After decades of job loss and high rates of concentrated poverty, the city of Rochester is beginning to experience new economic growth. The recent influx of federal and state funds is spurring the development of universities and research labs, and consequently, huge gains in high-tech jobs. Yet for those without the training or education to participate in the emerging skills-based job market, is the growing prosperity of Rochester out of reach?
Economic development advocates in Rochester don’t think so. Based on the findings and recommendations from our 2013 Launching Low-Income Entrepreneurs report, local policymakers are taking active steps to create an "urban entrepreneurship ecosystem," which they hope encourages a culture of low-tech entrepreneurship among city residents and expands economic opportunities to all city residents.
The recommendations from our 2013 report have served as “the underpinnings” of this new initiative, says Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, the president of the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation. Local policymakers have run with our report’s ideas such as providing comprehensive support services and industry appropriate mentors for low-income entrepreneurs, embedding loan services within support programs and developing a client-oriented tracking system for collaborating organizations who service entrepreneurs.
So far, the city’s main entrepreneurship organizations have committed to operating as a “collaborative service venture” and have agreed upon the next steps of the roll-out strategy. Thanks to the state’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative, there’s a real opportunity to get five years of funding for the initiative’s associated costs. Rochester is on its way to creating an ecosystem for low-tech entrepreneurs, and, as Zimmer-Meyer to wrote us in an email, “your work got us started.”
Photo: Patrick Ashley