Late last month, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, President Donald Trump suggested a plan for residents in ailing upstate counties—leave.
Trump made his comments ahead of an announcement that Apple Inc. contractor Foxconn will invest $10 billion in a new plant in Wisconsin that will hire 3,000 people, with the potential to eventually employ up to 13,000.
“You’re going to need people to work in these massive plants,” Trump said, referring to Apple’s plans to invest in three new plants. “I’m going to start explaining to people: When you have an area that just isn’t working like upper New York State, where people are getting very badly hurt, and then you’ll have another area 500 miles away where you can’t get people, I’m going to explain, you can leave. It’s OK. Don’t worry about your house.”
His comments drew fire —from state officials and others. But others, including some current and former residents, say Trump was on the mark. Some also point to the number of upstate residents who already have left New York.
This week’s RBJ Snap Poll asks readers their views on Trump’s comments. A plurality—45 percent—disagree with the president.
More than 700 participated in this week’s poll conducted Aug. 8 and 9.
What is your opinion on President Donald Trump’s comments on leaving upstate?
Somewhat Agree: 19%
Somewhat Disagree: 6%
As an employer I already see the problem of people leaving N.Y. Drivers and HVAC techs cannot be found. The people have already figured out that all they have to do is to move to Pennsylvania (or several other states) and they can keep their standard of living and get an income increase by just lowering their taxes. Can anyone see a future in New York State that has the cost of living going down? All I see are more “free” programs being rolled out by Albany that are in the end paid for by us taxpayers. “Last one out please turn off the lights.”
—Chriss Andrews, Hometowne Energy Co.
I’m sure state officials thought Trump’s words were terrible. That’s because it’s often uncomfortable and embarrassing to hear the truth. I’ve spent the past 30 years selling process controls to industrial customers in 50-plus counties of Upstate New York. Our database contains a significant list of customers that have closed, and many others that while they still have facilities in New York, are just a shell of their former selves. New York is a very expensive place to operate a business. Property taxes, utility rates, workers comp insurance, road and bridge tolls, are the tip of the iceberg. In general, every typical business expense in New York is the highest or in the top five when compared to other states. I am a native Rochesterian, and I love my home. With that said I often wonder what my business would look like if I relocated 30 years ago and made my investment somewhere else.
—Sam Messer, Applied Measurement & Controls Inc.
Mr. Trump’s comments are nonsense. In my 20 years at SUNY Geneseo, I came to admire the strength and resilience of upstate New York—especially Western New York and the Rochester area. We have a lot going for us, in higher education, high-tech industries, cultural resources and entrepreneurial innovation. Many highly successful Geneseo graduates stay in the area, contributing to the local economy and enhancing the cultural and civic life of the region. We have a strong economy and very high quality of life in Rochester. Let’s continue to build on these strengths.
—Christopher Dahl, president emeritus, SUNY College at Geneseo
What else can you say but “deplorable”? As another New York City native who once held a misguided bias against upstate, I freely admit that choosing Rochester as the place to start my business was one of my smartest—or luckiest—moves. Over nearly a decade, we’ve prospered because of this area’s vibrant, diversified economy along with a superior quality of life and local commitment to education. This part of upstate is amazing!
—Mike Bergin, Chariot Learning
New York State is the highest taxed state in the country. Onerous regulations, unions and taxes all serve to chase existing businesses and people out of New York for good. As a small-business owner in Rochester, we suffer from the political and economic stupidity of the city and the state governments, which are full of people who never ran a business and couldn’t. Entitlements get them elected. We get to pay for them: Obamacare, welfare without work, unfunded state mandates. They will ultimately pay with their entire economy, as we’ll all leave for business-friendly states (i.e. Wisconsin: it’s beautiful there, and they have a football team that actually wins.)
—Joe Oster, Managed Services Team LLC
The president’s comments were typically ignorant, ill-considered and overblown. Upstate New York, like most other places, is great for some businesses and not so good for others. My own business thrives here as do our other branches in Connecticut and Ohio. This is a beautiful place to live, basic services and cultural assets are very good, and it’s relatively easy to travel to clients locally and nationally when necessary. I surely would not need or want to move away to be successful, happy and fulfilled.
—Rob Brown, ESOP Plus: Schatz Brown Glassman LLP
We’ve already been making plans to do so since New York is such an expensive and hostile environment for middle-class families.
Unfortunately Upstate New York has had a stagnant regional economy for years. While the preferred approach is to revive the economy, at the same time labor needs to be mobile too.
—Jim Haefner, Pittsford
As long as New York is totally controlled by big government socialists, such as Cuomo and his gang of downstate bandits, and only left-wing politicians like Schumer and Gillibrand, upstate and all of New York will suffer under high taxes, oppressive regulation and corruption by politicians. We have no voice nor power to change that. If you have a job and can live with it, fine. If not, get out and go where those conditions do not exist.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield
Upstate has been the brunt of New York City politics and taxes. I plan on leaving the state as soon as I retire. High state and local taxes are not conducive to retirees.
Certainly there are times when it’s an advantage for people to relocate, but I think he’s premature in writing off upstate and in assuming that the Wisconsin facility is going to become a “massive” plant. Considering the increasing speed of automation, the future would seem to lie more in the intellectual/technical jobs that upstate is pursuing than in large manufacturing plants. In his advice regarding houses, he seems to be echoing his own business philosophy based on going ahead and liquidating the assets of a failed venture as best you can and then moving on no matter what you leave behind. It’s interesting to compare his position here with, for example, the coal miners he wooed by promising to support increased coal production versus telling them to leave their mining towns and work in areas where wind and solar power are creating new jobs.
—Cheryl Breitenbuecher, retired
I guess when one has no ideas on how to make an area better they give advice like this. Just go bankrupt, have your house foreclosed on, ruin your credit. After all Trump has done it. Problem is he has never had to go without. He came from money, will always have money. He can’t relate to the majority of Americans who work many jobs to pay the bills and put food on their table. When one can’t relate to a situation, then they can’t come up with any ideas to help improve a situation. Trump’s typical “elitist” view.
The governor has made this great state unlivable for anybody owning a home. Taxes, taxes, taxes. He had to enact the free tuition act to keep people in the state. If I could leave I would.
Cuomo and other New York politicians need to understand that the state has nothing to offer many people in terms of economic stability. Our taxes keep rising and we keep getting less back. The infrastructure has been long neglected and now major costs are looming to fix downstate transportation items such as the New York City subway and many of the borough bridges (one of which will be named after Cuomo’s father). The increased costs of mandated regulations passed on by the state through the counties makes it difficult for upstate municipalities to budget. In a recent survey Monroe County ranked second in the nation in property tax rate. Staying here in New York State with status quo income is a negative because state costs keep rising. As a result we are losing ground. New York is losing working taxpayers. In order to just stay even in revenue that results in raising taxes for those who stay.
With Foxconn receiving $19,000 per job, who needs them? We need lower taxes to attract companies. Our taxes would probably be much lower if we didn’t have a bunch of crooked self-serving politicians in Albany with their million dollar payouts to their friends.
—David Rubin, retired
We can leave? Why doesn’t he tell the coal miners to leave too rather than promise them coal jobs for a dying industry with no demand?
He is not going to win any awards for his eloquence or sensitivity, but he is not off the mark. If you are in a part of the state where jobs do not exist, then you should think about moving. NYS needs drastic changes to make the state more inviting not just to businesses, but educated and entrepreneurial minded people around the country. I personally like where I live and overall enjoy a quality standard of living compared with other parts of the country, but too many in the state live in poverty, are underemployed or have educated children planning on leaving. Until these negative trends are reversed, leaving will be the best option for many
I have lived here my entire life, and he is correct. Regardless of how much money the governor throws at upstate, the jobs are not here. The economy is not good. The numbers of people on welfare/social services/poverty continue to grow. Mandated costs continue to rise, and the governor pretends that he is making things better for all of us. We, the people, are powerless to vote the governor out. So, our options are—join those on the welfare or move to another state where things are better—and I know things are better in other states, so I do agree with the president. It would have been nice if he had said Upstate New York, but, either way, his point is valid. Local employers have struggled for years to find qualified workers—nothing is making that better here in Upstate New York.
—Bev Mancuso, Cornell Cooperative Extension Genesee County
President Trump is the only politician who is not afraid to state reality! This is a great message. Politicians in NYS have to wake up and face the facts and then act to improve things.
—Bill Cox, CEO, Marktec Products Inc., Batavia
While it certainly makes sense for people to move to where the jobs are, there is no indication about whether the potential workers are actually trained for those jobs. If they are not, then how do they get that training? What if the worker has a spouse or partner with a good job in Upstate New York. Does it make sense to risk that job for the sake of the relocation? How will the family afford to move, even if they wanted relocate? The final point is the most illuminating: “Don’t worry about your house.” Really? If they actually own their house, the mortgage holder may not be nearly so sanguine. Nor might their landlord be inclined to let them out of their lease. President Trump has taken a simplistic approach to a complex problem (if only that were an isolated incident). The issues here are all complicated and are all interrelated. You can’t fix “A” unless you also address B, C, D and E. And, perhaps most importantly, empty words fix nothing.
—Greg Franklin, Victor
Trump is just explaining basic economics. Of course people will follow job opportunities. That is the story of the development of the USA and our standard of living. Governments do not create jobs; businesses do (if they are not taxed to death).
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan
His advice may be useful, but only for those who can afford to leave, and they have no financial reason to do so. His comments are utterly useless to those who are at the mercy of economic forces over which they have no control.
Until upstate’s tax and regulatory environment can emerge from downstate-dominated political philosophies and public services expectations, this wonderful, beautiful region will be left with this primary role in the national economy: educating people in our finest universities to pursue their lives elsewhere-as hundreds of thousands have already chosen to do.
— David Lovenheim
There has been a drain on Upstate N.Y.’s economy of manufacturing jobs and it is not getting better under the policies of N.Y. politicians. He is suggesting that people move to where there are jobs. I’ve had two of my children move out of state for employment and am glad they are out of the oppressive business climate in N.Y. Remember, Gov. Cuomo’s comments that conservatives have no place in N.Y. How is that welcoming?
As usual, he doesn’t really have any facts. And he over simplifies it. “Don’t worry about your house…?” That implies people can just walk away from a mortgage and get another one in another state?
If New York state wants to stop the mass exodus of qualified people from leaving the state, then they must lower taxes and cut state spending. The only people left will be on subsidized income from the state. Companies will not move here with our high taxes and crushing regulations. I visit cities all around the country and you see cranes and new buildings being constructed when local/state governments understand you have to attract people and companies. Trump’s comments are just a reflection of reality. People need to move and go where the jobs are located. We lost a massive Verizon Data center in Lewiston a few years ago because of bickering governments and short sighted residents. “Special Tax” incentives for business moving here is a joke. If tax breaks are good for companies moving here, what about helping the companies that are here? We really need to unshackle upstate. Taxes and regulations are killing NYS.
—David Wolf, VP, Just Solutions
Loyalty to a state doesn’t pay the bills. Besides, aren’t we advertising all over the country that New York is “Open for business”? The irony with that is I saw that ad on television last January when I was in Florida!
—Steve Neelin, Quality Recruiting
New York is taxing people to death, I’d leave if I could. I probably will not retire here. I want to enjoy my retirement earnings, not give it all away to idiotic progressive programs.
I think President Trump was right about NYS—people are already leaving and with new policies like free college tuition, living in New York is just going to get more expensive. It’s especially hard for companies like the one I work for—a startup that did not qualify for NY’s Startup program. We’re burdened with high taxes and haven’t once found a place where we fit into the state’s attempt at making N.Y. a healthy place for businesses.
Unfortunately, he is right about this (and not much else). New York has been losing population for decades because of high taxes and over-regulation. And, the current governor seems disinclined to do anything about it. If N.Y. were Europe, Manhattan would be Berlin and upstate would be Greece.
— John Calia, Fairport
While Upstate New York has its work cut out for it regarding becoming more business friendly and attracting and retaining more businesses, our business leaders and policy makers should be attempting to do just that—attracting and forming more businesses and creating more jobs, especially high paying jobs, here. Many people cannot just leave their homes behind. That is a naive statement. But people have and will continue to move to other places where jobs are more plentiful. I am surprised that President Trump cannot get our regional moniker correct—Upstate New York. And while some people appreciate his “candor” and straightforward language, that statement did nothing to help Upstate New York. We don’t need negative publicity and we don’t need this statement as a wakeup call. We already know we have a problem in this regard. What we need are smart policies, positive thinking and a continuing entrepreneurial spirit. I wouldn’t be too quick to write off Upstate New York.
—Brad VanAuken, president, BrandForward Inc.
NYS is an unfriendly business state. Gov. Cuomo talks a great game, gives everything away for “free” and the taxpayers foot the bill. If most employees will notice, if not now, by January 2018, from their paychecks, a small amount of money is being withheld for longer family leave. Another tax. I can’t wait to see how we all pay for the free tuition! NYS has to lower taxes, create jobs and make it attractive to live and do business here. A new government is needed in Albany—not the current administration. We need new ideas, policies and governance.
—Gary Baker, CEO, Cochran, Cochran & Yale
This reminds me of comedian Sam Kinison’s recommendation to starving people in the African desert. “Move to where the food is!” I don’t like the guy, but Trump is on the mark. We love Rochester but after two-plus decades, it is time for us to seek opportunities and a better lifestyle elsewhere.
Donald Trump frequently says things that sound stupid. But there always is a grain of value there somewhere. Aside from Trumps comments, why would anyone that is struggling stay in Upstate NY? Between the high income taxes, the extremely high real estate taxes and the highest sales taxes in the U.S., add to that the crumbling infrastructure and lack of services, most people would opt for anywhere else if they were looking for work and able to move.
—Joe Fabetes, Rochester
It all depends on your skill set. Our forefathers weren’t so entitled to think the work must come to them. Change your skills or go where the work is that you know how to do. Honestly complaining to the government to bring me a job is even an option? Maybe for a socialist society.
Our taxes are the highest overall in the nation because of that companies and people are leaving, and most do not even consider moving here like Foxconn. Due to those and many other long-term issues, we did not need Trump to encourage them to leave, we are repelling people all on our own. Till the property and school taxes are reduced dramatically, which is not happening with our current policy of 2 percent cap increases, will the situation change for the better.
What happened to his campaign promises. Like: “I’ve known Syracuse and I’ve known Poughkeepsie…all of the different places I visited in New York and Pennsylvania…I’ve witnessed what it has done firsthand. We are going to change it around…We are not going to let Carrier and all of these companies just leave.” Didn’t sound like his answer then was move.
—Jacques Paquin, Landsman Real Estate Services
It’s not so much Trump but people leaving crooked politicians, Cuomo and the Safe Act, the “Cuomo” bridge, paying elected criminal judges and jailing people like Skelos and Silver and giving them their great benefits after stealing from us. High taxes take a close second to the previous disappointments! ——Daniel Mossien, Architect
I wish the governor would take the president’s advice.
The liberal N.Y. politicians will continue to keep WNY in a depressed state with their extreme spending and tax policies. Donald Trump is 100% correct.
What ever happened to “Government of the people, by the people for the people”? It appears President Trump governs to his core.
—Antonino Barbagallo, Foto-AB Inc.
Don’t worry about your house. Really? Is someone going to magically pay the mortgage and the taxes? Is someone going to magically erase the black mark on my credit report if I abandon the property? (Clearly, if everyone in Upstate NY is moving, I won’t be able to sell it.) I certainly wouldn’t relocate based on DJT’s “explanation,” or on any promises made by Foxconn, which does not have a stellar track record.
—S. Wyatt, Henrietta
“45 is good for nothing excepting taking this country down with him. Cannot wait until he “dons” (pun intended) his orange jumpsuit and gets hauled off to prison for any number of crimes. He’s a fraud, he’s a con, he’s a low-life grifter and the sooner Cult45 acknowledges that, the better. Democracy is going to hell in a handbasket with this bozo. Belittling Upstate NY is just another comment on a long list of comments from the big bully baby.
—W. Grimes, Rochester
(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email email@example.com.