I was born and raised in Rochester, NY, a legacy city historically famous for being the birthplace of companies like Cunningham Stage Coach, Bausch and Lamb, Eastman Kodak Co. and Xerox. First dubbed the “Young Lion of the West” thanks to our Erie Canal, we were one of America’s first boomtowns. Later, Rochester was referred to as the “Flour City,” due to the number of mills located along the Genesee River. This river represented power, wealth and new opportunities and is still one of the most majestic features in our city.
Back in the 1950s, the population had grown to just over 330,000 but with industrial restructuring in the later 20th century and the decline of industry and jobs, the city’s population fell to just over 200,000 by 2018. But today the future of our city is brighter than ever.
For the last 12 years I’ve been lucky enough to work at CGI Communications, Inc, one of the fastest growing digital media companies and top workplaces in downtown Rochester. This gave me a unique perspective to watch the powerful shift our city was making each year – to see our city’s comeback first hand. Today as I sit in my office on Main Street, my view consists of new businesses, full apartment complexes and busy streets.
Founded in 1987, CGI got it’s start on the outskirts of town with a dozen employees. The office was set in an isolated business park without an established brand. We had a mission to promote municipalities across the country and to become a leader in community image marketing but to be honest, we lost our identity in the suburbs. Relocating our headquarters to downtown Rochester in 2005 gave us a new purpose, a new excitement and helped revitalize our staff. More importantly, it reflected who we are and what our community cause is; to be main street advocates.
We moved to center city before the downtown revitalization plans were clear. What’s kept us here is seeing our city make so many crucial changes and forging ahead with their robust plans. A few of the notable changes include:
- Roc the Riverway Project
- Inner Loop East Transformation Project
- The creation of a transit center in a central location and removing the bus stops from main street
- Bringing in new businesses such as restaurants, hotels, coffee shops and tech companies
- Widening our sidewalks
- Creating off street parking on main street
- The addition of bike lanes
If you are trying to grow and keep businesses in your community, there are several ways to market your city to make it attractive for companies like ours. We also have a mutual understanding that if we are all heading towards the same common goal, to revitalize our city, then we can do bigger and better things together. Because of the city’s commitment to CGI, we have continued to invest back into the community. We recently bought a building on main street that was vacant for the last 20 years and are remodeling it to be our new headquarters. We are providing jobs and helping other Rochester companies soar. Every day we have hundreds of employees visit coffee shops, grab lunch at a local restaurant or attend networking meetings with various organizations. We are working with print shops, sponsoring local events and festivals and getting to know our neighboring businesses.
Legacy cities are some of the toughest communities in the nation; persevering through economic downturn and strife. They are continuing to rebuild themselves every day to provide a brighter future for their residents, businesses and visitors. I couldn’t be prouder to call Rochester, NY my home and I look forward to seeing what is coming next.
About the Author: Amy Velez, is a Marketing Executive at CGI Communications, Inc. Her passion for relationship building and creative content has led her to a career in promoting communities through cost-free marketing initiatives.