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Lightfoot looks to grow pool of minority-owned businesses in Rochester

Emily Hunt for WXXI News

Looking ahead to the new year, City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot said he plans to continue his focus on economic development in the city, and attracting and developing local talent is one of his goals.

Lightfoot sits on the board of the Rochester Economic Development Corp, the city’s nonprofit development agency. Established in 1983, it's dedicated to stimulating business investment in the city of Rochester. Lightfoot said he’s pushing for growing minority-owned businesses -- in particular, developers -- to be a priority for the city and that organization.

“A lot of people say, 'Why are they just using developers who are outside of the city, or don’t really hire people of color?' I hear that a lot," Lightfoot said. "So my answer to that is we need to be trying to work to try to increase the pool of developers and/or even subcontractors to work on some of those contracts and get some of these jobs.”

Lightfoot said that developers and contractors are roles that very few minorities fill. He sees an increase in these jobs as a way to help alleviate poverty.

To achieve that goal, Lightfoot emphasized the importance of the city’s Office of Community Wealth Building, which he said helps people understand how to start businesses, guide potential and current business owners toward certifications and pools of money earmarked for minorities.

That office also works to increase access to credit and other financial services. It also hosts job fairs, trainings and programs like Roc Your Refund, which encourages residents to save part of their tax return in exchange for matched payments throughout the year.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.