State comptroller says region faces economic challenges

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While the Mohawk Valley region faces economic challenges and job losses, its positive developments include job increases in health care and some manufacturing sectors, plus efforts to revitalize downtown districts, says state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

DiNapoli issued an economic profile for the six-county region on Friday, and was at Utica College. He has been announcing a series of such profiles around the state.

The area region includes Oneida, Herkimer, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties.

“The Mohawk Valley has lost some industries and employers over the past couple of decades, but modest increases in food processing, electrical equipment and appliance production provide some good news,” DiNapoli said. “Unemployment and child poverty rates are higher in the region than for the state as a whole, but ongoing efforts aim to revitalize the economic hubs including Utica and Rome.”

Among points cited for the region:

• Of its 432,612 residents, Oneida County has 231,332, including 60,635 in Utica and 32,473 in Rome.

• While the state’s population rose 4 percent from 1970-2000, the region’s population dropped 7.7 percent from a high of 478,654.

• The average annual wage in 2017 was $40,862. For median household income, all six counties were below the state’s median of $60,741.

• The annual unemployment rate for 2017 was 5.4 percent, compared to 4.7 percent statewide.

• The largest employment sector is government, at 23 percent of total employment, including 39,209 workers in federal, state and local government positions. Some of the categories include teachers, public administrators, firefighters, police, and employees at the region’s four state correctional facilities.

• In manufacturing, the fourth-largest sector with 16,707 jobs, employment rose 1.9 percent from 2010 to 2017, due to growth in sectors such as food, electrical equipment and appliances.

This helped offset losses in leather, paper and textile production.

• In Rome, Griffiss International Airport and the Griffiss Business and Technology Park are “drawing ongoing state and local support and are viewed as critical to the region’s economy.” The park has 76 tenants and over 5,800 employees in such industries as technology, manufacturing and aviation.

• Median home prices include $117,600 in Oneida County, while the other regions range from $97,300 in Herkimer County to $165,500 in Hamilton County.

All are “quite low compared to the statewide median” of $268,300.

But the region’s counties all saw “some increases between 2006 and 2016.”

Several area officials offered reactions:

• “While there are good things taking place in the Mohawk Valley, we need to change the way that we handle economic development in New York state,” said state Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-47, Rome.

“In the Senate, we have taken steps to address this issue, including passing legislation that would increase accountability on economic development programs in the state. However, we must continue to address our current economic climate by finding ways to lower taxes and energy costs and reduce regulations....”

• “It is clear from this report that boosting the ongoing growth in manufacturing; continuing vital infrastructure improvements; and capitalizing on the revitalization in Utica and Rome’s downtowns are keys to continued expansion of our economy,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-119, Utica.

“....This profile of our economy will be an important tool for all of us as we continue working together for the betterment of our region.”

• “Oneida County has made great strides in economic development and continues to be a catalyst for the entire Mohawk Valley region,” said County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr.

“In recent years, we have seen our downtowns revitalized thanks in large part to the growth of our high-tech industry including cybersecurity, unmanned aircraft systems and nanotechnology....”

• Rome Mayor Jacqueline Izzo said “we appreciate the state comptroller’s report on the economic condition of the Mohawk Valley.”

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