Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Paetec Encourages Long Commutes

Fast-growing local telecom firm PAETEC Communications announced this week that they are joining the City of Rochester's Employer-Assisted Housing Initiative. Through this program, PAETEC will offer its employees up to $3,000 to purchase a home in the City's southwest quadrant, popularly (though somewhat inaccurately) referred to as the 19th Ward. The City of Rochester will match PAETEC's assistance dollar for dollar. Other employers already involved in this program are Kodak, Xerox, Unity Health, Visiting Nurse Service, and the City itself.

This is a great program and if more local employers join in, neighborhood revitalization in this city is inevitable. What makes PAETEC's involvement in the program interesting to me is that, unlike all of the other companies involved, PAETEC has no presence in the City of Rochester (other than having their name on PAETEC Park). Unlike their arch-rivals One Communications (formerly Choice One) or Frontier, PAETEC chose to locate their headquarters at a non-descript office building in Willowbrook Office Park on the Perinton/Victor border. The former Choice One on the other hand maintains their HQ at the HSBC Building in downtown Rochester while Frontier has their own building on South Clinton. Logically, it should be One Communications or Frontier making this commitment, not PAETEC. But PAETEC CEO Arunas Chesonis is a young, attractive, and well-educated individual who recognizes that a large percentage of his workforce are young city residents who may want to make a long-term commitment to city living. Unlike many other corporate executives in our area, he understands that a healthy city is necessary for this region to prosper.

I hope other telecom firms in this communications mecca that we call home follow PAETEC's lead and offer the same opportunity for their employees. One Communications and Frontier both have large presences downtown and would be well-served to help their employees purchase homes in the city thereby potentially shortening their commutes and enriching their lives. But could PAETEC also learn something from their rivals? Could PAETEC follow their lead and establish office space of some sort in the city proper? Think about it -- the commute from Genesee Park Boulevard to Willowbrook is a lengthy, gas-guzzling, air-polluting 14-mile jaunt by car, whereas the commute to the Cascade District is a healthy, leisurely two-mile bike ride away. I won't hold my breath, but this is definitely another good sign for the city's future.