New York State Exposed: Get that Albany wealth to Rochester

February 16, 2018 06:08 AM

Every year, our state lawmakers go to Albany to try to figure out how to fix Rochester. 

How about this for a solution? 


Bring Albany to Rochester? 

In the major economic categories -- home value, family income, unemployment and population loss -- the capitol region scores better than every other upstate city. 

So New York State Exposed says let's spread the Albany opportunity. 
New York State employs roughly 1.4 million people. Why can't we take a handful of state government agencies and departments and move to them upstate cities? 

We certainly have the room. 

In 1950 Rochester had 318,000 people. But since then, Rochester and every other major upstate city have lost almost half of its population. Here are the percentages of decline:

  • Rochester -44%
  • Buffalo -66%
  • Utica -49%
  • Binghamton -43%
  • Syracuse -35%

So here's the idea: 

Take some state departments like Health (3,436 employees), Education (2,644 employees), Transportation (8,523 employees), Environmental Conservation (2,945 employees), Agriculture and Markets (483 employees) and Labor (2,990 employees) and headquarter them in upstate cities. 

Overnight you add good paying, pension-backed, taxpayer-funded jobs in these cities. 

Brean: What do you think? 
Bob Duffy, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce: I would welcome anything agencies here. Obviously bring people, take up office space.
Bob Duffy is the President of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. He says he wrote a letter to the New York State Commissioner of General Services saying Rochester is the only upstate city without a state office building. 
When Duffy was Rochester Mayor, Governor Andrew Cuomo would repeat the same story to get him to run for Lieutenant Governor. 

Brean: He would say that he told you in order to fix Rochester you need to go to Albany. 
Bob Duffy, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce: Yep. 
Brean: The idea here is get Albany to come to Rochester, and Utica and Syracuse and Buffalo. That's the idea. Get the capitol to the upstate cities. 
Duffy: No, I think there's probably utility to having certain people in Albany just due to the fact that you have the legislature housed there, there are a lot of issues these agencies deal with routinely. But we're all for the expansion especially up here if that could happen.
This works at a national level. The Centers for Disease Control is in Atlanta not Washington D.C. But because of all the federal jobs centralized there, D.C. has the highest average income in the country.

These are the median family incomes for greater upstate New York cities: 

  • Rochester: $67,000
  • Buffalo: $65,000
  • Syracuse:  $67,000
  • Utica: $60,000
  • Binghamton: $30,000
  • Watertown: $41,000
  • Albany: $79,000

Albany is $12,000 higher than Rochester. 

These are the average home values for the counties of major upstate cities: 

  • Rochester: $69,000
    • Monroe Co: $135,000
  • Buffalo: $94,000
    • Erie Co: $167,000
  • Syracuse: $82,000
    • Onondaga Co: $130,000
  • Utica: $101,000
    • Oneida Co: $112,000
  • Binghamton: $119,000
    • Broome Co: $98,000
  • Watertown: $129,000
    • Jefferson Co: $138,000

Albany: $165,000
   Albany Co: $208,000

Albany values are $73,000 more than Monroe County. 

Here are the December unemployment levels from the New York Department of Labor: 

  • Rochester: 5.0
  • Buffalo-Niagara Falls: 5.5
  • Syracuse: 5.1
  • Binghamton: 5.5
  • Watertown: 7.2

Albany-Schenectady-Troy: 4.2

Albany is better. 

Brean: So why not get some of that benefit to upstate cities like Rochester?
George Conboy, Brighton Securities: There's a critical mass aspect to it that says where you have a lot of people and a lot of agencies located you may get some of those higher values.
George Conboy is the founder of Brighton Securities and he studies the economy in Rochester. 

George Conboy, Brighton Securities: More Albany means more government which means more tax and in most likelihood, less financial efficiency.
Brean: We're not advocating for bigger government. We're just saying why not take the existing government and spread it out to different cities?
George Conboy, Brighton Securities: You're not likely to lose employment in Albany at all because bureaucracy tends to be resistant to reduction. What you're likely to end up with is those 500 people in Albany and another 300 or 400 people around the state.

There are state jobs in Rochester. The State Office of General Services told there are 14 state agencies with offices in Rochester like the DMV, the Department of Transportation and Worker's Compensation. The state rents more than 300,000 square feet of office space in Monroe County.


Berkeley Brean

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