Several weeks ago, Ireland’s Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton led a trade visit to six cities in the United States. Rochester, New York was not on the list.
Stops included Houston, Austin, Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Grand Rapids. Oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and technology were among industries of interest. Ireland’s Texas trip alone resulted in an initial $14 million in contracts. 27 Ireland-based manufacturing, engineering and technology companies accompanied Bruton on the jobs-focused delegation. As reported by the Irish Independent, this year’s mission marked the 20th such trip for Ireland in a three-year period.
Yesterday’s update from Senator Charles Schumer’s office regarding Bausch + Lomb is not likely to improve Rochester’s chances to get on Ireland’s next itinerary. According to Schumer, B + L parent company Valeant may consider Rochester as a new home for jobs currently under fire in Waterford, Ireland.
Less than a year ago, Schumer was among the politicians who sent a letter to Valeant citing the dedicated, loyal and educated workforce in Rochester who represent part of a 160-year legacy in the area. However, the same message criticized the Canadian-based pharmaceutical company for eliminating jobs “without the workers even being given a chance.” Now Schumer is hedging on the prospects of a manufacturing plant closing in Ireland. His action appears more like job poaching than strategic economic development. Schumer smelled blood and went in for the kill.
Rochester, more than the average community, intimately understands the pains of corporate downsizing. Instead of an attempt to seize jobs, Schumer should have proposed ways to seize broader opportunity. He might have considered inviting representatives from Ireland and Valeant to Rochester to discuss ways to work together in the long-term interest of all parties.
Instead, the move does little to strengthen relations with Valeant and may appear adversarial to Ireland. The growth and success of upstate New York will require contributions from international firms. A recent report from HSBC and World Trade Center Niagara Buffalo cites such companies fare better with a growth rate almost three times that of domestic peers.
In an interconnected economy, Rochester and its elected representatives must use business challenges to increase the emphasis on sustainable, long-term solutions through global partnerships.