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Golisano outlines plan for business institute in Brighton to open in fall 2023

Paychex founder and billionaire philanthropist Tom Golisano is shown standing at a podium, speaking at the news conference announcing his proposed institute with a television camera in the foreground.
Brian Sharp
Paychex founder and billionaire philanthropist Tom Golisano detailed plans on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, for a new business institute, envisioned to begin offering classes in September 2023 at Paychex's former Westfall Road offices.

A proposedGolisano Institute for Business and Entrepreneurship could welcome its first students next fall.

The institute is the brainchild of Paychex founder and billionaire philanthropist Tom Golisano.

The plan is for a two-year certificate program, operating year-round in Paychex’s former offices on Westfall Road, opposite SUNY Empire State College.

“The idea is that you can get a very broad education in a very short timeframe compared to other methods,” he said.

From the archive:Golisano eyes opening a business school in Brighton

The intensive program would focus solely on business coursework – accounting, business law, sales management -- allowing students to cover more ground in less time than through a traditional four-year, liberal arts program.

"One of the things I'm going to want to see emphasized is courses in sales and sales management,” he said. “That is a great place for a new employee to start …. And as I look at other college curriculums, I see very little emphasis on sales training.”

Tuition will be $8,900 a year. Tuition assistance and scholarships will be available.

"Obviously, the desire is to make it as economical as possible for young people,” Golisano said.

Students would be expected to take four classes, four days a week, at least to start. Area CEOs and business executives would be invited in for weekly discussions about entrepreneurship on the remaining day.

Entrance requirements still are being worked out and could be determined by student interest, Golisano said. The goal is to register 250 students the first year, and cap enrollment at 500.

“If 50 kids show up, pretty much it's gonna be easy to get in,” he said. “If 300 show up. It's gonna be a little different story. So it's going to be a supply and demand, you know, one of our basic tenets of business.”

What is Golisano's role?

WXXI was first to report on the institute proposal in August. Golisano made the formal announcement Wednesday, and bought the property from Paychex last week – for $10 million, records show.

“I was very concerned about negotiating with my former employer, especially at an officer position,” Golisano said. “Mainly because, would there be some shareholders who think I got too good of a deal?

“I did not get too good of a deal,” he said during the news conference, his remarks greeted with laughter. “And it actually took away a lot of the fun of it, because I couldn't negotiate hard with them. “

Paychex paid $10.5 million for the site in 2005, records show.

Paychex former offices off Westfall Road in Brighton are envisioned to be the future home of the Golisano Institute for Business & Entreprenuership.
Brian Sharp
Paychex former offices off Westfall Road in Brighton are envisioned to be the future home of the Golisano Institute for Business & Entreprenuership.

Golisano is bankrolling the institute (tuition is expected to cover less than a third of program expenses), but he will not be running it. A president and provost will be hired.

He does plan to be involved whenever he is in town. Golisano gave up his New York residency back in 2009, changing his legal address to Florida, citing the Empire State’s high income tax rate.

So why choose New York for the institute?

“We thought it had a better chance of being successful because of my name recognition,” he said. “It wasn't my first intention to have it named after myself. But everybody kept telling me we’re crazy if we don't, you know, because of the credibility.”

The institute will not be state licensed or accredited, Golisano said. But the goal is for the courses to be accredited, he continued – allowing students to transfer credits.

A spokesman for the state Department of Education was not immediately able to answer whether that is possible. Golisano said he is working with local colleges on that front. Representatives from RIT and St. John Fisher attended Wednesday’s announcement and are members of the institute’s still-developing advisory board.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. "These guys keep telling us. But we'll be working on the curriculum, putting the details on it, and also start recruiting the faculty.”

A role for the state?

Brighton OK’d the institute on the condition that Golisano obtain necessary approvals – and program reviews - from the state education department, or show those are not required.

“There is no need to get licensed by the state,” he said Wednesday, adding: “We are clear as far as the state is concerned.”

Town Supervisor Bill Moehle said he didn’t see the matter as a sticking point, noting that the particulars of the program still are being worked out.

Golisano has committed the nonprofit venture to an escalating payment in lieu of tax agreement, similar to one attached to the University of Rochester’s South Campus.

“It's just part of the collaboration that I expect we’ll be able to see, and the synergy that we'll see between this Institute and the Brighton community,” Moehle said.

Moehle stood at the back of the room during the announcement Wednesday, beside Robert Duffy, president and CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. In the audience was a collection of people, including Golisano family members, and a teacher and students from Bishop Kearney High School, which identifies itself as a “Golisano Education Partner.”

Toward the end of the news conference, one of the students raised their hand to ask Golisano a question: “What's something you know now ... that you wish you knew when you were my age, my classmates at the age of the students who will be attending your institution?”

“That's an interesting question,” Golisano said, taking a long pause before continuing.

“What I didn't understand and know, back when I was your age,” he said, “is the tremendous amount of frontiers that are available in this country, for people to be successful. And as technology grows, as aging population happens, those various factors, the opportunities are going to be unlimited, in my opinion.

“So you should never get negative about, gee, what am I going to do? Find it. You can find it. It's out there.”

Brian Sharp is WXXI's investigations and enterprise editor. He also reports on business and development in the area. He has been covering Rochester since 2005. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.