We’ve seen the headlines for many years and felt it personally. Upstate has lost more than 1 million residents leaving the region in just the last decade. While it is an indisputable statistic, it is far more than that; many parents in Upstate have waved goodbye as their sons and daughters left home pursuing job opportunities in newer industries that don’t exist here like they do elsewhere.
And while Upstate’s overall unemployment rate looked low, wage rates have not kept pace as too many of jobs out there have been in lower level service jobs. Even with modest progress in emerging tech with hubs in Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Utica and around the region, the COVID outbreak has brought that momentum to a screeching halt. Just last week, the NYS Department of Labor reported that more than 20% of all private sector jobs in Buffalo had disappeared.
A central tenet of Upstate Jobs’ political priorities has been reversing the outflow of talent in Upstate New York. Is there an opportunity to do that in the face of a major pandemic? We think so – we just need innovative thinking. Consider some of these factors:
- Public health experts are recommending continuing social distancing measures for the near term, potentially through the widespread implementation of a COVID-19 vaccine. That could take as long as two years.
- Forced closing of workplaces has many companies discovering that segments of their workforce can still get the job done remotely. Post-COVID, many companies are looking to continue remote working where practical.
- According to a new CBRE report, the tech industry has accounted for just 137,000 of 21.4 million jobs lost since the COVID-19 shutdown began in March, making it one of the U.S. economy’s most resilient employment sectors.
- Many of the best job opportunities in the innovation economy are clustered in high cost tech hub urban centers where even a small apartment isn’t affordable, traffic congestion is intolerable, and the access to natural amenities is almost zilch.
Companies freeing up employees to work remotely creates a new opportunity for areas like Upstate to attract both new and returning talent who value the blend of quality housing, education, recreation, healthcare, arts and culinary without suffering the traffic congestion and outrageous expense found elsewhere.
This pandemic can be the impetus for Upstate to shift from being a net loser of talent to one where we get to start attracting people moving in here with the very skills we need to further accelerate our growth in the newer industries. This ambitious undertaking requires public officials who understand private sector job growth as well as the will to drive change – including readiness to allocate resources and pursue policy changes that support the innovation economy.
We need leaders in Upstate New York who are taking action to take the bull by the horns and start implementing policies right now in rebuilding Upstate in a way that leverages existing strengths here in the area today. Over the next several weeks, Upstate Jobs will begin outlining some actions we believe will help the Upstate economy recover and grow. Some of these areas of focus will include:
- Investing in rural broadband data access to make more of our population better able to work remotely and support business growth.
- Making sure our schools are as strong and efficient as they can be.
- Ensuring Upstate is a great place for investors and communities to support entrepreneurs and the launch of new companies in the innovation economy.
- And we’ll need to do this all while making sure our government is offering every New Yorker a fair chance to succeed.
Since our founding in 2016, Upstate Jobs has found candidates across the State willing and able to tackle these challenges. Our network and reach continues to grow – join us!