capita.

Buffalo $1.218 billion
Rochester $168 million

– Strong Memorial Hospital’s cafeteria is getting its first big upgrade since the 1970s. This is very exciting for workers, but it sounds like it will be a real pain to get food there until the renovation is complete.

– All of the Monday morning quarterbacks discussing Kodak’s downfall are wrong, says a column posted on CNN.com. Kodak’s problem wasn’t innovation or diversification; it was making a successful business model of those efforts:

The tiny sideline businesses simply could not scale at a rate that might make up for the loss of film revenues, so those inside the core business were unable or unwilling to do what it took to foster drastic transformation.

This exact phenomenon plagues innovation in nearly every large firm. At least once a week, top executives tell me that new growth businesses in their firms are intriguing and potentially important, but they simply “don’t move the needle.” Said in plain American: “The hot new thing simply cannot produce enough revenues this quarter to improve my bonus as a senior executive.” So those projects are starved of resources instead of nurtured.

– Rochester and Syracuse play a role in drone use in the U.S. military.

– Laying off cops is bad.


A proliferation of news articles and blog posts have a warning for corporate America: Beware, or you could become the next Kodak! Many industries are mining lessons from the saga:

Newspapers must embrace the digital age and prepare for the day without paper.

Telecommunications firms must prepare for further erosion of the landline market.

The Post Office, “once even more important than Eastman Kodak,” risks becoming obsolete in the digital age.

Barnes & Noble may be having a “Kodak moment,” as it contemplates spinning off its Nook business.

The entertainment industry, including movies and music, must go digital or die.

Even churches can learn something from Kodak’s culture that didn’t foster dissent or risk.

The intense level of media interest and the volume of stories indicate the enormous stature of the Kodak brand. The entire world is sharing in our pain.

Other Kodak News:

– My colleague Doug Emblidge interviewed former Kodak spokesman Paul Allen. It’s a fascinating interview, as Allen discusses his assessment of past CEOs and his distaste for Kodak’s direction in the 1980s. Allen did his best to deliver the company line, knowing Kodak may not have been making the best decisions. The video will interest public relations professionals and students.

– Will Antonio Perez show up at President Obama’s jobs council meeting next week?

Buffalo’s Billion:

– Governor Cuomo needs help explaining why Buffalo is getting special treatment.

– Buffalo isn’t even sure it has an economic development arm to dole out the money! People are skeptical the city can handle that kind of cash.

“We would know what to do with it in five minutes,” said Mark Peterson, of Greater Rochester Enterprise.

Communications Bureau, City of Rochester

Links of the Day:

Governor Andrew Cuomo tells the Buffalo News he understands other regions are going to be upset over his $1 billion pledge to Buffalo. Spurned cities will just have to deal, he says:

“You look at newspapers today, and you’ll see I’m criticized by other parts of the state for focusing on Buffalo,” the governor responded.

“I say, ‘You’re right. I’m focusing on Buffalo because I believe Buffalo has a great need and I believe Buffalo’s needs have been ignored for a long time,” the governor added. “If this is unique attention for Buffalo, it’s because Buffalo has unique needs.”

Buffalo’s needs may not be so unique or even more dire. I pointed out Buffalo and Rochester’s urban problems are very similar. The Syracuse Post-Standard reports poverty rates are actually higher in Rochester and Syracuse:

In fact, estimates from the U.S. Census suggest that both Syracuse and Rochester have higher poverty rates than Buffalo.

The estimates, which combine three years of data from 2008 to 2010, show Buffalo’s poverty rate at 30.4 percent, Syracuse’s at 32.2 percent, and Rochester’s at 31.3 percent.

A less precise one-year snapshot of the cities taken by the Census in 2010 shows the same ranking — Syracuse first at 34 percent, Rochester second at 33.8 percent and Buffalo third at 30.2 percent.

District Attorney Sandra Doorley hired a staffer from the Democratic Party office – and her campaign manager – to be an administrator in her office. That looks a lot like patronage has arrived in the DA’s office. The hiring of Adam Bello comes after Doorley canned five prosecutors, saying she needed people who were “loyal” to her.

A city official is in hot water over his derelict properties, the Democrat and Chronicle reports. The city is figuring out what sort of disciplinary action to take. City Spokesman Gary Walker:

“Is it legal? Yes, because it happens all the time. Is it ethical? Not for a city employee.”

Photo Credit: City of Rochester Communications Bureau

Is Rochester the redheaded stepchild of Albany?

First, we received tens of millions of dollars less than our counterparts in Regional Economic Development funding. Now we find out in the State of the State Address the City of Buffalo is getting $1 billion in funding for economic development. That’s billion with a “B.” Rochester didn’t even get a shout-out during the speech.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said Buffalo is “in crisis.” Rochester isn’t?

There’s no question our region has lower unemployment and a long-proven ability to rebound from the dramatic downsizing of our large companies. (How ironic that the governor was making his address while reports of Kodak’s impending bankruptcy broke.)

But if we’re going to compare cities, Buffalo and Rochester have virtually identical poverty rates. The median income hovers around $30,000 with one-third of residents living in poverty. The June high school graduation rates don’t top 50 percent.

I’m not terribly familiar with downtown Buffalo, but I can’t imagine Rochester’s downtown is better. Our Main Street is pockmarked with vacancies and a giant hole in the ground. (Has Cuomo learned about Midtown yet?)

Whatever regional success we’re experiencing, it hasn’t trickled down in any giant way to the urban core.

Let’s also remember the City of Rochester faces state-imposed burdens its neighbors do not share. Rochester is required by state law to pay its school district more than Buffalo and Syracuse combined. It also gets less state aid per capita than Buffalo and Syracuse.

Sandy Parker of the Rochester Business Alliance said in a statement, “I am deeply disappointed that Rochester and the Finger Lakes were again overlooked by the powers in Albany…The long-held view in Albany that Rochester can take care of itself is unfair- and punitive.”

The absence of any mention of the Flower City is all the more astounding because our former mayor was at the governor’s side. Does Cuomo think Duffy is still in charge of Rochester and taking care of our problems?

I’m heartened the governor thinks urban issues are important. So is Rochester.

Remember during the fast ferry days when people said Canadians would never want to come to Rochester?

They’re flocking in droves to Buffalo and Syracuse – to spend money.

Sales tax receipts in Erie and Niagara counties are surging. Local officials credit Canadians. From the Buffalo News:

So what’s fueling the growth?

“There’s a one-word answer I can give you right now: Canadians,” said Gary D. Keith, an economist with M&T Bank. “They have been helping our retail sector significantly throughout 2011, and, in fact, the nice growth we’re seeing in Erie County has been topped by what’s happening in Niagara County.”

The Syracuse Post Standard reports Canadians are coming by the busload to Carousel Center, Wegmans and the Waterloo Premium Outlets:

The two currencies are about par right now. A big reason Canadian shoppers are coming to the U.S., and Syracuse in particular, is for the wide variety of stores and variety of goods they cannot purchase in Canada. And to escape goods and services taxes and other sales taxes, which are, they say, much higher in their homeland.

Rochester may not be as convenient as Syracuse and Buffalo, but I’d be willing to bet we’re getting at least some of that traffic. We have the unique attractions of The Strong and George Eastman House, but the shopping opportunities are no different. Maybe it’s time to figure out another kind of attraction to capture the Canadians!