Jobs: Rochester’s much needed metric to monitor progress toward change

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When architectural firms unveil proposed plans for new construction or renovations in the urban center of Rochester, N.Y., there is an unspoken assumption about the illustrated vision; the simulated people surrounding rendered buildings are young and employed with good-paying jobs. After all, they’re usually depicted strolling to lunch from their office or leaving a late-model car parked curbside next to a trendy boutique or café. Unfortunately, rare is the moment when we see all parts of this picture appear in real life.

During her official inauguration ceremony, Mayor Lovely Warren reinforced the importance of creating a “vibrant city” that values its young people. Warren’s vision, like an architect’s rendering, painted the scene of a downtown full of nightlife, entertainment and culture. Surprisingly, Warren’s inauguration address only mentioned the word “jobs” twice; once in reference to the region’s proud industrial past, the other acknowledging the needs of both the present and future.

A recent AP story points to the lack of meaningful work as a root cause of young people leaving upstate New York communities like Rochester for New York City or larger metropolitans outside the state. These trends track with findings published in the New York Post study from the fiscally conservative Manhattan Institute, which repeatedly pointed to meaningful jobs as the linchpin between failure and success for upstate New York’s future.

During the campaign, Warren championed the need for jobs that would yield positive impacts, specifically for city residents. As she continues to release further details of her administration’s plans, I hope the issue of jobs for remains central to their aim.

Rochester needs more than an artist’s rendering. We know what downtown and other neighborhoods could look like. What the City needs is a meaningful objective for measuring the City’s progress toward real and substantive change — that metric is jobs.

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