Thursday, December 29, 2005

End-of-the-Year Type of Post

The biggest current event story in the last week of the year always seems to involve reflecting back on events that are no longer current. Somehow the irony escapes everyone involved. Sorry if I just spoiled the mood by pointing it out.

For 2005, local TV newscasts are talking about how, for the 2nd straight year, the Fast Ferry was the top local news story. I've heard them say it just barely beat out the city Mayor's election. How do they figure this kind of stuff out? Some kind of poll, or do they actually look at the time used to cover the story? Either way, what's the point? Maybe it's just me, but I find this kind of navel-gazing fruitless and uninteresting. First, the idea that there is any kind of significance in a top news story of the year is kind of wishful thinking. Are we honestly to believe that when we look back at 2005, we're going to say to ourselves, "Ah yes... the second year of the Fast Ferry", as we look off in the distance with a thoughtfully wistful expression?

Seriously, this kind of pre-judging of history just looks silly in the long run. It's like being in 1977 and saying, "You know, I really think disco will never die."

So yeah. Let me allow all that to preface what I think was the biggest news story of 2005. Yes, I know what I just got done saying. If you haven't figured it out yet, I have no qualms concerning my role as a public fool. Consider it a service, and one that you get at a premium I might add. Instead of directing attention on the biggest news story, which could really be anything, the local news agencies should consider focusing on the news event of the year.

Let me tell you what that would be.

The biggest story of 2005 was the University of Rochester surpassing Eastman Kodak as the largest employer of the area. It's a significant milestone in a couple of ways. First, how long has this community ruminated over the fact that Kodak will someday be gone? And whatever are we to do when it leaves? Guess what. That day has come, my friends, and somehow we are still standing. I'm not trying to make it sound like there aren't rough roads ahead, because there are. My point is that 2005 marks a year that the transition from the 20th Century economy to the 21st started leaving some marks. Rochester has, for years, been hooked on the easy money from a Fortune 500 conglomerate. Weening ourselves off that gravy train and back into the hustle and flow of cultivating and growing businesses is what will turn things around for this area.

The fact that it's the U of R that is carrying the water for the local economy is a good sign. The increasing investment into the high-tech and bio-tech sectors will spill over into other aspects of economy and hopefully begin to buoy it. The real trick is capturing the intellectual property from U of R and RIT for local development. If the region can develop these start-ups and help foster an environment where they can get their legs, Rochester's chances of transitioning to a 21st Century economy begins to look a lot brighter.

Hopefully.

At least that's how I see it.

Oh yeah... and disco will never die. Happy New Year.

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