Last week, Rochester City Hall reversed its decision to extend meter parking from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This is a testament to how the voice of business and community leaders, when organized, can be heard and listened to by political leaders. Kudos to the downtown gallery directors, restaurant owners, theater managers and business people who met and collaborated so that their collective voice brought change.
For those unfamiliar with the situation, the city announced the new policy without consultation with or input from the community. Granted, there’s a budget shortfall and a need to generate additional revenue. Yet, Rochester’s parking situation is complicated and the new policy would have led to more parking violations and penalties. It would have had injurious unintended consequences for businesses and, perhaps most significantly, upon the working class residents who are struggling to make ends meet.
I highlight this issue because I see Rochester transforming before my eyes. The business community has been less engaged for the past several decades. I believe there’s a direct correlation between their absence and the economic challenges our community has faced. On a local level, they stood up on this issue. I’m hopeful they will continue to do so as Rochester develops a comprehensive plan, attempts to seize new opportunities and addresses its ongoing challenges.
As we approach another election cycle, we have an opportunity to express ourselves to candidates who will serve in Albany. I fear few of them understand the importance of the economic transformation occurring in our community. The same refrains about jobs and economic development are repeated over and over again. I know that there’s a terrible misalignment between the views of our great local entrepreneurs and most candidates.
This flaw must and can be corrected. The leaders of the great, young companies need to coalesce and develop an organized, coherent approach. Their voice needs to be heard. There are plenty of ways to do that, even for busy CEOs at high- growth companies. They will have to make an effort to confront candidates and educate them. They need to support candidates who demonstrate an understanding of the new economy.
We face formidable challenges trying to correct the systemic problems in Albany. I’m hopeful we can make progress, like business and community leaders did at the city level recently. I’m reminded of what renowned anthropologist, Margaret Mead, stated: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Richard Glaser is co-creator of RocGrowth and RocGrowth Candids and Coffee events. He was presented with Upstate Venture Connect’s Community Catalyst award for organizing programs that bring together diverse startup ecosystem players.