Three-quarters of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say the state and local tax burden poses a significant risk to the health of the Rochester-area economy over the next five years. It was the only risk rated significant by more than half of the poll participants.
Nearly half of the respondents cited the loss of manufacturing jobs and outmigration of businesses.
The Rochester region has many of the assets that economists say will be vital in the future. Among these are centers of higher education, research and health care and a culture of innovation.
At the same time, this region faces a number of potential obstacles on the road to achieving its economic potential.
In October, RBJ readers were asked to assess the overall prospects for the Rochester-area economy over the next several years; fewer than half of the poll respondents said they were optimistic.
The result of this week’s poll is similar to one conducted in May 2007, when readers were asked to name the single greatest risk to the Rochester-area economy over the next five years. The state and local tax burden was cited by 62 percent; the loss of manufacturing jobs—including downsizing at Eastman Kodak Co. and Xerox Corp.—was a distant second at 20 percent.
More than 575 respondents participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Nov. 14 and 15.
In your view, which of the following pose significant risk to the health of the Rochester-area economy over the next five years? (Readers chose all that applied.)
State and local tax burden: 75%
Loss of manufacturing jobs: 49%
Outmigration of businesses: 47%
Poverty and income inequality: 39%
Federal laws and regulations: 34%
Shortage of skilled workers: 30%
Foreign competition: 22%
Other rising business costs: 21%
Rising energy costs: 16%
Domestic competition: 10%
Beside the well-known—and still not really being addressed—issue of state and local tax burden, the next biggest risk to me remains shortage of skilled workers. The Finger Lakes region needs to retain skilled and college-educated workers for emerging industries and growth that will hopefully come with them. Furthermore, job training and apprenticeships need to increase and be more centrally located. Some of this more refined training could take place at the high school level to help drive graduation and employment right after school.
Every year, assessors raise property valuation and politicians brag about keeping the tax rate stable—come on, are we stupid? Towns vote R and the city votes D, so little gets done. New housing goes up in the towns while city homes are boarded up or deteriorating. Add it up and our young people move to states where job opportunities exist—Texas, Massachusetts, California and so forth. Then we tolerate government corruption at the state and local levels. It’s hard to believe that an area with recreational opportunities like lakes, skiing, wineries and beautiful parks coupled with the history of the women’s movement stands paralyzed with a shrinking population.
—Wayne Donner, Rush
Rochester businesses and elected officials must recognize that perhaps our region’s greatest threat right now is domestic competition not only from larger, affluent, innovative metropolitan areas on the east and west coasts but from nearer and similarly affordable regions such as Buffalo and Cleveland. Get with the program and recognize that catering to young talent isn’t a new age philosophy—it’s basic microeconomics.
—A.J. Harper, retired
Companies that have a choice in where they locate carefully evaluate their options. Their diligent analysis includes all factors: availability of resources (talent, supplies, energy), access to market (proximity, transportation modes) and costs (of labor, of housing, of energy and taxes). We are appealing in many ways, but what tips the balance away from us is how costly it is to do business in New York. Taxes are one thing, but so too are workers’ compensation and the web of rules and restrictions and required government filings and notifications and fees, to say nothing of the corrupt and dishonest people who run the state for their personal benefit.
—Dorver Kendig, Webster
If we do not have resources in our education system and our adult education programs to assist people to build skills and abilities, we will never get our city out of our entrenched poverty. Ability to work goes a long way to repair other rifts.
As you can see, almost every category has real merit. In “other,” I do not believe we will ever solve the inner-city poverty until we restore the traditional “nuclear family”: a bread winner and a role model/mentor for every child brought into this world. The ultra-liberal “handouts” are not helping either!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
New York is a welfare state. The taxes are too high to be competitive with other states or countries. The outcry at the thought of eliminating Obamacare in NYS illustrates the point. NYS has too many people on the public (taxpayer) teat. How do you fix it? You need more jobs but can’t get that because taxes are too high. It is a vicious circle. In the meantime, the best and the brightest move on to greener pastures. If you can’t fix it, you leave it. It will be a nice place to vacation once all the jobs are gone and there is no one to pay for the people not working and they move away.
This area has everything necessary to be a major economic power in the United States and in the world; infrastructure, education, population, no natural environmental issues (hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.). In fact, it wasn’t so many years ago that the manufacturing sector in New York was the primary driver of the state economy. The politicians need to get out of the way and let New Yorkers get back to what they do best—work. And if New York City can’t get out of the way, they should cut the cord at the Tappan Zee and be their own state.
—Kenya Burn-Moore, Rochester
Considering the results from this site’s Snap Poll on the presidential election (which mirrored the blue from the actual vote), this current Snap Poll’s published results will likely show the most significant risk to be in the other category and labeled “Trump.” The president-elect will be blamed by the pinheads for everything from the increase in tuition at UR for student counseling staff additions and stress relief toys to the failure of local developers to deliver on the Parcel 5 project within his first four years!
—Jerry McCabe, Irondequoit
11/18/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.