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Snap Poll: Outlook on area economy is mixed

Recent data have sent mixed signals about the Rochester-area economy, and respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll reflect the outlook.

Over the next three years, the plurality of respondents—41 percent—say they are optimistic about the prospects for the Rochester-area economy. Of those, a third are somewhat optimistic, compared with 8 percent who are very optimistic.

Slightly less than a quarter are neutral. And 37 percent are pessimistic, with a quarter of those saying they are somewhat pessimistic.

Rochester’s jobless rate declined to 4.5 percent in August from 4.9 percent a year earlier, while the rate statewide fell to 4.8 from 5 percent in August 2015. But the number of local nonfarm jobs—including government employees—also fell by 2,100, or 0.4 percent. And Rochester’s private sector shed 2,000 jobs, or 0.4 percent, in the same period. Nevertheless, the private-sector job count remains near the high point for the last decade and a half.

Elsewhere in the upstate region, Buffalo grew private-sector jobs by 1.7 percent, while Albany posted a 0.4 percent decline and Syracuse saw a 0.5 percent decline.

Separately, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that metropolitan Rochester’s real gross domestic product increased from 2014 to 2015, but the rate was less than 2 percent while the average for U.S. metro areas was 2.5 percent.

More than 510 respondents participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Oct. 24.

How do you personally feel about the prospects for the Rochester-area economy over the next three years?
Very optimistic: 8%
Somewhat optimistic: 33%
Neutral: 23%
Somewhat pessimistic: 25%
Very pessimistic: 12%

COMMENTS:

My company’s current challenge is finding the talented, high-potential, early-career people we need. While regionally lower wages benefit us, that and the very high cost of operating under New York government (taxes) make it much more difficult for us to recruit people to relocate here from out of state. We are competing for talent nationally.
—Dorver Kendig, Webster

Rochester’s strong history of innovation in light industry and robust, accessible educational institutions leave me very optimistic about the outlook for our region’s economy.
—G.T. Conboy, chairman, Brighton Securities Corp.

The overall area economic outlook is dependent on building more manufacturing-type jobs to help strengthen our community. With these types of jobs, it would help give relevance to education and help people realize their potential. We need to bridge the economic gap that has been growing here.
—Daniel Herpst, Rochester

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
—Jay Birnbaum

I am usually somewhat optimistic, as Rochester has great higher education institutions, research facilities, food processing and easy access (proximity wise) to Buffalo, Ontario/Quebec provinces, along with the Finger Lakes to market and sell products and services. With that said, to open up the economy more, the state/region needs to reduce the tax burden, reduce energy costs, focus on reducing poverty and continue to diversify the economy and training that is available. I was excited to see Kodak jumping into the smartphone market, but disappointed to see Rochester would play almost or no role in it. Be that as it may, I will be more optimistic if the region plays a bigger role in high tech, advancing digital processes, and balances this with other industries/sectors that could promote growth opportunities.
—Keith Newcomer

As long as we still have the same people in government, the situation will not improve. City, county and state government needs to change before our economy can. Look at many parts of (the) country thriving vs. the overtaxed, overregulated, union-driven regulations, etc., that we have to contend with.
—Mike Masters

The taxes and the cost of New York regulations is stifling all upstate communities. We need tax and regulatory cost relief.
—John Costello

In Rochester, the rents are too high, as is the cost of living. There are no jobs unless you want to work for Wegmans, Wal-Mart or Strong Hospital. If you are of low income or disabled, Rochester is a very unfriendly and dangerous place to live.
—Cindy Bailey

Contractors frequently call architects to see how busy they are as a good way to forecast their coming year. All architects are busy, and if you look at the amount of projects being pumped out by developers such as Buckingham, Christa and Morgan you can see physical evidence of a growing economy here.
—Daniel Mossien

It has to get better! We are already at the bottom, so the only way left is up.
—George Thomas, Ogden

Positive progress in some city neighborhoods and university research grants are promising. Only dark spot is continuing high taxes at the state and the county levels.
—Wayne Donner, Rush

Normally, I am the guy that has a glass that is always half full. However, the only shining light we had for the future in our area was photonics, and you can all see for yourselves how mired down that is already with corruption and sleazy politics. This state is so corrupt, if it were not for family, I’d be out of here!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

Our projects and initiative never have direction. Thankfully we have resourceful people who will continue to keep us afloat, but as crime and our schools flounder, it will be harder and harder.
—Matthew Connolly

Taxes are way too high in New York State. From property taxes to sales tax to corporate tax, things need to change or people will continue to leave. I have lived in Rochester my entire life. I would like to retire here, but at this point in time I do not see it happening. I hope the local and state governments wake up and realize that there is a mass exit going on.
—Matthew Schermerhorn

Fortunately, the Rochester area still has a wealth of educated and entrepreneurial-minded people, especially compared with other upstate areas. Nevertheless, being in New York State is a huge negative because of extremely high taxes (property and income), high utility costs and over-regulation. A very recent example is Cuomo’s effective ban on Airbnb, which is limiting to those who wish to travel and visit within the state. Regarding the city of Rochester, the last few decades of government appear to be tone-deaf to the needs of a good business climate as well, which bodes ill at least for the city itself. There are few people in city government with any business experience at all.
—Charles Genese

Taxes are strangling our state. There is no way to escape the mandates where the politicians have traded your tax dollars for votes. The system is broke, and there appears to be no way to fix it. What happens when the people on government subsidies outnumber the working people? Well, take a look at New York State for a prime example. We are in big trouble.
—Mark Williams

We live in New York State where taxes and regulations hold back most businesses, young and old. The federal government piles on, too, with their taxes and regulations. No wonder companies park their money overseas. I’d park my money there, too, if I had enough. Verizon got out Rochester and New York while the getting was good. So much for the Buffalo Billion and Rochester’s Center of Photonics. We’ve already lost a major photonics company that had previously announced it would locate here. Welcome to my world.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services PC

The 17,000 jobs Louise Slaughter supports with photonics in Rochester hasn’t added any jobs! It’s a zero net gain. Rochester has the slowest growing economy in the nation, the website “Headlight Data” reported using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They ranked the 53 largest metro areas and looked at their employment growth for 2015. Rochester was dead last. The Rochester metro area lost 4,700 between February 2015 and 2016, according to the state Labor Department. Louise Slaughter hasn’t brought any jobs to Rochester in the past few years and she hasn’t stopped many from leaving. Time for a change!
—John Bartolotto

“Rochester’s jobless rate declined to 4.5 percent in August from 4.9 percent a year earlier.” So, according to the Rochester Business Journal, this summer 95.5 percent of the citizens were fully employed. That number would be a lie even if you transposed it to 59 percent. You expect me to read that off-shored cheap labor quality of journalism, and believe it. I am more inclined to unsubscribe today from the RBJ.
—Walter A. Nodelman

10/21/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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