Snapshots: 60 Seconds With Matt Hurlbutt, Greater Rochester Enterprise

Hurlbutt, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Greater Rochester Enterprise, discusses the Economic Gardening program, local talent, food processing, photonics, higher education and the importance of water.

By the BF Staff
From the May/June 2017 Issue

BF: How does Greater Rochester’s Economic Gardening program for entrepreneurs work?

Greater Rochester Enterprise
Matt Hurlbutt, Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer, Greater Rochester Enterprise

MH: Companies already located right here in the Greater Rochester, NY region will generate at least 80 percent of our economic growth. That’s why we support promising businesses with our Economic Gardening program, which provides the resources they need to achieve their fullest potential and create new jobs. Since 2012, Greater Rochester Enterprise has helped more than 100 local, fast-growing companies in the Greater Rochester, NY region through GRE’s Economic Gardening program.

This program, the only one of its kind in New York State, is designed in partnership with the Edward Lowe Foundation to provide sophisticated, tailor-made strategic research to local second-stage companies. Economic

Gardening represents a new way of thinking about supporting companies poised for expansion, helping them drive innovation and growth in the Greater Rochester region. Collectively, participating companies have already created more than 685 net new jobs.

BF: GRE has generated projects with an estimated $2.4 billion in regional economic impact. What were the keys to this success?

MH: It’s all about talent. When GRE was founded 15 years ago to serve as our nine-county regional economic development organization, we quickly learned that the talented workforce was the Rochester, NY region’s true competitive advantage. We recently commissioned an economic impact study, which highlighted that more than 14,200 direct, indirect and induced jobs were created through business attraction and expansion projects our team led in collaboration with our partners at Empire State Development and local economic development agencies. Our team focuses on the industries where we have significant, competitive advantages, such as advanced manufacturing, energy innovation, food and beverage manufacturing, IT and software design, optics, photonics and imaging. Laser-like focus on our core industry strengths has enabled GRE to manage more economic development projects with larger job creation and capital investment projections.

BF: OFD Foods is building a $25-million manufacturing facility in Henrietta. Why is Greater Rochester so attractive to the food processing sector?

MH: Talent was the top reason OFD Foods chose to expand in Rochester, NY. The region has a whip-smart, highly skilled workforce that capitalizes on resources available at local universities, including Monroe Community College (MCC) and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The senior leadership at OFD Foods specifically cited RIT’s food packaging, research and development, and engineering programs, as well as MCC’s mechatronics program, as important skilled-trade training and educational resources. Greater Rochester, NY also has a fully integrated supply chain—including precision manufacturing, engineering and packaging support.

And more than 120 million people live within 500 miles of the region, which is near OFD’s key partnerships in the Northeast and Midwest markets. Speed to market is critically important for any business. We can produce a product here in Rochester today and be on the shelf in Boston tomorrow.

BF: Greater Rochester has become the leading hub for emerging photonics growth sector. How many major players are now part of the region’s photonics hub?

MH: From the Mars Rover to the James Webb Space Telescope, viewing new worlds is possible thanks to scientists in Greater Rochester, NY, the world leader in optics, photonics and imaging.

This region’s imaging history is unparalleled as the birthplace of Eastman Kodak Company, Xerox Corporation and Bausch & Lomb. Today, Rochester is home to more than 120 leading businesses focused on optics, photonics and imaging—forward-looking companies that capitalize on our area’s educated workforce and industry expertise. In fact, 50 percent of all optics degrees ever awarded are from the University of Rochester.

The recent establishment of the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics), an institute of Manufacturing USA, further builds on Rochester’s long history of innovation and leadership in this industry sector. This manufacturing consortium will focus on the design, manufacture, testing, assembly and packaging of integrated photonic devices. IBM and General Electric are two of the recent corporations to join AIM Photonics’ consortium, which comprises more than 70 members. Over time, we believe AIM Photonics will serve as a magnet to attract new companies and support creation of hundreds of new jobs in this field.

BF: Are Greater Rochester’s higher education resources playing a major role in workforce development for high-tech sectors?

MH: Greater Rochester, NY is one of the most productive regions in the country, ranking third in degrees per capita, according to the latest U.S. Department of Education reports. With 19 colleges and universities educating more than 85,000 students and graduating 19,000 students each year, we have resources deployed to support our future talent pipeline. Many of these students are remaining here after graduation. A recent CBRE study ranks Rochester 10th among Small Tech Talent Markets across the U.S. and Canada for recent growth in millennial population.

Monroe Community College launched the Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center to provide fast-tracked training, career and technical education, and apprenticeship programs directly linked to regional workforce needs.

In 2015, we were also ranked #1 in the U.S. for patents issued per 1,000 workers, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Innovations such as cancer-preventing vaccines and the technology supporting missions to Mars were created by highly skilled talent here in our region. The Greater Rochester, NY region offers the highly skilled workforce needed to compete in a knowledge-based economy.

BF: Is Greater Rochester maximizing its advantage in water resources as part of its growth strategy?

MH: Water is the new platinum. The Greater Rochester, NY region has access to more than seven percent of the world’s fresh water supply thanks to our strategic location adjacent to one of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario and the Finger Lakes. Companies here do not face water rationing or water rights fees. We have an abundance of fresh water—literally millions of gallons of water in excess capacity each day. We leverage water to attract agriculture, food processing and advanced manufacturing companies. It’s one reason we have more than 100 food and beverage manufacturing companies in our region.