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Bob Duffy: On the economy, stupid Q&A

City: What would you do differently from the Johnson administration when it comes to economic development?

Duffy: I'd form an economic-development impact team of business leaders, community leaders, and labor leaders that would create a business plan for our city. The plan would start with a one- or two-year objective. I want to hit on the highest impact areas I can. I'd put together a team that thinks only about bringing wealth and economic development to Rochester.

This same group would drive to Albany and meet with our state delegation to help foster changes. A similar trip would be taken to visit federal officials in Washington. And it's important we do that as a bi-partisan team.

I'd examine every practice we have. I'd want to make an assessment. Are we doing things that could inhibit business growth and development? And from that analysis, I'd look at every opportunity to reduce bureaucracy, to reduce waiting and cycle times for applications, and try to create a one-stop shop in City Hall that would be geared toward facilitating business development and growth.

The city's economic development department takes a lot of heat for being more about regulation than development. We've heard several times that it can think of lots of reasons not to do something. Do you believe those criticisms are fair? If so, what would you do about them?

I've heard the stories. Look, I want to be able to assemble one of the most business-friendly groups I can find. But I've made no decisions on appointments.

I'm very mindful of what I've heard. Whatever impediments that are that stop our growth, I intend to work through and eliminate very quickly. We're gonna roll out the red carpet for investors. I want them to come, buy property, open businesses. I want them to see Rochester as a tremendous opportunity.

Would you support city tax incentives to spur business development?

I would look at every conceivable financial incentive and package I could put together from the city, state, and federal government to keep businesses here and encourage more to come.

Would you spend city money on preparing development-ready sites, dealing with environmental problems to get them ready?

I think we have to look at preparing shovel-ready sites. It's a very expensive proposition, especially with brownfield cleanups. But there is money available. Perhaps we can make a case to increase that funding stream. It may be a shared responsibility with the city and investors, but we have too much empty commercial space. If you cannot create an environment where an investor can at least see some kind of a profit, they're not going to invest.

What, if anything, should be changed in the relationship between the various economic-development bodies throughout Monroe County?

I would fully support Greater Rochester Enterprise in any way I can. GRE is responsible for putting Rochester on the radar for areas outside this region.

We have a lot of ability to resurrect things from the inside, but we need to make sure other governmental agencies are part of this process.

I've heard that Rochester is seen in Albany as a successful city that doesn't need the same amount of help as other upstate cities. I think that's a cop-out. Especially when we're the only upstate city that continues to lose jobs.

What would you do to provide jobs for the unemployed?

Federal and state funding is important. What sounds good in a budget cutting session, I see the impacts on the street. It is making the case with data and specific facts as to why certain funding for job training and jobs is so important. And job training is important not only for the people being cut by the Valeos and Kodaks. But also for young people who have chosen to leave school for the streets. I'm a big believer in enhancing what Edison Tech provides. An incredible living can be made by being a skilled tradesperson, a plumber or electrician.

It's taking some of the problems we have and preparing our workforce to address them. Take demolition, for instance: I intend to either rehab our 2,100-plus vacant houses and get families in them, or take them down and offer them for a dollar to a neighbor for a garden or parking spot. I want to remove the blight that we have. Something as simple as demolition and rehab of homes --- we can create jobs and help our city at the same time.

As mayor, I'd be looking to the business community for help. We need to generate revenue to support jobs, and I'll seek their assistance in investing or providing part-time jobs. We can fill this void if we work together.

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