“Even with the significant gains of the past couple of years, it is only now, six years after the recession ended, that the labor market is approaching its full strength. I say ‘approaching’ because in my judgment we are not there yet.”
— Janet Yellen addressing the Providence Chamber of Commerce, May 22
Though the Ulster County non-farm labor force increased by 500 jobs over the past year, the 60,900 total in April 2015 was still 2900 jobs fewer than it was a decade ago, according to state labor statistics. Using the same statistical source, the Hudson Valley regional labor force dropped by 27,700 in the past decade.
Unlike the national economy and particularly certain select large urban areas, the labor market in the Hudson Valley is not, after six years of gradual recovery, yet back to its full pre-recession strength. We are “not there yet,” in Yellen’s words.
Various groups regularly discuss the regional economy. That’s more a good idea than a bad one, particularly in a region without a dominant city. But it can often be frustrating. The lack of a coherent regional action plan is palpable. A more deeply analyzed approach would in my opinion be much preferable.
How long will it take the economically uninformed community leadership of the mid-Hudson region to realize how inextricably its economic fate is linked with that of the huge region on its southern border? While the Hudson Valley’s numbers have been negative in the past decade, New York City’s have been the opposite. New York City’s labor force has gained a staggering 480,200 jobs in the same decade (from 3,707,800 in April 2005 to 4,188,000 this April).
I’m not saying the turnaround would be easy. But I am saying it’s possible and feasible. There’s a lot of opportunity.
Last Friday, May 29, several state bureaucrats described Albany’s programs to a regular meeting of the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council, the state-created regional group involved in the fifth annual round of the consolidated funding applications (CFAs). In addition, seven of the ten state regions will compete for three awards of $500 million each spread over five years for an upstate revitalization initiative (URI). This year the regions are being asked to identify one industry cluster particularly worthy of attention. And a defense of the Start-Up New York effort, much maligned in the press and elsewhere, was presented.
The Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation (HVEDC) and the Hudson Valley Tech Meet-Up have teamed up for a session at the Coykendall science building on the SUNY New Paltz campus on June 10, offering a cast of characters including Larry Gottlieb of the HVEDC, Kale Kaposhilin of Evolving Media Network, SUNY New Paltz science and engineering dean Dan Freedman, director of user experience at Fusion Media and New Paltz resident Jordan Koschei, and Pamela Pavliscak, founder and principal of Change Sciences and a Red Hook resident.
Newburgh-based Pattern for Progress has recently been focusing on infrastructure issues and on the economic turnarounds in the small cities and larger towns of the Hudson Valley. On Tuesday morning, June 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. it will hold a meeting called “Downtown Turnaround: Restoring the Promise of our Population Centers,” at Rockland County Community College. Keynote speaker will be Tom Murphy of the Urban Land Institute, who was mayor of Pittsburgh for a dozen years during that city’s revival. Also scheduled are panels and experts on urban issues like transportation and housing.
Finally, what is promised as “a thought-provoking discussion of the regional economy today” has been organized by HVEDC at the Student Union Building at SUNY New Paltz in June 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The focus will be on “STEaM” education (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics). Keynote speaker will be Dr. Paul Harrington, Drexel University professor and director of the Center of Labor Market and Policy at that institution. Other scheduled speakers include Dan Freedman, Council of Industry leader Harold King, Kale Kaposhilin, and assistant director of the Hudson Valley Manufacturing Center Katherine Wilson. Larry Gottlieb, CEO of HVEDC, will be the moderator. The event has been grandly titled as the Thought Leaders Master Series.
Those who think that because the recovery is on its way they can rely once again on their own various favorite bromides are mistaken. Former U.S. Treasury secretary Larry Summers last week gave a European economic summit some sage advice. “I think the greatest danger in periods of long-term stagnation,” said Summers, “is premature declaration of victory.”
I meet a number of people from New York City on weekends. Many of them, especially persons with young families or close to retirement age, tell me they would like to get out of the city if they could make a living up here. Some have succeeded, commuting to the city from up here a few days a week or consulting with longtime clients or telecommuting. They keep in touch with others in their fields through meetups, professional conferences and personal connections.
Those are the people who should be cultivated. It’s natural networking. Persons struggling with the feasibility of bringing their skills upstate need to know the stories of those who have succeeded.