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Report on UR’s Economic Impact Lacks Details on Effect on Minorities

Patti Singer

The Center for Governmental Research prepared a report on how the University of Rochester affects the regional economy. Provided image

A report on the economic impact of the University of Rochester in 2019 does not address the effect of the upstate’s largest employer on minority communities.

While the analysis by the Center for Governmental Research looks at how the university enhances the overall local and regional economy, it doesn’t contain data on the benefit to Black and Latino communities — or to any specific demographic.

University of Rochester & Affiliates New York State Economic Impact 2019 follows the format of reports that have been issued every other year since 2006. According to a university spokesman, the CGR report was not designed to analyze UR’s economic impact in the context of social justice.

Peter Robinson, vice president for government and community relations at the University of Rochester, said the report speaks to the economic impact of UR overall. He acknowledged that it didn’t address any resulting benefits from strategies to improve diversity, equity and inclusion.

The only time the word “diversity” is used is in reference to the UR’s varied academic programs.

“We’ve really been making progress in diversifying our workforce more broadly,” Robinson said during an online news conference Sept. 9. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress on the gender side. The majority of the leadership of the university is women now, capped off by our president. We’re making concerted efforts to diversify leadership, racially and ethnically as well. … The university and the people it’s employing are being benefited by these recent strategies that we’re undertaking.”

Robinson said there is a comprehensive approach to addressing the needs of poor communities in Rochester, which he said are made up largely of Blacks and Latinos.

He said the university is committed to a $15 an hour minimum wage but also is aware that ongoing adjustments are needed so lower-wage earners don’t fall behind as consumer prices rise.

“Entry level positions and minimum wage is a starting point,” Robinson said. “What we need to do, and we are committed to doing, is to create career ladders for people that we bring into the organization. For people that come in with fewer skills and end up in less-skilled positions initially, we are going to be offering them career opportunities that include educational pathways that are supported by the institution and opportunities to move into professional positions.”

Robinson said UR has an initiative focused on getting more minority- and women-owned businesses as vendors and contractors. He said the university also is “doing everything we can to diversify” the pipeline into UR-supported startups. “A good deal of that really depends upon the people that come forward with innovation.”

Robinson, who was not the author of the report, did not specifically answer how subsequent analyses would reflect UR’s pledge to improve diversion, equity and inclusion. Kent Gardner, who was the project director, did not address the question that was asked to either of them.

UR is the seventh largest employer in New York and the largest in upstate with 32,493 workers that come out to an estimated 28,261 full-time equivalents. UR and Strong Memorial Hospital alone have 24,887 workers or 22,188 full-time equivalents.

An estimated 12,000 employees live within the city. Those employees include low-wage certified nurse assistants and custodial staff as well as professors and doctors. Combined, they earned about $513 million in 2019, according to the report.

Among other economic benefits to the city, 499 UR employees have taken advantage of the university’s homeownership program. The number of Black and Latino employees who’ve participated was not immediately available.

Through leased space, UR paid $730,000 in property tax. The city benefited from sales tax revenue, which in fiscal year 2020-21 totaled $138 million. The university and its affiliates spent at least $88 million with businesses within city ZIP codes.

The University of Rochester Medical Center provided about $60 million in uncompensated – or charity – care in the region in 2019. The medical center includes hospitals in Rochester as well as in Ontario, Livingston and Allegany counties, so not all of that care was provided to city residents.