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Places Left Behind

A Look at Economies of Communities of Rochester and Syracuse

Rochester, New York. Overall, the economy of Rochester and the Finger Lakes region has fared somewhat better than the overall upstate region. Local strengths, including the presence of University of Rochester and RIT, and continued outside investment in manufacturing and export have helped generate some economic gains. Nonetheless, comparative advantage enjoyed by other areas, NYC and Boston, and barriers such as high energy, transportation and property taxes have hindered the ability to attract high tech and other new start-up businesses. Low population growth, recent losses in manufacturing (including the loss of 500 jobs at Kodak’s Elmgrove facility) and cutbacks in the health and financial sectors also have hurt the area.

Syracuse, New York. Like the rest of the upstate region, Syracuse was hard-hit economically during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. In some respects, it is only now regaining its pre-recession levels - the metro area’s employment level in the first quarter of 1999 (351,000) was the highest it has been since 1990. Defense cutbacks and downsizing in durables manufacturing generated heavy losses during the recession. Since then, job creation has been strongest in services, transportation, communications and utilities. Wage growth has been constrained because of the shift from manufacturing to services. The area’s ranking in terms of average wage of local workers has declined from 64th in 1986 to 79th currently among Standard and Poors’ ranking of the top 114 metro areas. According to Standard and Poors’ Northeastern U.S. Markets: A Regional Review of Metro Economies for the third quarter of 1999, Syracuse’s employment rate is projected to rise only 0.4 percent over the next 5 years - the fifth worst projected performance of any large metro area in the country. The largest impediment to the city’s economic growth continues to be the out-migration of local residents. The central city has lost over 10 percent of its population since 1980 (from 170,00 to 152,000).

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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