He has been one of the leading voices in Western New York’s business arena for nearly 30 years and, at times, has been a controversial figure. Andrew J. Rudnick will retire in June as president and chief executive officer of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.
He sat down with The Buffalo News’ Brian Meyer to discuss his tenure. Here is a summary of some issues in the interview that is part of the weekly “In Focus” series; you can watch the full six-minute interview at BuffaloNews.com/video.
Meyer: Why the departure?
Rudnick: I’m a baby boomer ... baby boomers are retiring. I’m 62 years old. I’ve been working for nearly 40 years straight. In my mind, it’s enough already. … From the organization’s point of view, and from the community’s point of view, this is a good time to retire, because we’re dealing with strength as a community. I think the leadership of this organization and the leadership of the business community – the leadership of the community overall – are working more effectively and corroboratively than they ever did before. And so what better time to go out than when things are good, and when they’re so good that it should be easy for the best person to be interested in this job once I’m actually gone.
Meyer: I’ll ask you a question I sometimes ask my college students after they’ve done a big project. What grade do you think you should get for your 28-year project here?
Rudnick: That’s a real good question. And clearly, I’m not the right person to answer that. I will say that what I was asked to do when I was recruited here – to re-create private-sector initiative, to have the business community provide leadership in all kinds of issues – has occurred. And it has occurred to a degree that I think everyone will recognize and everyone respects. And I think part of the success the community has had here that we see in 2013 is as a result of that more effective, more collaborative ... private sector initiative. So I’ll give my grade as complete.
Meyer: Looking back at these 28 years ... what would you do differently if you could go back?
Rudnick: I think the one thing that I would probably have done more of – I don’t know if it’s differently – is I probably would have been more concerned about marketing what we do in order for more people to understand what we do as an organization and as the business community ... I may have been naive in the sense of feeling that good work is enough. What we’re doing much more of ... than we did in 1992 and ’93 is market, communicate our activities, our intent, the need for involvement, etc. I probably should have started more of that earlier.
Meyer: Moving Western New York from its well-known industrial past to this new economy, a lot of critics say it has been a snail’s pace.
Rudnick: I think everyone in virtually every community thinks that there hasn’t been enough progress made, that they would like to have more change occur faster. The reality is, change takes time. I think it’s real important for people to understand that a lot of what is occurring today started 10, 15, 20 years ago. And it’s only because it started and people stayed with it – and had a durability and a patience – that we are seeing the very positive results that we’ve seen. ... Patience is part of what has to continue to happen. Involvement of patient people over time, the continuous commitment of civic leadership, is going to be key for this community’s future.