Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/230 Mon, 25 Mar 2019 10:11:43 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) City Council Examines De Blasio's 'New York Works,' Said to Have Produced 3,000 Jobs of 100,000 Goal http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8368-city-council-examines-de-blasio-s-new-york-works-said-to-have-produced-3-000-jobs-of-100-000-goal http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8368-city-council-examines-de-blasio-s-new-york-works-said-to-have-produced-3-000-jobs-of-100-000-goal Patchett EDC hearing

EDC President James Patchett (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


In 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a plan to create 100,000 “good-paying” jobs, with annual salaries of $50,000 or more, within 10 years, giving New Yorkers a pathway to the middle class. On Monday, City Council members held an oversight hearing on that plan, attempting to more fully gauge how the de Blasio administration is doing on its promise.

Bronx Council Member Ritchie Torres, chair of the Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigation, co-led a tense Council hearing where the head of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), James Patchett, was grilled about how many jobs had been created as part of de Blasio’s jobs plan and who has been getting them.

“Anyone who heard the mayor’s [2017] State of the City would believe there are actual jobs,” said Torres, “but anyone who believes that is operating under a false assumption.”

Patchett responded to Torres’s rapid-fire questioning about unclear jobs numbers with a consistent message: answering a simple question like “how many jobs have been created” is not so easy.

De Blasio declared good-paying jobs to be those that pay $50,000 or more, and said those in his plan would be in economic sectors that will be around for years to come. When de Blasio, Patchett, and then-Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen laid out the plan a few months after de Blasio announced the goal during his 2017 State of the City speech, they said that they would only count jobs spurred by some kind of city action.

On Monday, Patchett said jobs are only counted towards the mayor’s 100,000 goal if they are created as a direct result of the five-point strategy laid out in the jobs plan, known as “New York Works.”

The plan focuses on investing in city-owned property, providing tax incentives to small and large businesses, making infrastructure investments, using zoning tools, and directly investing in companies that can bring 21st century jobs to New York City.

About $1.3 billion in capital funding has been allocated to New York Works, with about $300 million already spent, Patchett said, on projects like the Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the FutureWorks advanced manufacturing shop at Brooklyn Army Terminal.

But even with specific strategies and budget numbers, there still remains a fair amount of estimation in gauging the impact of the plan.

At one particularly tense point in Monday’s hearing, Patchett was asked about the 2018 New York Works progress report, where EDC reported the city had “laid the foundation for 19,000 good paying jobs.”

“Of the 19,000, how many are actually working today?” asked Torres.

“3,000,” replied Patchett.

“We make projections based on the best available data,” said Patchett, explaining that in some scenarios, when EDC completes a project under the New York Works plan, actual jobs are still yet to come.

The economic development agency tries its best to project how many jobs will be created based on the expertise of their in-house economists, detailed economic data, and, in some cases, specific contracts that have been signed.

A recent example can be found in the Staten Island Teleport Campus.

In 2018, EDC reported in the New York Works progress report that it had “closed a deal” to create office space on the Staten Island campus meant for medical tenants, a charter school, adult education programs, and a variety of social ventures. Though no businesses had formally moved in, the agency estimated 750 jobs would be created and counted that towards de Blasio’s goal.

In the same report, EDC also noted the city “opened 500,000 square feet of space” at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, creating 1,000 good-paying jobs towards the mayor’s 100,000 jobs goal. It is unclear whether these jobs have actually been created or are still a projection, according documents published by the Council.

Patchett also confirmed that if out-of-state residents were to get a good-paying job created under de Blasio’s jobs plan, it would count towards the mayor’s goal.

When de Blasio announced the New York Works jobs plan in June 2017, he said the good-paying jobs would be meant primarily for New Yorkers who wouldn’t necessarily otherwise have access to such opportunities.

“These are jobs that we intend to be open to New Yorkers of every background,” he said at the time, “we can’t address the affordability crisis if we don’t turn the city into a place where more and more good people get a good paying job.”

But for City Council members that represent the city’s lowest-income residents, there are persistent concerns whether these good-paying jobs end up accessible to people in their districts.

Brooklyn Democrat Inez Barron, who represents the 42nd Council District where more than 30% of residents are under the poverty line according to census data, wanted to know why most of the $1.3 billion allocated to New York Works is for building and development projects rather than programs that could help train residents to actually qualify for the good-paying jobs de Blasio’s plan sets out to create.

Patchett mentioned that workforce development strategy is outside the purview of EDC, but he reassured the Council member that the agency works closely with higher education institutions such as LaGuardia Community College and other CUNY schools, along with the New York City Department of Education to inform them of what they think the skills of the future are that educational institutions should be aware of when creating training programs.

Monday’s hearing was also co-led by Queens Council Member Paul Vallone, chair of the Council’s Committee on Economic Development. Vallone left the hearing unimpressed.

“We just had a hearing on the progress of a jobs plan that revealed that there is no conclusive data on the jobs created by that plan,” Vallone said in a statement. “How can we rely on projections and job pathways when there is no tracking to ensure that they actually materialize into real jobs for New Yorkers?”

Near the end of the hearing, tensions between Torres and Patchett simmered down a bit, with Patchett offering a solution to Torres’ contention around confusing jobs numbers.

“I will try to provide not just projections,” Patchett said, “but an estimate as to actual jobs created based on the best data available.”

Torres responded with the crux of his complaint: “If my constituents ask me how many jobs are created by that plan, I want to be able to answer that question.”

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by Pranshu Verma for Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

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City Council Examines De Blasio's 'New York Works,' Said to Have Produced 3,000 Jobs of 100,000 Goal Mon, 18 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000
One Way to Keep Good, Middle-Class Jobs in New York http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8335-one-way-to-keep-good-middle-class-jobs-in-new-york http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8335-one-way-to-keep-good-middle-class-jobs-in-new-york wikimedia call center

(photo: Wikimedia Commons)


Long gone are the days when a family could live comfortably with a minimum wage job. In 1968, a worker making the federal minimum wage could support a partner and a child above the poverty line. Today, you can’t even support yourself and a child on it. Even with the recent increase to the minimum wage, hitting $15 an hour in New York City, it’s impossible for families in many parts of the state to live on minimum wage.

Economic anxiety has unfortunately become the new norm. Traditionally, most families’ golden ticket out of poverty was a solidly middle-class job, like at a call center. Those jobs, however, are increasingly being lost to corporate greed.

Since 2006, over 40,000 call center jobs were lost in New York. Forty thousand.

That means 40,000 families have had to face the emotional and financial stress of losing a job. It’s not as though the need for call center jobs has decreased; the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 5% growth rate for customer service representative jobs between 2016 and 2026.

Unfortunately, there has been an upward trend of massive corporations looking to ship these jobs elsewhere so they can pay workers less and often find better tax incentives. Outsourcing work to other parts of the country or abroad has become a common corporate tactic to reduce costs. Middle class jobs are replaced with cheaper labor (often with subpar working conditions).

With the Trump administration’s tax cuts last year, outsourcing has become even more attractive to corporations, accelerating the process. The law rewards corporations with tax cuts and incentives for profits made overseas, with corporations paying as little as half or less of the corporate tax rate on profits earned abroad as they would here at home.

This is why I support the New York State Call Center Jobs Act, a bill that would finally prevent companies from being rewarded for outsourcing these good jobs elsewhere.

In January, AT&T announced it was closing a call center in Syracuse, eliminating 150 jobs. The workers in the call center had just two weeks to decide whether to accept a severance package or relocate.

Call center jobs are critical lifelines to sustain a robust middle class and it’s important we recognize that moving these jobs out of state has devastated families and communities across New York. We can no longer allow corporations to line their own pockets at the expense of hard-working New Yorkers.

This bill would help New York protect call center jobs at employers with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees. Employers would be required to notify the Public Service Commission if they intend to relocate at least 30% of call volume in a year. Those companies would lose all grants, loans, tax benefits, and state contracts, since our government should not be giving tax dollars to companies that are leaving the state. It would also ensure that all call center work related to state business is performed by New York companies.

This legislation passed last year in the Assembly and had considerable support in the Senate. Now that the Senate leadership has changed, we can and should get this done this year. I urge my fellow legislators to do what is right and protect New York’s middle class.

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Senator Jessica Ramos represents State District 13, which includes the Queens neighborhoods of Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and parts of Astoria and Woodside. On Twitter @JessicaRamos.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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One Way to Keep Good, Middle-Class Jobs in New York Mon, 11 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Amazon Was Never Going to Create 25,000 Jobs in Queens http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8327-amazon-was-never-going-to-create-25-000-jobs-in-queens http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8327-amazon-was-never-going-to-create-25-000-jobs-in-queens gov mayor lic

(photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)


Now that Governor Amazon Cuomo is grovelling for Amazon to come back to New York, it’s important to remember that the original sin of the “HQ2” deal is still true: Amazon was never going to bring 25,000 jobs to Long Island City.

That might surprise people, particularly since that number and its related economic activity have been the central arguments used to defend the deal. But to be clear, Amazon never actually promised to bring 25,000 jobs. Period. Go look for it.

Supporters point out that Amazon would get the full package of tax incentives, which are available to any company, only if it created the 25,000 jobs. That's absolutely true, but it proves the point. It shows that Amazon didn't need or really want the job incentives. Instead, it played off our failed economic development policies to get what it actually wanted.

What Amazon did care about, what it wanted more than anything, and what it would have gotten in the deal was a shiny new East River campus quickly, quietly, and cheaply.

First, Amazon didn't want to engage with the community or be a good neighbor. All of this would have taken a lot of time, but the real issue was that it would have involved making promises to the community that Amazon had no intention of ever making. The minimal promises it did make were entirely on its terms (and changed only slightly after pushback before Amazon finally walked).

Second, Amazon didn't want to pay the full cost of acquiring the choice land that it wanted to build its campus or go through the city’s land use review process (ULURP). That would have involved stringing together multiple lots at fair market value and convincing the city to sell public land. That would have meant more engagement with the public (and the City Council) and more commitments.

Third, Amazon knew it had to hire union labor for constructing and servicing the campus, but didn’t want to pay for it. More importantly, it didn’t want that to be a backdoor to unionizing its own larger workforce, especially in distribution centers. As much as some supporters have pointed to the construction and building-service jobs as evidence that Amazon was willing to work with unions, it was a political necessity to do so and had the added bonus of splitting the labor movement in New York. Amazon was never going to allow unionization in its Staten Island or other distribution centers as part of the deal.

By “promising” 25,000 jobs, Amazon got everything it wanted in the Memorandum of Understanding with the city and the state. It bypassed the City Council and real public review when the governor deemed “HQ2” a General Project Plan. It got its riverside campus when the mayor effectively turned over public land on a sweetheart lease (unquestionably saving Amazon hundreds of millions of dollars that weren’t and haven’t been included in the cost of incentives) while also killing a private development that included affordable housing and was going through the proper land-use channels. And Amazon got a flat out cash transfer of $325 million (with a possibility of up to $500 million) to cover costs of using union labor on construction.

Still, Amazon never had to deliver the jobs. To be sure, it was going to have a large workforce in Long Island City by consolidating several thousand employees already in New York and transferring more from Seattle. There is also no doubt that it would have hired some new employees locally. But there were no real promises of how many, at what salary, or from what communities. That just means we were going to give a competitive edge to Amazon by subsidizing an abstract total of jobs at a time when job growth is fine in the city.

As we've seen with Foxconn in Wisconsin, General Electric in Massachusetts, and just about every development project Governor Cuomo has produced (and his Economic Development Corporation has justified), the promised jobs and economic activity from these incentives rarely materialize, whether the companies get all of them or not. However, the public is always on the hook and companies almost never are.

Amazon exploits these policies all the time with its distribution centers (see Florida, Texas, California). They promise direct and indirect job creation that never happens. Amazon knew it wasn’t going to deliver 25,000 jobs and would never be held accountable for failing to. Amazon wanted its New York campus and simply took the flawed logic of our economic development policies to their extreme to get it.

Let’s not forget the bad faith Amazon showed when it originally announced the "contest" in September 2017. Remember, back then it wasn’t for 25,000 jobs -- it was for 50,000 jobs. Amazon and the media moved on quickly from that bait and switch, but we shouldn’t.

Amazon prides itself on being data-driven and strategic (yet: counterpoint), which means it’s safe to assume that the D.C. area and New York City had already been selected - making the whole idea of a “second headquarters” bogus from the beginning.

But why not announce a “contest” saying you’re going to create 50,000 jobs and have every city and state fall over themselves to compete for it? Amazon got a year’s worth of free advertising. It got reams of data from cities for future expansion and whatever else it may attempt. It forced New York and Virginia to offer billions for something it was already going to do and could easily afford.

Most importantly, Amazon got New York and Virgina to turn over land for campuses quickly and with no public review.

Back in December, I wrote about how I thought the Amazon deal was in trouble. Then, as now, it was clear that the deal was negotiated in bad faith from the beginning, that it would not actually do what the mayor, the governor, and Amazon said it would do, and it would not hold Amazon accountable for when it inevitably failed to live up to its vague end of the bargain. That is all still true.

Amazon is incapable of being a good partner. Everybody knows that now. Everybody knows how it treats its workers, its home city, and who it does business for. If it really needed a home for 25,000 jobs in New York City, it would have negotiated in good faith and worked through the concerns of the community it was moving into.

Instead, it wanted an insulated campus apart from the community paid for by the community, and bailed when it wasn’t served on a platter. Activists and a few steadfast local politicians accomplished a great public service by showing the real face of Amazon.  

More importantly, the “HQ2” ordeal shows the fatal flaws in our economic development policies that Amazon so cleverly exploited. Taxpayers spend $90 billion a year pitting cities against each other for unsubstantiated job numbers, which only works out for corporations and their shareholders.

This is done instead of solving the cities’ actual problems like the lack of affordable housing, overcrowded schools, a crumbling transportation system, and skyrocketing child- and health-care costs. It goes without saying that investing in this public infrastructure would also lead to new, bottom-up job creation -- many more than 25,000 -- for all kinds of New Yorkers, new residents, and new businesses.

As his recent grovelling has proven, Governor Amazon Cuomo has been guilty of this more than anyone. He values the optics of a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the East River with Jeff Bezos over the hard work that it takes to create actual jobs. Let’s hope Amazon’s bad faith trumps the governor’s and they stay gone.

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Peter Harrison is a member of NYC-DSA and CEO/Co-founder of homeBody, a public benefit startup. On Twitter @PeteHarrisonNYC.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Amazon Was Never Going to Create 25,000 Jobs in Queens Tue, 05 Mar 2019 05:00:00 +0000
After Amazon: Establishing Our Local Pipeline for Future Opportunities http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8301-after-amazon-establishing-our-local-pipeline-for-future-opportunities http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8301-after-amazon-establishing-our-local-pipeline-for-future-opportunities general lagcc 600

(photo: LaGuardia Community College, CUNY)


With Amazon’s pronouncement to put the brakes on its plan to bring part of its new headquarters to Long Island City, it’s time to make lemonade out of the many lemons left in the wake.

Amazon’s decision to locate here centered on our city’s ability to get the company the talent it needs to grow. It’s what every company, large and small, needs to thrive.

When Amazon first announced it was coming, one of the first questions raised was: who will benefit? Would the 25,000 jobs help our local community, including the residents of Queensbridge Houses, the nation’s largest public housing complex, and LaGuardia Community College, where more than 70% of students come from households with incomes of less than $30,000? What kinds of jobs would be open to someone with just a high school diploma, an associate’s, a bachelor’s? Would it be New Yorkers who benefitted, or people recruited from elsewhere in the country and the world?

In my engagement with City, State, and Amazon representatives, it became clear to me that New York (and conceivably many localities) needs a stronger, integrated system that links private and public spheres to educate future employees. Amazon’s proposed campus in Long Island City highlighted the need for that more robust, sustained development of talent pipelines in the fundamental field of tech, especially for people in low-income communities.

The first step is more employers willing to establish long-term partnerships with local colleges and universities so there’s clear understanding of the technical, intellectual, and practical skills needed for job-openings. Without strong employer partnerships, we can’t be certain that our students will be job-ready upon graduation.

We need more companies, especially tech companies, willing to invest in developing local talent by providing paid internships and mentorship opportunities for nontraditional and traditional students alike. We need more collaborations to create job-specific training programs, like one we have with Google to provide training in IT support.

Without far-reaching programs that connect students who are older, poor, or speak English less than well, tech employers will continue relying on the same private and elite-college networks for hiring.

Fledgling progress was being made with Amazon to create pathways to jobs. At the end of January, Amazon announced a collaboration with LaGuardia Community College, CUNY, and SUNY to create a program to train people (with at least a high school diploma) for jobs in cloud computing.

But more than programs, public officials, employers, and educators must convene and nurture the building of an ecosystem that connects the many assets a community can use to establish a collaborative approach. If a community can encircle a potential employee with support and education, and companies can create bona fide paths to employment, there is no limit to the amount of social mobility and community vibrancy that can be created.

LaGuardia Community College knows how well employer-education partnerships can work when it all comes together. Queens resident Matt O’Connor was working full-time packing boxes at a nearby delivery service when he came to LaGuardia to channel his passion for coding. He was offered internship opportunities that grounded his classroom work. Matt first interned at the tech accelerator Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, where he worked with small tech start-ups. His next paid software development internship was at Place Pixel, a company that creates next-generation mapping experiences. It went so well that he was offered a full-time job with an equity share in the company. Matt said it felt miraculous when he was able to quit the package delivery company. Today, he’s a full-time software engineer at the company SevenFifty.

But with better and more targeted resources, we can do even more. We need elected officials to step up and increase the investment in our public colleges: to give us the resources to re-imagine what and how we teach. We need to be able to hire and support full-time faculty who can effectively teach complex material, particularly to a diverse student body. We need the funding to support the collaboration across organizational silos. It’s not just the funding for expanding holistic support like child care, and philanthropy to support transportation, emergency funds, and an on-campus food pantry. It’s also dedicated funding to link the path from the housing projects to training, and from training to college.

Over the coming weeks and months, there will be much analysis of what went right or wrong with the Amazon deal. No matter who declares victory, what Long Island City is left with does little for the low-income and aspiring New Yorkers who remain on the sidelines. Let’s not lose a moment in getting our talent prepared for whatever happens next, whether it’s the next Amazon wanting to locate here or the start-up just beginning to get launched.

Whether you are cheering or bemoaning the crumbling of the agreement, we can all agree those who’ve been historically locked out of job opportunities in the fastest growing industries need more pathways to these good, steady jobs that enable them to provide for themselves and their families.

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Gail O. Mellow is President of LaGuardia Community College. On Twitter @LaGuardiaCC.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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After Amazon: Establishing Our Local Pipeline for Future Opportunities Thu, 21 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
What's The [Data] Point? 25,000, The Amazon Deal That Vanished and What It Means http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8298-what-s-the-data-point-25-000-the-amazon-deal-that-vanished http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8298-what-s-the-data-point-25-000-the-amazon-deal-that-vanished whats the data point


What's The [Data] Point? Episode 66 -- 25,000, the Amazon Deal That Vanished and What It Means, with Vishaan Chakrabarti [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

vc amzn150Amazon was coming to Queens with 25,000 jobs and now it's not -- the mega-deal fell apart and the company backed out amid significant pushback from some local elected officials, community activists, and labor unions. Vishaan Chakrabarti, an architect and urban planner who helped lead the Bloomberg administration's Manhattan planning efforts after 9/11, was a proponent of the Amazon deal and believes New York will rue the day the deal fell apart. He joined the podcast to discuss it all, and what comes next.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Maria Doulis of CBC (@MariaDoulis). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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What's The [Data] Point? 25,000, The Amazon Deal That Vanished and What It Means Thu, 21 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
‘So Poisoned and So Full of Misinformation’: City Economic Development Chief on How the Amazon Deal Fell Apart http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8303-so-poisoned-and-so-full-of-misinformation-city-economic-development-chief-on-how-the-amazon-deal-fell-apart http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8303-so-poisoned-and-so-full-of-misinformation-city-economic-development-chief-on-how-the-amazon-deal-fell-apart mabdblasio gov and cuomo qus

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


James Patchett, CEO of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, spoke to a packed room on Thursday morning about the reasons behind Amazon’s cancellation of its planned Long Island City “HQ2” campus, in what was a joke-laden and rueful conversation of what could have been and what went wrong.

Recounting that he learned of Amazon’s reversal a week ago, on Valentine’s Day, while watching Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” – “the one about a lonely capitalist who gets lost at sea,” he said – Patchett brought the joke home with an image of “Wilson,” the volleyball in the movie, sporting an Amazon-symbol sad face instead of his bloody handprint, eliciting laughter from the room.

Amazon announced its plan for a New York campus in November, a result of stiff competition among cities and states around the country for the economic growth all but guaranteed by the company’s large-scale presence. According to Patchett, Amazon would later tell him the 300-page New York proposal was the best they received during the bidding process. Had the Queens campus opened for business, projections from Amazon, the city, and the state said it would create 25,000 to 40,000 jobs and $30 billion in tax revenue over 10 to 15 years.

Patchett helped negotiate the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement along with other city officials, state officials, and the company’s representatives. That agreement was announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who appointed Patchett to his job at EDC, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Amazon’s John Schoettler, among others, on November 13, 2018.

After significant pushback to the deal from several local elected officials, community groups, and labor unions, Amazon decided to abandon the New York plan in a surprising announcement on last week, coinciding with Valentine’s Day. De Blasio immediately blamed the company for jumping ship without further negotiations, while Cuomo took on State Senate Democrats, especially lead Amazon critic Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens.

Preparing New Yorkers and the five boroughs for the jobs and companies of the future was the overarching theme of Patchett’s Crain’s appearance, which had been scheduled before Amazon pulled out of the deal. Patchett should have been reveling in the success of architecting the Amazon deal. But, as one moderator noted, “Instead of a coronation, you had a coronary.”

Patchett said fundamental misunderstanding of the deal between New York and the Seattle-based tech behemoth was to blame. “If you were reading the media, you would have thought that I was having drinks with some of my best friends, and they said ‘Why did you write them a check for $3 billion?’” he said. Many, including members of the media and regular citizens, “believed it was literally a cash transfer from the outset,” said Patchett. Instead, “Nothing was actually promised to the company,” Patchett said, in apparent reference to the roughly $2.5 billion in tax breaks involved, but ignoring the $500 million cash capital grant the company was to receive from the state. “What [the subsidies] were is a representation of existing state law which has long-sought to incentivize outer-borough commercial growth,” he said.

Patchett also cited other reasons he sees for the deal’s demise: Amazon’s lack of preparation to react to opposition to the announced Queens campus, the company’s representatives’ not performing “particularly well at their public hearings” (where they sat next to Patchett for questioning), and Amazon “never hired a single New Yorker to work for them, to talk to New Yorkers, and never really connected with people in the city”-- though the company did hire several city-based lobbyists.

The event, held by Crain’s New York Business, included remarks by Patchett followed by a question-and-answer session moderated by Crain’s assistant managing editor Erik Enquist and Spectrum News’ Michael Herzenberg. They waited only a few minutes to ask about the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez effect on defeating the deal, referring to the Congressional representative from Queens and the Bronx by her nickname and Twitter handle, “AOC.”

“Politics is obviously not my expertise, nor am I going to pretend it is,” said Patchett. “But I think it’s important to talk to local elected leaders. I don’t think the rollout here went as smoothly as it could have, I think that’s clear.” But he added, “I don’t think [the rollout] was a fatal flaw to the project.”

Moving to the larger economic outlook for the city, Patchett used cybersecurity as an example of a growing sector. Although it’s an industry with opportunities, New York is catching up to its growth potential through an EDC initiative, he said. “It has the real potential to be a win by protecting our current employers from cyber threats, and at the same time, growing a whole new crop of businesses,” Patchett explained. Cybersecurity sector growth is a key aspect of the mayor’s jobs plan he announced in June 2017 at a press conference at a cybersecurity firm in Manhattan.

He also stressed the need for expanding job growth outside of the central business district of Manhattan, something that has been a key priority for the city for years, and is at the heart of some of the tax breaks at play in the Amazon deal, which were designed broadly, not specifically for Amazon.

But when it came to “HQ2,” set for Queens, “Not enough people could see themselves in [Amazon’s] jobs,” said Patchett. “People like the idea of jobs, but until you make them real for people, they don’t associate with them. We need to do a better job of making people not just hear about jobs, but believe those would be the jobs that they would get.”

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‘So Poisoned and So Full of Misinformation’: City Economic Development Chief on How the Amazon Deal Fell Apart Thu, 21 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
15 Ideas for Expanding Economic Opportunity in New York in 2019 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8241-15-ideas-for-expanding-economic-opportunity-in-new-york-in-2019 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8241-15-ideas-for-expanding-economic-opportunity-in-new-york-in-2019 govandcuomo oppagenda

(photo: Governor's office)


New York’s Legislature has been on a tear in the first days of 2019, passing the DREAM Act to help undocumented students pay for college, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity, and overhauling the state’s antiquated election laws. Now lawmakers have an opportunity to take similarly bold steps to reduce income inequality statewide.  

It’s time to build on early momentum and help lift more New Yorkers into the middle class. To do so, the Center for an Urban Future (CUF) has laid out 15 proposals that the state Legislature can implement this year to help thousands more New Yorkers build the skills and educational credentials needed to get ahead in today’s economy.

1. Double the number of apprenticeships statewide
Research shows that apprenticeships are among the most successful strategies for lifting low-income residents into the middle class, allowing participants to earn a living while learning on the job. But with a workforce of more than 8.2 million and just 17,000 apprentices, New York has an enormous opportunity to expand this model into fast-growing industries from healthcare and tech to hospitality and green energy. The Legislature should pass legislation supporting this goal, which Governor Cuomo proposed in his 2019 agenda, and allocate funding to expand apprenticeship programs statewide.

2. Boost the number of college graduates by creating a Student Success Fund
A college credential has become the floor to accessing a well-paying job in today’s economy, but college completion rates are alarmingly low among the state’s community colleges. Only 26 percent of SUNY community college students graduate in three years, and at CUNY community colleges that rate is just 22 percent. New York should create a statewide Student Success Fund to implement and expand evidence-backed programs that boost student success at SUNY and CUNY community colleges. This fund could be used to lower the ratio of college advisors to students, expand highly successful initiatives like CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), and support the development of corequisite instruction models that help underprepared students succeed.

3. Establish the nation’s first Automation Preparation Plan
Automation and artificial intelligence will likely displace thousands of jobs across the state and transform millions more. CUF’s research suggests that 1.2 million jobs statewide could be largely automated using technology that exists today, with lasting consequences for workers in every corner of the state. New York should get ahead of this by launching the nation’s first Automation Preparation Plan, which would include new investments that upskill workers in fields that are most at risk of displacement, provide new opportunities for New Yorkers to pursue lifelong learning, and retrain workers whose jobs are eliminated.  

4. Tweak the Excelsior Scholarship to benefit more students
New York’s Excelsior Scholarship helps make college affordable for more families, but a few strategic tweaks would ensure that many more New Yorkers can take advantage of this promising—but far too limited—scholarship program. In the program’s first year, only 3.2 percent of the 633,543 undergraduates statewide received an award from the Excelsior program. The Legislature should enact reforms to reduce the program’s credit requirement to equal a regular full-time courseload, support summer enrollment to help students progress more quickly, and add funding to cover more non-tuition financial barriers that otherwise derail low-income students from the path to graduation.

5. Develop a statewide workforce development plan
New York lacks enough skilled talent to meet the current and future needs of the labor market. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers could benefit from new skills and credentials that can help them get ahead in a fast-changing economy. To meet these growing needs, New York needs to develop its first statewide workforce development plan. The Legislature can support this goal by directing the state’s new Office of Workforce Development and every state agency with a role in the system to work together on developing a fully integrated plan that leverages shared resources, connects services, and establishes clear outcome measures.

6. Expand bridge programs to boost skills while preparing New Yorkers for jobs
Governor Cuomo and the Legislature passed a historic $175 million investment in workforce development last year, which will help thousands of New Yorkers train for jobs. But for millions of New Yorkers who lack math and literacy skills, gaining entry to effective workforce programs will first require boosting their basic skills. That’s what bridge programs do best: help adults with limited formal education acquire the skills they need to transition into training and higher education. Legislators should increase support for this highly effective approach and ensure that programs using the bridge model are available to workers statewide.

7. Fix TAP to make college affordable for part-time students
Part-time students now account for 43 percent of all students enrolled in community colleges statewide—up from 32 percent in 1980—but the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) is almost exclusively available to full-time students. This hurts New Yorkers from low- and moderate-income communities who understand the importance of a college credential but can only afford to attend school on a part-time basis. To help more working New Yorkers pay for college, legislators should lift restrictions on the state’s current part-time TAP program and make college affordable for part-time students, too.

8. Build a statewide hub for labor market data to improve workforce programs
To make the most of New York’s vital new investments in workforce development, the Legislature should mandate the creation of a publicly-accessible labor-market information tool, managed by the Office of Workforce Development. This tool will help inform workforce development providers, employers, and job-seekers, and ensure that state-funded programs are more responsive to the needs of employers and more effective for their participants.

9. Revise seat-time requirements so students can learn through hands-on experience
Innovative high schools across the country are getting students out of the classroom and into the real world, whether through apprenticeships, career-exploration programs, or internships in fast-growing industries like tech and healthcare. But New York is restricted in its ability to cultivate hands-on programs for high school students by long-standing “seat-time” requirements, which typically require students to spend 90 percent of their days in class. New York can spark new approaches to hands-on learning by rolling back these requirements and replacing them with proficiency-based credits.

10. Create new challenge grants to incentivize remedial education reform at New York’s public colleges
Each year, thousands of students are placed into remedial education at SUNY and CUNY colleges, with serious consequences for their academic and economic futures. These students typically use up their financial aid without earning college credit and the vast majority drop out without a degree. Research shows that many underprepared students can succeed in alternatives to traditional remediation—and both SUNY and CUNY have new programs that are working. But to incentivize these reforms at scale, New York should create new time-limited challenge grants to spur every campus to reform remedial education.

11. Increase funding for adult education for the first time in decades
More than 1.5 million adults in New York lack a high school diploma or equivalent, and 2.3 million are less than proficient in English. For these New Yorkers, adult education programs can provide a critical link to effective job training, educational opportunities, and better wages. But New York’s primary funding source for adult education, the Employment Preparation Education (EPE) program, has plunged 36 percent since 1996, after adjusting for inflation. The Legislature should reverse this alarming trend with a new investment in adult education.

12. Invest in high school equivalency preparation and bring adult education into the 21st century by computerizing TASC test centers
Too few New Yorkers are taking and passing the state’s high school equivalency exam, known as the TASC. The number of residents earning a credential has fallen by nearly half since 2010, and New York is tied for the lowest pass rate in the nation. To help more New Yorkers get a foothold in a changing economy, New York needs to significantly boost high school equivalency attainment statewide. The Legislature can help ensure more New Yorkers pass the test by increasing funding for test preparation, accelerating the development of computer-based testing centers, and expanding professional development to train instructors.

13. Launch a statewide Career Pathways fund to spur new education and training programs
The state’s fragmented funding system for workforce development makes it difficult to develop workforce programs that meet the full scope of needs statewide. As part of a broader effort to create a cohesive statewide workforce development plan, the Legislature should launch a Career Pathways funding application that supports activities across the full spectrum of workforce programs, including innovative bridge models, pre-apprenticeships, initiatives focused on youth and older adults, and other important programs that could otherwise be left behind.

14. Encourage low-income New Yorkers to save by nixing asset limits for assistance programs
Federal programs intended to combat poverty, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), are a vital source of support for New

York’s low-income families. But a little-known state rule restricts families who receive public benefits to just $2,000 in savings or assets. The result is that low-income families are penalized for saving. The Legislature should follow the lead of states ranging from Hawaii to Alabama to eliminate this rule and help more New Yorkers get on the path to financial stability.

15. Fulfill cost-of-living adjustments for human services organizations with state contracts
Critical but often overlooked, New York’s human services organizations provide the foundation of support required to help New Yorkers on the path to economic opportunity. But these organizations themselves face significant financial burdens, including government contracts that fail to cover the true cost of services. To strengthen New York’s vital human services sector, state legislators should reinstate the statutory human services workforce cost-of-living adjustment—providing salary bumps to workers who have gone nine years without an increase—and continue to include $100 million in capital funding for nonprofit infrastructure.

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Jonathan Bowles is executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, a New York–based think tank focused on expanding economic opportunity. Eli Dvorkin is CUF’s editorial and policy director. On Twitter @jbowlesnyc & @wetwax & @NYCFuture.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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15 Ideas for Expanding Economic Opportunity in New York in 2019 Wed, 30 Jan 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Hochul Previews 2019 Cuomo Administration Agenda, Defends Economic Development Programming http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8164-hochul-previews-2019-cuomo-administration-agenda-defends-economic-development-programming http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8164-hochul-previews-2019-cuomo-administration-agenda-defends-economic-development-programming hochul redcs 2018

Lt. Gov. Hochul at the REDC awards (photo: the Governor's Office)


In a recent radio interview, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul highlighted the elements of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s newly-unveiled 2019 agenda that she plans to have a significant role in passing. Hochul also discussed and defended the administration’s Regional Economic Development Council program, explained her role co-chairing the new Childcare Viability Task Force, and discussed the timetable for a statewide $15 minimum wage.

As a guest on the Max & Murphy show on WBAI, Hochul zeroed in on the section of Cuomo’s agenda, which he outlined during a speech two days prior, concerning the lives of women. She hopes to help see the state codify Roe v. Wade abortion protections in the next session, to make sure contraception care is covered by health insurance, and to pass the equal rights amendment as part of the state constitution. “Something that is embarrassing that we have not done in our state is, actually, pass the Equal Rights Amendment, something we’ve been talking about for over a hundred years in this state,” she said.

Hochul also mentioned her work on the state’s plan to protect New York’s healthcare system from federal government efforts to end coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. She affirmed a Cuomo administration commitment to protect the coverage of pre-existing conditions for all and to “get prescription drug costs under control.” When outlining his legislative agenda on December 17, Cuomo included several elements related to health care coverage, such as codifying the state’s health insurance exchange that is part of Affordable Care Act programming.

Hochul called it “A very bold and ambitious agenda,” adding, “I love being part of an administration where we take on the big challenges. Nothing is too much for us.”

Other elements of the agenda Cuomo outlined include legalizing recreational marijuana, passing congestion pricing program for New York City, crafting a “Green New Deal” for New York, and much more.

In the interview Hochul also discussed the goals for the $763 million in state funding allocated through the Regional Economic Development Councils, which she chairs, in its 2018 round eight, and addressed criticism alleging a lack of transparency in the allocation process and a lack of clarity around effectiveness of the grant program in terms of the jobs it creates.

She said the Cuomo administration’s primary objectives with the REDCs are economic development and job creation. For example, she said the funds would be used for workforce development in underserved areas, job training, and revitalizing main streets in communities throughout the state.

“We’re making a difference, and the jobs are coming back,” Hochul said. “We have over 8.1 million jobs here in the state of New York. That is the largest we’ve ever had in our state’s history.”

This year’s $763 million will be split among 10 different regions of the state, each of which submitted proposals in the annual competition. The amounts allocated to each region range from $66 million to $88.2 million, the most being awarded to Central New York. The initiative will fund 1,055 projects statewide, Hochul said.

The program was created by Cuomo in 2011, his first year in office, and has been at the heart of the governor's plan to jump-start the economy, especially in areas of the state that have struggled the most. Overall, the program has allocated $6.1 billion for 7,300 projects, and created 220,000 jobs, according Hochul.

“It is no longer Albany dictating where the money goes, it is really bottom up,” Hochul said. “And that is what is really transforming New York, upstate in particular.”

The REDC program is not without detractors. Critics, including outside watchdog organizations and elected officials, have cited both a lack of transparency in the process of how taxpayer funds are spent and a lack of specificity in terms of job-creation reporting.

Both the Citizens Budget Commission and Reinvent Albany have criticized the REDC program, questioning whether people can clearly see the REDC grants, recipients, and results, especially job numbers. Reinvent Albany criticized the 2018 awards for only allocating roughly half of the money in the form of state grants, with the other half in Excelsior Job Credits and Tax-Free Bonds. She highlighted that the $763 million advertised by the program is not actually representative of the total grant money allocated. It called the program “essentially a publicity framework for the governor to award dozens of small and large batches of state funding from very diverse sources in a game show format.”

Hochul defended the program, stating that all the information about the projects can be found online. “It’s crystal clear where the money has gone, and how it’s been allocated,” she said, though she did admit that she wasn’t sure if the job information was available, which it is not. She sought to assure New Yorkers that she and the governor are “careful stewards of the taxpayer dollar.”

Asked about the Childcare Availability Task Force that was recently announced by the Cuomo administration, and which Hochul is co-chairing, the Lieutenant Governor said the task force is intended to develop solutions for the lack of affordable child care across the state. Addressing this need will help allow women to meet their earning potential, Hochul said. She said the task force would conduct research on how best to tackle a deficit in affordable childcare. Hochul stated that the taskforce would advocate for the inclusion of child care resources in the workplace and to reevaluate how much childcare workers are paid. Hochul added that it is nearly impossible for a single mother to raise children while paying for child care on a minimum wage, which, she said, has created a crisis.

On the minimum wage, Hochul was asked about the timeline for reaching $15 an hour for all of New York State. The program is being implemented in regional stages, with New York City set to hit $15 at the being of 2019. But the timeline for upstate is less clear, with the original schedule, which was agreed upon in the 2016 state budget that passed the current phase-in, did not include a definitive timetable. This despite the fact that Cuomo and others regularly say the state has a $15 minimum wage.

Hochul was adamant that “there is a path” that gets the wage to $15 statewide. But citing different variables in the cost of living for different regions of the state, she stated, “It will eventually get to $15 throughout the state, I believe that.”

[Listen to the full interview with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul]

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by Brendan Rose
@GothamGazette

Ben Max contributed to this story.

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Hochul Previews 2019 Cuomo Administration Agenda, Defends Economic Development Programming Thu, 27 Dec 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Secretive Amazon Deal Should Have Us Rethinking Subsidy Programs and More http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8137-secretive-amazon-deal-rethinking-subsidy-programs-scott-stringer http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8137-secretive-amazon-deal-rethinking-subsidy-programs-scott-stringer Stringer de Blasio press conference

Comptroller Stringer, the author, at a press conference (photo: NYCHA)


What if I told you that moving your business to New York City could land you $3 billion in subsidies? Even better, what if getting those billions didn’t even require publicly disclosing key information required to qualify for the money in the first place?

If that sounds like a great deal to you, you’re in good company because Amazon is taking advantage of secrecy and subsidies baked into our outdated system of tax incentives. We all know the Amazon deal to place a “headquarters” in Long Island City was negotiated in the dark, circumventing a comprehensive public review process and leaving an entire community with more questions than answers. Meanwhile, as residents grapple with strained infrastructure and skyrocketing home prices, one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world will receive nothing short of a taxpayer-funded entitlement program.

The total package could approach nearly $3 billion when state and city benefits are included -- with an unprecedented $1.3 billion in city incentives alone. The Amazon deal has made it abundantly clear that many aspects of our current tax incentive programs – two in particular – need to be more closely scrutinized, changed or eliminated.

First, let’s take a look at the city’s Relocation and Employment Assistance Program, or REAP, which was originally designed to help attract employment outside of Manhattan’s business core. Amazon stands to receive some $900 million in tax credits for bringing its employees to Long Island City under REAP. To put this into perspective, REAP benefits totaled $32 million last year to 205 firms – but because there’s no cap on the program, Amazon alone stands to gain an unprecedented $75 million per year. In fact, REAP doesn’t just lower Amazon’s tax bill – because it’s a refundable tax credit, the city might actually have to cut a substantial refund check to Amazon.

Also, because REAP doesn’t require recipients to meet performance goals, Amazon can still receive benefits regardless of whether it eventually hires the 25,000 it promised, or just 25; or pays its employees an average of $150,000 as promised, or just $30,000.

Lost in the discussion is that our economy is already doing the work of REAP. Indeed, from 2007 to 2017, 83 percent of new jobs in New York City were outside of Manhattan, raising the question of whether the REAP program is needed in a city where businesses are already spreading across the five boroughs on their own.

Second, we need to pay close attention to the other benefit offered to Amazon, the Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program, or ICAP, which offers tax subsidies to companies that renovate or build on properties in boroughs outside of Manhattan to spur economic development. That may have sounded like a great idea when ICAP’s predecessor was originally launched in 1984, but today, at a time when Long Island City is booming, Amazon could benefit from nearly $400 million in property tax abatements for constructing its new “headquarters” in the neighborhood.

What’s worse, programs like REAP and ICAP are “as-of-right,” which means there’s no discretion in determining eligibility. If you check the boxes, you get the benefit – whether you’re a startup in need of help or Amazon, which is valued at $1 trillion.

The final insult in all of this is that there is little to no publicly available information on the particulars of these deals. In the absence of real detail, it’s impossible to do any serious evaluation of the effectiveness of these programs in the neighborhoods they are supposed to lift up. How can we determine if future incentives are a responsible investment if we do not know who received the benefit, how much they received, or if the subsidy even helped create new jobs? It’s a fiscal black hole.

We need legislation that answers these questions by requiring companies to waive their rights to privacy regarding the terms of deals in exchange for receiving benefits. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s not without precedent – the city’s Industrial Development Authority, which provides low-cost financing and other benefits, already requires this of its beneficiaries. And like those agreements, the details of REAP and ICAP deals should be reported annually.

Would Amazon have come to New York without the benefit of REAP and ICAP? Clearly, New York City was at the top of Amazon’s list, regardless of the subsidies. But we cannot allow Amazon to be the only winner amid such great need, whether it’s the residents of Queensbridge Houses, seniors struggling to stay in the neighborhood, or local kids yearning to gain the skills that Amazon professes to value.

It’s time we re-evaluate these programs and stop doling out billions of tax dollars without knowing what we’re getting in return. Instead we should focus our resources in ways that actually serve to improve the lives of the New Yorkers and not as a handout for wealthy corporations. Above all, New York City taxpayers deserve transparency and accountability for the use of their money, and it’s a price any employer – including Amazon – should be willing to pay to do business in New York.

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Scott Stringer is the New York City Comptroller. On Twitter @NYCComptroller.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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Secretive Amazon Deal Should Have Us Rethinking Subsidy Programs and More Tue, 11 Dec 2018 05:00:00 +0000
The Upstate Economy and The Election for Governor http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7777-the-upstate-economy-and-the-election-for-governor http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7777-the-upstate-economy-and-the-election-for-governor Cuomo upstate jobs

Gov. Cuomo touting Upstate jobs (photo: The Governor's Office)


The health of the Upstate New York economy is a major issue in this year’s election for Governor. Two candidates in the general election, Republican Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County Executive, and Stephanie Miner, the former mayor of Syracuse, a Democrat planning to run on an independent line, hail from Upstate, and are already in part centering their campaigns on criticisms of state government’s efforts to help the Upstate economy. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s rival in the Democratic primary, Cynthia Nixon, is also making it a point of attack.

Ironically, a federal corruption trial is underway against former SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros, who had been given a mission and vast resources by Cuomo to stimulate growth in the Upstate economy.

The Upstate region is very politically significant in statewide elections. Although the region is 36% of the state population, it has been between 46 and 49% of the statewide vote in the last three gubernatorial elections, 2006, 2010, and 2014. By contrast, New York City has been 27-29% of the vote in these elections despite being 43% of the population. Upstate New York is considered to encompass all of New York except New York City, Long Island, and the City’s northern suburbs, including Westchester, Rockland, and Orange Counties.

The region is also economically significant. Upstate New York’s population is 7 million, larger than 33 states, and is one-third of total employment in the state. My two previous columns on the Upstate New York economy focused on growth during the first six years of Governor Cuomo’s tenure, through 2016, and then a longer view.

The first review last fall showed that Upstate New York employment only grew 3.3% in total overall jobs between 2010 and 2016, compared to 10% growth for New York State as a whole. The comparable numbers for private sector employment growth were 5.8% for Upstate, compared to 13% growth for New York as a whole. The disparity between private sector and total growth relates to cutbacks in state spending when Governor Cuomo first took office in 2011 (the state had a $10 billion budget deficit that year), which resulted in job reductions in both state and local governments. Government reductions stabilized around 2013, but had been substantial by that time.

The New York City economy dominates employment growth in the state, with more than 70% of the total growth in employment statewide, at a pace of 16% overall and 19% private sector employment growth between 2010 and 2016.

The second column assessed the context and accuracy of a statement from Governor Cuomo addressing the difficulties posed by helping the Upstate Economy, when he described the Upstate economy as having a “bad 50 years.” My analysis showed that in fact Upstate employment growth outpaced Downstate in the 1980s, despite large manufacturing job losses that captured the public eye. The Upstate region also continued moderate growth in the 1990s after the recession early in that decade. It was really the two national recessions in the 21st century that battered the Upstate New York economy with new rounds of job losses and limited the capacity of the region to recover compared to those earlier decades. Upstate New York actually lost jobs between 2000 and 2010, compared to the recoveries that took place after recessions in the 1980s and 1990s.

As Governor Cuomo’s second term concludes, the Upstate economy is showing moderate improvement in several of its major metropolitan regions, which comprise a majority of the employment base. However, a number of metro regions that encompass the smaller cities continue to struggle. Below are tables breaking down growth in the 12 Upstate metropolitan areas, which comprise five-sixths of the employment base. Non-metro areas make up the rest.

The first table shows six moderately growing metro areas (data from the New York State Labor Department):

upstate new york growth moderate

Upstate’s three largest metropolitan regions, the Buffalo-Niagara area, the Rochester area, and the Albany metro area, achieved 9-13% private sector employment growth in the eight years from May 2010 to May 2018. Dutchess-Putnam and Kingston had similar 9% private sector growth over the period, and Ithaca is the fastest-growing metro area Upstate. The six metro areas are nearly 60% of the 3 million job employment base and in these areas private sector jobs have been growing at more than 1% a year -- not as good as Downstate New York or the nation, but sustained improvement.

The next two tables show data for two slow-growth regions, four static/no-growth metro areas, and the third sums up the data for the 12 Upstate metro areas.

upstate new york growth regions 3 tables

The Syracuse and Glens Falls metro areas were placed in a slow-growth category -- they achieved 4-5% private sector growth over eight years (even slower once the public sector jobs are included). There are four Upstate metro areas -- Binghamton, Elmira, Utica-Rome, and Watertown-Fort Drum -- where no private sector growth is occurring. These four areas are about 10% of the employment base of Upstate New York.

The number of jobs in non-metro areas of Upstate New York is about 500,000, about 16% of the employment base. Consistent data over the eight-year period for non-metro areas is difficult to elicit. Labor Department press releases that include non-metro growth don’t go back past 2015, so the best numbers from that source, from December 2013 to December 2017, showed growth of 4,000 jobs. My best estimation is that non-metro areas are in the slow growth category.

This portrait does not attempt to correlate direct state government investments, frequently in partnership with private companies, to create or preserve jobs, or the general allocation of state government resources, with these trends. The employment numbers are just the general trends -- and Upstate New York’s problems include population loss in some areas, like Central New York and the Southern Tier, where five of the six metro areas with slow or static growth are located. State government can also be making investments in jobs that are worthwhile individually in areas of population loss, but which do not show up in the aggregate data. Over the past seven years state government also embarked upon a broad general policy of making the state economy more competitive by cutting personal income, corporate income, and property taxes.

Empire State Development, state government’s economic development arm, finally produced a comprehensive report on its activities this year (mandated by law), and it does contain much information. Watchdogs criticized it for lacking metrics, meaning measurements of the effectiveness of the state’s investments against some set of standards. The accountability and effectiveness of the state’s resource-allocation remain the subject of another future column.

Governor Cuomo was right to say that helping an economy battered repeatedly by job losses before his tenure began is a major challenge, even if it wasn’t accurate to suggest that there was a 50-year downward path. Efforts to grow the Upstate economy seem to be modestly, but not highly, successful, although state government alone cannot determine economic destiny. How to frame this modest success in an election won’t be easy.

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Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years, where he chaired four committees. On Twitter @JimBrennanNY.

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The Upstate Economy and The Election for Governor Sun, 01 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000