There is no getting around the fact that the move of Bausch + Lomb corporate headquarters out of Rochester and the loss of 400 jobs is not a good thing for our community.  In fact, it’s a shame.  When I talked with Bausch + Lomb leaders just a few months ago, they gave me no indication that such a drastic change was in the works, nor do I believe they saw it coming, either.

When private equity firm Warburg Pincus announced plans to divest B+L, many speculated that an IPO was on the way to once again take the company private and allow it to maintain the iconic Rochester presence it had for 160 years.  Then, Valeant came along with its offer and in very quick order, Bausch + Lomb is no longer a Rochester-based company and hundreds of talented people are looking for work.  To say this chain of events took Rochester Business Alliance by surprise is an understatement.

A saving grace for our region is that Valeant has pledged, for now, to maintain Bausch and Lomb manufacturing and research and development in Rochester.  That keeps the job losses, while still significant, mainly in the corporate headquarters ranks.  A statement from Valeant said, “It is never easy to reduce employees and we understand and deeply regret the painful impact that a reduction in workforce can have on communities and families.  Bausch + Lomb is an important and innovative company and our hope is that under Valeant’s leadership, we will continue to build upon Bausch + Lomb’s strong heritage.”

As we’ve seen in the past with changes at other local corporate giants, Rochester has a resilient economy and we’ll be able to get through this. Bausch + Lomb’s highly skilled workforce is well-positioned to find other opportunities. We’re hopeful that our region’s business community will be able to retain much of this talent.

The Bausch + Lomb move is just one more example that the era of the employers known as the “Big Three” dominating Rochester ended nearly two decades ago.  We’ve seen a significant shift in the Rochester region’s employment landscape, making us more diversified and less dependent upon Kodak, Xerox, and Bausch + Lomb.  That shift has gone from a manufacturing-centric economy to one more reliant on the service industry.

The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council is working hard to even further diversify employment opportunities in the nine-county region.  The goal of the councils around the state is to help create an economic climate in which job creation can happen and to promote specific projects that will help create that climate.  Through the regional council effort, we are optimistically looking to add 50,000 jobs to the local economy within the next five years.

One of the things that we’re pushing in the next round of funding is a focus on workforce development.  When things like the B+L move and cuts at other companies happen, this becomes even more critically important.  The Regional Council needs to make sure that we have the talent base here to fill the job needs generated by its work.  Many of the economic development projects that are being funded are in areas that we have reason to believe will create jobs.  It’s critical that we have the talent base and special expertise here to fill them.