Known as a leading medical technology hub, Matt Hurlbutt, CEO of the Greater Rochester Enterprise shares how the pandemic is boosting the entire ecosystem between optics, photonics and imaging, medical device manufacturing, data and science software. Having three major universities – University of Rochester,University of Buffalo, and Cornell University is certainly lending to the growth in research and innovation.

Tune into this episode of the Economic Development podcast to learn about the growth and emerging opportunities coming out of Rochester.

In Rochester, we saw a lot of innovation coming out of some of our essential businesses here on the medical device front in response to the pandemic. There’s research at the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology on ventilator technologies and 3D printing.

Episode Highlights:

  • 01:44 – In Rochester, certain industries have evolved and reemerged since the pandemic in the production of medical devices and ventilator technologies.
  • 03:30 – The industry for medical devices and the technology fueling it promises significant growth for Rochester especially with the rush for a cure for the Coronavirus.
  • 05:41 – While remote work may affect commercial office space and relocate companies altogether, Rochester has seen a growth in software, data science, cybersecurity firms as well as companies providing financial back office.

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Episode Transcript:

Matt Hurlbutt  00:00
We’ve done virtual site facility tours, if you will, walking through buildings using technology, even if it’s a simple phone tour, using drone technology. And then I’ve also heard of on site visits where you’ve got people spaced out. So you’re using several cars and communicating between the cars so that you can make sure people are appropriately distance and still getting to the site if they want to physically see it. And it’s all about communication. So that ability to move quickly and leverage technology I think is paramount to the economic development part, as well.

Fabiola Fleuranvil  00:44
This is Fabiola Fleuranvil, CEO of Blueprint Creative Group. We provide strategic communications counsel during times of opportunity, change and crisis and right now we’re definitely in a crisis and so we’re glad to have Matt Hurlbutt of the Greater Rochester Enterprise, who is the President and CEO, and you’re tuning into the economic development podcast. Hey, Matt, thanks for joining today.

Fabiola Fleuranvil  01:10
So let’s talk about the crisis that the industry is facing. And I don’t want to sound so dramatic by saying crisis, but definitely, you know, times are challenging. A lot of industries are being impacted. And even from a macro-level, commercial real estate, economic development, targeted industry promotion, everything is almost at a standstill, and who knows what the rest of the year looks like.

So, from your perspective, at a macro level, what does economic development look like these days? Considering that we’re kind of coming out of the immediate crisis that we started off the year in? 

Matt Hurlbutt  01:44
It really goes back to fundamentals. So a lot of economic development organizations, ourselves included, had to take care of our staff as well. So it starts with going remote, but then it was really good old fashioned relationship building, making sure local businesses were connected to the resources they needed to survive. In our case, in New York, that was understanding how to stay on the essential business list, and requirements and supports available everything from the payroll protection program to SBA loans, and some of the state efforts to help keep their workforce safe.

And then we also, interestingly enough, got a lot of innovation coming out of some of our essential businesses here on the medical device front. There’s research at the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, they were working on ventilator technologies and 3D printing, and connecting those dots over help companies continue to innovate and in some cases hire during the pandemic. So with all of that, and really getting the word out. In our case, on the recruitment side, we’ve got companies here that are in the medical device sector, they are open to partnerships. So we’ve been looking at connecting some dots so that we can continue to innovate and actually help solve the COVID crisis.

Fabiola Fleuranvil  03:04
So let’s talk about the innovation because I think that’s where the silver lining comes in with this crisis, the fact that you do have ingenuity and innovation, and all of that playing into the growth. Do you see that industry opportunities that can be further developed even once we’re totally out of this pandemic? Is there an opportunity to grow that and have some targeted industry promotion around driving more whether they’re already in state or bringing them from other markets?

Matt Hurlbutt  03:30
Yeah, I believe that and we were talking about that a little bit where Rochester is really known as a great market and leading technology hub for optics and photonics and imaging. And the interplay between optics, photonics and imaging, medical device manufacturing, data and science software is significant, especially as devices get smaller. And really they’re driven by innovation and being unique for the patient or the customer.

The fact that we’ve got the University of Rochester here and not far from us, the University of Buffalo, as well as Cornell really lends the entire ecosystem to continue to innovate in that space. And I think COVID is really pushing that to the forefront, especially as we talk about where pharmaceutical remedies come from, as well as medical device supply chain opportunities, and other supply chain opportunities that relate to food and beverage manufacturing, and just simple distribution of where we see a close connectivity to about one third of the US or Canadian population. 

Fabiola Fleuranvil  04:33
So I would say that perhaps moving forward, that would be another Industry focus that your organization starts to really build on and capitalize on some of the assets that are already existing.

Matt Hurlbutt  04:45
Yeah, I completely agree. And some of the work we’ve done is, especially around some opportunities that have come on the medical device, or the testing side is better understanding some of our companies, whether they’re large or small, what they’re doing here their capabilities, whether they have capacity or willingness to partner with another firm, perhaps inside the region or outside of the region. And then how do we make some of those matches happen and help them accelerate that process?

Fabiola Fleuranvil  05:13
Okay, so let’s shift gears. So now with the discussion about more companies looking towards remote operations as not just temporary, but perhaps permanent, and which may affect commercial real estate locally or even regionally, is the fact that they may be be moving for other markets. Do you think that around your region between New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania that there is a concern that you may lose some of your companies within the region?

Matt Hurlbutt  05:41
Yeah. Well, and I think that’s what everyone is waiting to see what is the impact where especially on the office market where people are now working remote. We have seen a lot of growth in software, data science, cybersecurity firms as well as financial back office here in Rochester. So we see it two fold where we’ve had local companies who are now working remote will they come after their office space. But there’s also an opportunity for our market to support companies that are in those larger markets, whether it’s more expensive where they’ve had some peaks during COVID, like Boston, Northern Virginia, as well as New York City.

We’re promoting Rochester as having a greater profitability ratio for a firm of 50 or more, and that you can make another million dollars a year here in Rochester than you can in those metros. So whether people come and live here and work remotely to support those firms or whether they bring their operations here, that’s something that we’re talking with our developers about.

Fabiola Fleuranvil  06:39
Yeah, that’s certainly a benefit to being in a sub market, because you do get to attract those who are looking for some of those alternative environments. 

Matt Hurlbutt  06:47
And there will be changes to the office landscape. It used to be very open floor plans. I think that’s going to change. W’re waiting to see in some cases, some companies are waiting to see how they feel with that, whether or not there’s advanced treatments for COVID, whether it comes back. So a lot of things are still up in the air as they look at how do we plan for office space in the future or adjust with some people remaining remote, and others coming back. I’ve heard the complete spectrum from people in that on that idea.

Fabiola Fleuranvil  07:22
Okay, so speaking of that, how have you noticed your peers from around the industry either adjust or rethink their economic development initiative? So, I mean, obviously, site selectors are impacted about the ability to attract business inbound, and obviously the job market has had a shift. How do you see the industry in general shifting or rethinking?

Matt Hurlbutt  07:41
Well, industries now are remote. So, we are focusing on the ability to do a site visit remotely. We’ve done virtual site, facility tours walking through buildings, using technology, even if it’s a simple phone tour. Using drone technology, and then I’ve also heard of on site visits where you’ve got people spaced out. So you’re using several cars, and communicating between the cars so that you can make sure people are appropriately distance and still getting to the site that they want to physically see it. And it’s all about communication. So that ability to move quickly and leverage technology, I think is paramount to economic development part, as well.

Fabiola Fleuranvil  08:24
Okay. Well, you know, it seems like Rochester has found a new niche, maybe, or even a growth market to explore it. So it seems like the outlook is very great for your organization in the community.

Matt Hurlbutt  08:37
Yes, I think so. I’m always an optimist, and you’ve heard it before where crisis lends itself to opportunity. So it’s a matter of time, and we’ve got some very smart people here. I’m not going to be pollyannic and say that it’s going to be easy, but I’m always looking for that opportunity and how we can help companies grow in the area.

Fabiola Fleuranvil  08:55
Good. So I thank you for your time.

Matt Hurlbutt  09:04
Thank you for having me.

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