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Leaders of the Rochester Community Coalition met Jan. 20 with Rochester-area state legislators to present its list of priorities for state funding in 2011 - four projects aimed at promoting job growth and improving the local economy.

Two of the projects would develop job-creating centers at our major universities, one would overhaul infrastructure to facilitate economic growth and the fourth would expand a program to support youth.

"As we present this list, we fully recognize that New York state is in financial crisis and that any state spending must hold up to intense scrutiny," said Sandy Parker, president and CEO of the Rochester Business Alliance, which convened the coalition. "But we also know that our elected officials recognize that strategic investment in economic development is essential to revitalizing our state. So we think this list - which identifies projects we believe have the greatest potential for job creation - will help our leaders set priorities for making the necessary investments to get New York back in business."

The Rochester Community Coalition emphasized that its recommended priorities retain the group's original focus on economic development, job creation and community investment.

"This year's Community Coalition Agenda capitalizes on the strengths and assets of our community, our world-class colleges and universities and the innovative research conducted there," said County Executive Maggie Brooks. "These specific projects will foster economic growth, create thousands of jobs, and position our region as an international hub of health and technology development."

"I strongly support the agenda for state investment through the Rochester Community Coalition and look forward to ensuring that our collective voice will once again be heard in Albany this year," said Acting Rochester Mayor Carlos Carballada. "All of the coalition's initiatives are good for our community and integral to its growth. The Rochester After-School Initiative is particularly beneficial to the city because it will provide a real return on investment by supporting the forces of the Rochester City School District and many of our partners who work every day to provide improved opportunities for our youth."

"The challenges faced by Albany this year are going to be among the most difficult in recent memory," said Ken Warner, executive director of UNICON – Unions and Business United in Construction. "Consequently, it is vitally important that competing segments of the community set aside petty differences and self interest and come together to get our fair share from State Government. This alliance of business, labor, educational institutions and non-profits is just the kind of coalition building we need to create to bring resources home and foster economic development."

The four projects identified are:

$25 million for the Institute for Sustainability at Rochester Institute of Technology
The state investment is essential to completing a total public-private partnership fundraising goal of $107 million. In addition to providing several thousand new jobs regionally, the institute will establish the region as a global hub for the emerging green-tech economy. It is expected to create 100 professional and technical positions at RIT and 160 construction jobs over two years, and have $650 million in regional earning potential.

"It's very gratifying to have the community so strongly behind our Sustainability Institute initiative," says RIT President William Destler. "This is an investment in New York state's future and we believe that the RIT Sustainability Institute can have a catalytic effect on the region as well as the state. The Finger Lakes region has lagged other parts of the state in its economic recovery, but through this initiative and its other assets, the potential to transform itself into the global hub for the green economy is well within its grasp."

$33 million to create the Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation at the University of Rochester
This investment would go toward a potential public-private partnership that could reshape the delivery of health care by combining IBM's high performance computing resources and the University of Rochester's biomedical research enterprise. HSCCI will create the nation's largest and most powerful computer systems dedicated to health research, positioning Upstate New York as a hub of health innovation and technology development.

"The big healthcare challenges of the 21st century - unlocking the possibilities of the human genome, lowering health care costs, or creating the next generation of medical imaging technologies - will require the combination of cutting edge science and high performance computing," said Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester. "This potential partnership with IBM holds the enormous opportunity not only to reshape the delivery of health care on a state and national level, but also to propel significant regional economic growth by making Upstate New York a hub of innovation and magnet for technology development."

The center could create more than 180 scientific and research jobs, and potentially generate more than $200 million in total research growth over 10 years.

$5 million over four years to expand a Rochester After-School Initiative
This program, developed through collaboration among the City of Rochester, Rochester City School District, United Way and Community Foundation, is designed to help our youth find safe and constructive options, develop social skills, establish mentor relationships and provide access to academic enrichment.

"United Way believes that if the community is to thrive, we must support the development and success of our youth," said Peter Carpino, president of the United Way of Greater Rochester. "It is critical that we equip our students with the resources and tools they need to become successful adults who can remain in this community and, ultimately, contribute to the future success of our city."

"High-quality after-school programs help children develop critical social skills, find caring adults as mentors, enrich their academic progress and free their parents to focus on work," said Jennifer Leonard, president and executive director of the Rochester Area Community Foundation. "Thank you to the Rochester Community Coalition for recognizing both this pressing community need and the significant financial return we can earn by investing in many more of our community's youth."

The investment will be used to bolster this program and develop a long-term implementation strategy, as well as allow the program to serve an additional 625 youth annually, aimed at helping reduce youth crime and improve graduation rates.

$100 million for Interstate 390 Interchange Project
This project will overhaul the corridor from the Genesee River to the I-390/I-590 Interchange to support and accommodate the increased traffic associated with planned growth of UR, RIT and Monroe Community College, as well as from projects along Mt. Hope Avenue and East Henrietta Road. CGR recently estimated that this infrastructure will be instrumental in institutional growth and business development that could add more than 20,000 jobs (both direct and indirect) to the region over the next 20 years. Construction of this project will create more than 850 jobs (both direct and indirect) and $42 million in labor income. The state has already committed $22 million to this project, but additional support is needed from the state as well as the region's Congressional delegation.

"Improvements to the region's transportation infrastructure are of critical importance in order to accommodate anticipated growth at the University of Rochester, RIT and Monroe Community College and other large scale development projects that are being planned," said UR President Seligman. "The I-390 Interchange Project will spur job growth, enhance public safety, and improve the quality of life of residents in the region."

Coalition leaders said they will communicate with legislators and the governor's office throughout the budget process. A communications campaign will encourage residents to send letters in support of the agenda, and coalition members are encouraged to promote it as part of their individual lobbying efforts.

"Our coalition brings together groups who may disagree on other issues, but who all support this list of priorities that we believe will benefit our region," RBA CEO Parker said. "We appreciate the support of our local legislators, and look forward to working with them as we stand united as a community."

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