Rochester Rotary and Economic Predictions
Most notable this year, perhaps, is Parker's change of tone. Historically the RBA chief has tried to present an optimistic picture while frankly discussing the region's challenges. For example:
- In 2005 she spoke of "opportunity" in predicting that greater Rochester would add 5,000 jobs. She noted, however, that those job gains would be offset by continued downsizing.
- In 2003 she pronounced herself "cautiously optimistic" about a recovery in the second half of the year. But Parker again noted ongoing restructuring at major employers.
- In 2001 she pointed to the resiliency of the local economy in overcoming job cuts.
Her speech today was far blunter. "We are in trouble," she told the 150 people at the luncheon, noting that upstate New York has trailed the state and nation in job and population growth. "Clearly our community has no choice but to figure out how to change direction."
The frank talk comes in the midst of a new campaign designed to get business leaders across upstate to unite behind a single agenda for reform.
Other notable observations from the Rotary lunch:
- Don Alhart, longtime anchor at 13WHAM-TV, either has a sweet tooth or an offbeat sense of humor. Alhart, a longtime Rotarian, kicked off the luncheon with an in-person newscast. He concluded with mid-day stock prices for various local companies....but then, for good measure, threw in a quote for Tootsie Roll Industries. OK, I'll admit it: Among the companies that I wouldn't expect to be publicly traded, Tootsie Roll ranks rather high. Wrong! Tootsie Roll is a $420 million company that also makes Double Bubble, Charleston Chew, Dots, Junior Mints, Charms Blow Pops and Fluffy Stuff cotton candy. In case you were curious as an investor, though, Tootsie's stock has fluctuated between $28 and $38 a share for several years.
- Rotarians have creative social coordinators. Try and top the group's upcoming social event, March 4: An outing at the Rochester Curling Club. For a fee, members will get dinner, instruction and the chance to participate in a real game of curling, a boutique Winter Olympics sport. Curling, developed in the 1500s, involves teams competing to slide 42-pound granite rocks down a sheet of ice toward a target.