RTMA director retiring after 45 years

Messenger Post Media
Monroe County Post

Kevin Kelley, executive director of the Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association, is retiring after a 45-year career in the local business community. 

The Rochester native dedicated his professional career to advancing the Greater Rochester business sector, most recently in the manufacturing industry. 

Kelley served the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce for 28 years as senior vice president and founder/executive director of High Tech Rochester, now NextCorps. He was responsible for technology commercialization, economic development, government relations and association management with a focus on manufacturing and technology.

Kelley joined the Rochester Tooling and Machining Association, an affiliate of the National Tooling and Machining Association, in 2003. At that time, RTMA was associated with the national parent organization for nearly 60 years and experiencing a downturn in its local lifecycle. 

Kelley examined the relationship with NTMA and determined that continued membership was not benefiting local companies. His recommendation that RTMA cut ties with NTMA was met with skepticism; however, Kelley — a veteran businessman with three decades of strategic planning experience — outlined a plan that would lower members’ dues by 20%, reinvest in the local community and economy, and expand member benefits.

In 2011, with the transition complete, Kelley and the newly branded Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association embarked on a plan to formalize its key pillars of manufacturing innovation, workforce development, political advocacy, strategic growth and access to markets.

RTMA launched a series of local initiatives to support the success and growth of its members. It subsidized trade shows, developed programs to help members access new markets, started a placement program and invested in advertising campaigns to promote careers in manufacturing. RTMA contracted with consultants to help its members develop websites, engage in business planning and increase their competitiveness in the market. 

The separation from NTMA required Kelley to leverage his years of tactical experience, but by keeping its focus and resources local, RTMA is able to concentrate on strategic objectives, programs and partnerships that continue to benefit manufacturers in the Finger Lakes region.

Kelley led the organization since 2003 through four strategic planning cycles, restarted the apprenticeship program, secured nearly $3 million of revenue through grants and contracts to subsidize membership revenue, increased the organization’s assets by more than 1,000% and fostered partnerships with Monroe Community College and Rochester Institute of Technology.  He went through the process of getting a broker’s license so he could develop a consortium that allows companies to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in health care costs.

Kelley served on regional and national boards to promote the industry. He worked with elected officials in Albany and Washington, D.C., and started a political action committee to support candidates who advocate for manufacturing. Kelley also worked with the Rochester Business Journal to launch the Technology and Manufacturing Awards. 

“Manufacturing had been written-off in pursuit of technology and the service sector,” Kelley said. “During my years with the RTMA, we have been able to serve as an important resource to manufacturers by providing them with programs and services to enhance their competitiveness, leading to greater profitability.

“What we’ve seen during this pandemic has only underscored our need to keep manufacturing on our shores. During the past year, as the world scrambled to address the coronavirus crisis, our local manufacturers responded swiftly and strategically by pivoting production to provide critical PPE supplies. These decisive moves not only kept the economic engines running in our community, but also expedited the delivery of life-saving supplies across the country. We have been proud to provide support and resources to the manufacturing sector during these profound, historic times.”

Bob Coyne, director of workforce development, succeeds Kelley as executive director. He served as president of the RMTA board of directors and general manager at Acro Industries Inc.

Stock photo.