Welcome to Rochester: A renaissance with RIT

If Chester Carlson, George Eastman, Kate Gleason, and Henry Lomb could see Rochester today, these inventors and pioneers would want to invest in our resurging region.

More than 70 percent of our 136,000 alumni live away from greater Rochester. Yet they often ask about the economic health of the region. Whether our alumni live in tech hubs like Silicon Valley or Boston, or overseas in Croatia or India, they still have a fondness for the Finger Lakes region.

My elevator speech is that Rochester has a new economy and RIT is helping to drive it to new heights. Today, there are more people employed here than were employed by the “Big Three”—Kodak, Xerox, Bausch & Lomb—combined in their heyday, up 30,000 to a workforce of 537,000. And the local economy is more diversified, with 97 percent of the Rochester region workforce employed in companies of 100 employees or less.

When we look back at the past, it should be with excitement rather than wistfulness, for we have been given an amazing legacy that includes everything necessary for major success in a new era that now is in full swing.

The region has an extraordinary abundance of assets that position us to be an entrepreneurial powerhouse. We not only have the intellectual talent and major university partners that forward-looking companies require, but we also have inherited an exceptional quality of life thanks to an impressive cluster of cultural organizations, unparalleled natural resources, and a resilient and welcoming spirit of community.

Higher education is a major driver in our regional economy and quality of life, where the sector is a source of new knowledge, technology transfer, workforce development, and service to the community. We have an impressive cluster of 19 public and private colleges throughout the greater Rochester region. Collectively, we enroll 83,000 students and award 19,000 degrees each year. We are one of the most academically productive regions in the country, ranking third in college degrees per capita and No. 1 for degrees in STEM fields, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Did the COVID-19 pandemic slow Rochester down? Quite the opposite. Greater Rochester Enterprise, the organization responsible for recruiting companies to the area, had a banner year benefitting from record capital investments and adding thousands of new jobs across various business sectors. This includes optics, photonics and imaging, food and beverage, advanced manufacturing, energy innovation, and e-commerce.

We also are harnessing this vibrancy for our students. There is a new vision for Rochester’s 30-story former Xerox Tower that will transform the office complex into student housing and a business innovation hub.

Innovation Square, a project recently announced by Gallina Development, will draw upper-level and graduate students from area colleges and universities. Several renovated floors are expected to open this summer.

RIT’s talent is a key ingredient in this resurgence. Rochester has the capacity and resources to surpass its former glory, just in a different way. Watch us grow!

Yours in Tiger and Rochester pride,

David C. Munson Jr., President

munson@rit.edu
Twitter: @RITPresident

P.S.: The Imagine RIT: Creativity and Innovation Festival is being held virtually on Saturday, May 1. View the exhibits the day of or any time after at rit.edu/imagine.