RIT helps fuel new economy in Rochester


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Students at the Rochester Institute of Technology are using their innovative and creative skills to helps shape a new economy in Rochester.

RIT President David Munson discussed the school’s role in the community Wednesday during our Greater Rochester Enterprise Why ROC Conversation.

“Rochester was largely a three company town with Kodak, Xerox, and Bausch + Lomb,” Munson said. “The presence of those companies in our city now is far, far smaller than it once was and we all know that. But the innovation and technology – that environment that was created – and all of the amenities that those companies and their employees left for those of us who live here now have really set us up for the future. So things are changing. We’re not a big company town anymore. We’re all about start-ups and smaller companies but those are absolutely thriving in our region.”

President Munson said RIT is playing an important role in this change. “I think there have been a number of national polls that have come out in national studies recently talking about the tech prowess of our area and RIT is one of the spark plugs in the engine that creates that. As everyone knows, we’re a large university focused quite a lot on some disciplines. About a third of our graduates are in IT – topics related to computing, software engineering, cybersecurity, and computer science – and about a third of our graduates stay in this area and really power the economy.”

President Munson added, “It’s not unusual for a university to house or sponsor a start-up accelerator or start-up incubator. In our case, our primary one is called Venture Creations. At any given time we have about 25 or 30 start-up companies that we’re working with. We had housed that out near our campus in Henrietta but just recently moved it to 40 Franklin Street in Rochester, the old bank building we own downtown. The vision is to have hundreds and hundreds of start-up companies downtown.”

There are many factors that are contributing to a new economy in Rochester. For President Munson, one key ingredient stands out. “I think everything boils down to talent. In fact, if you talk to our alum and trustee Austin McChord who founded Datto which has a large operation in downtown Rochester, that’s the first word that will come out of his mouth. Companies have a lot of choices in terms of where to locate but the thing that they can’t do without is talent. And especially if we’re talking about companies that are on the cutting edge of innovation and creating brand new things that nobody’s ever thought of before, that takes very special people to do that and this region produces those kinds of people.”

Learn more about RIT at rit.edu.

Learn more about Greater Rochester Enterprise at RochesterBiz.com.

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