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The Business Page

Welcome to the business page, a blog where I'll take you behind the scenes of greater Rochester's fast-changing economy. My name is Ben Rand, and I intend to introduce you to some of the personalities, concepts and events that make news in business here. I've been a business reporter for eight years in Rochester and a journalist for 18, working in four states. I grew up in Pittsford, but moved away after college for about a decade. My wife and I live in Irondequoit with our two children.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Of Entrepreneurs and the Economy's Future

If the overflow crowds at Friday's Entrepreneurship Conference at RIT are any indication, greater Rochester's economy may be tacking in the right direction. An estimated 150 people --venture capitalists, private investors, academics, prospective entrepreneurs and others -- gathered to talk about the perils and promise of starting businesses. Of particular interest was a series of sessions examining ways to move orphaned technology from corporate labs into the private sector. That track attracted the present and former chief technology officers at Kodak and the head of Xerox Corp.'s Webster research center as speakers.

Paul Wetenhall of High Tech of Rochester told me that the addition of this track was a way of capitalizing on the vast amount of money funneled into research labs at large local corporations. Often, Wetenhall says, large corporations like Kodak develop technologies that offer a nice potential return -- just not large enough for the corporation's needs. An entrepreneur will typically have a lower threshold and more time to be patient to develop a market. An example is the successes at Lumetrics Inc., built upon an orphaned Kodak technology.

Entrepreneurship is a long-term play to solidify our economy. It won't solve the economy's problems overnight. It's also a numbers game, Wetenhall told me. Out of 10 start-ups, maybe three will survive and begin to create jobs. To use a sports analogy, what our region needs, according to Wetenhall, is more at-bats.

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