The Finger Lakes region is rebounding from both the Great Recession and downsizing at Rochester’s Big Three employers thanks in part to growth in the technology, health care, agriculture and tourism industries, a new report shows.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli was in Canandaigua Wednesday to discuss the findings of the office’s new Finger Lakes Region Economic Profile. DiNapoli said despite the recent spate of economic growth, there still is work to be done.
“As the economy of the Finger Lakes transforms, the region will benefit from the expansion in high-tech sectors and the reliance on its agricultural roots,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “However, retaining skilled workers and tackling persistent pockets of rural and urban poverty remain a challenge. Programs and policies should build upon the area’s traditional strengths in high-tech industries, food manufacturing and agriculture.”
The Finger Lakes region—consisting of Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties—is home to more than 1.2 million people concentrated primarily in Rochester and its suburbs. Since 2010, the region’s population has dropped slightly, officials noted.
From 2010 to 2015, the Finger Lakes region saw stronger job growth than most other parts of the state in science, technology, engineering and math employment. The metro area ranked 22nd nationally for STEM job concentration, and the average annual pay for STEM employees was $80,700, 74 percent higher than non-STEM job titles.
“The strength and success of the Finger Lakes economy rests in our landscape, our products and our people,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua. “I’m proud of the strides we’ve made growing traditional industries like agriculture and tourism, while embracing emerging sectors such as health care and high-tech manufacturing. The hard work of Finger Lakes residents and businesses has positioned the region for future success through our unmatched natural resources and a steadfast commitment to identifying new, innovative ways to grow our economy.”
DiNapoli’s report noted that housing in the region remains relatively affordable compared with other parts of New York and property taxes in the Finger Lakes region are low compared with the statewide average.
But median income growth has been relatively slow in recent years and the region continues to be plagued by concentrated poverty in many rural areas, as well as the City of Rochester, where more than half of all children are living below the federal poverty line.
The comptroller’s fiscal stress monitoring system identified two local governments—Monroe County and the Town of Manchester—as being in fiscal stress, with Monroe County being in the highest level of stress for several years.
The report notes that community stakeholders in the Finger Lakes region have set ambitious goals to grow jobs, increase regional wealth and drive private investment, while also working to reduce poverty.
DiNapoli in his report cautioned that multi-million dollar investments of public and private funds for development activity need to be transparent and have strict oversight. The report also noted that municipal leaders in communities with high levels of tax-exempt property may need to be innovative as they look for ways to recoup a portion of those costs or services.
“The continued recovery of the Finger Lakes economy will require us to build upon the success of our agriculture, tourism and high-tech industries,” Canandaigua Mayor Ellen Polimeni said. “My thanks to Comptroller DiNapoli for highlighting the many great things happening in our city and across the Finger Lakes as well as for drawing attention to the challenges we face in the region. As other local officials can attest, our partnerships with the state are vital to the future of our cities and rural communities. Investments in education and infrastructure will spur economic growth that benefits residents across the entire Finger Lakes region.”
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