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Good news for NYS employment, bad news for infrastructure

unemployment_Wisconsin Historical Images.jpg
Wisconsin Historical Images
via Flickr
Employment is flat or rising in several upstate cities.

The Buffalo News is reporting that unemployment in western New York was unchanged in October, at 7.5 percent. No change was a good change from three months of losing jobs. Year over year, the region picked up 1,200 jobs.
In Rochester, the Democrat and Chronicle reports that there were 1,500 new jobs, for an unemployment rate that dropped to 7.3 between September and October. Gary Keith, chief economist at M&T Bank, says those numbers are a good sign:

"It's one of the things we've been waiting for," Keith said of the labor force number. "It's a good sign that people are coming off the sidelines" and seeking work. He said companies appear to have shaken off summer doldrums that almost caused the entire U.S. economy to stall.

In the 'Cuse unemployment bumped up a slightly over the previous month, to 7.6 percent, according to the Post-Standard. But year-over-year, Syracuse saw a drop in the rate, beating out last October's 7.8 percent unemployment.
Broome County and the Binghamton area also boasted a 7.6 percent unemployment rate, down from 8.1 percent in October 2009, the Press & Sun-Bulletin reports. Meanwhile, the transfer of 300 jobs from a Minnesota Lockheed Martin plant, to one in Owego, will have mixed results for the region's employment rate. The merger of the two facilities will cost 75 jobs at the Southern Tier plant.
Overall, the four upstate cities are beating the state and the nation's unemployment rates, at 8 and 9 percent respectively.
Failing infrastructure

Lieutenant governor Richard Ravitch is warning that New York's bridges, roads, energy system, and water systems are all under threat unless the state comes up with a cohesive infrastructure strategy - and fast. The Press & Sun-Bulletin has the story from AP:

Ravitch said shortsighted planning based more on politics than sound finances have pushed off a huge debt today for the sake of short-term financing and free holiday fare gimmicks that only served to delay tax, fare and toll increases, Ravitch said.

One major change, recommended by Ravitch, would be to have bidders for state jobs design and build construction projects - cutting down on the expensive of bidding, but also cutting down on the number of firms that can get a piece of the job.
Wish list
The Rochester Business Alliance released a 10-point plan for reviving New York's economy on Thursday, much of it, as the Democrat and Chronicle reports, syncing up with measures the incoming governor has already proposed to enact.
The agenda includes items like advocating for drilling in the Marcellus shale (which would purportedly lower energy costs), a property tax cap, centralizing economic development efforts through the lieutenant governor (a familiar face in Rochester - outgoing mayor Robert Duffy), and tying state worker salaries to private sector pay.
What the package did not include, reports the Democrat and Chronicle, was much detail about what to cut from New York's spending plan:

Notably absent was any discussion of state spending on economic development issues. New York is a big investor in a variety of major area undertakings, including putting $55 million toward the demolition costs at Midtown Plaza and $50 million toward a Clinical and Translational Science Institute building at the University of Rochester.

Grannis testifies

Ousted Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) chief Pete Grannis got a hero's welcome at the state Assembly's environment committee yesterday. Grannis told the panel that cuts at the DEC, according to the Times Union, "put the state in danger of 'environmental backsliding'." Grannis was sacked after a memo was leaked that warned that lax environmental scrutiny could result from cuts at the agency. Meanwhile, Grannis' successor got the third degree from the same panel, over the governor's proposed cuts at DEC.
Leasing deal fails

Yesterday we noted that a Denver-based gas company had given Broome County another month to consider a deal for $7.8 million in exchange for leasing public land for gas drilling. Well, things are different today - the legislature rejected the leasing outright at a meeting last night. The vote wasn't even close, which some had expected - it failed 10-3. The Press & Sun-Bulletin reports:

This was the second time in four months that an offer from Inflection has been rebuked by the county. "I really think we need to wait for the (state Department of Environmental Conservation) to come out with the regulations for drilling," said Jerry Marinich, R-Town of Chenango. "I'm going to wait for the scientists to tell me this is OK, not the lawyers."

The legislature also turned down a proposal to review drilling leases en masse, by doing an environmental review of a "generic" lease - rather than approve each lease as it's proposed.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania has approved tougher rules on gas drilling, which are expected to be in place by January. The Associate Press reports:

The proposal is the latest of several sets of new regulations designed to protect waterways and drinking water supplies from natural gas migrating underground, well-site chemical spills and the massive volumes of toxic sludge that comes out of newly drilled wells. The regulations would lower the maximum allowable well pressure, raise standards for well cement and pipes and strengthen the industry's obligations to investigate and report incidents of gas migrating out of well bores and into residential water wells.

The gas drilling boom in Pennsylvania has lead to something of a housing crisis, as rig workers flood in from Texas and Oklahoma. So now one gas company has built a dorm to house its works, reports the Press & Sun-Bulletin.
GlobalFoundries at risk

A massive economic development project in the Albany area could be at risk. The state has thrown $1.3 billion in incentives at GlobalFoundries to build microchip fabrication plants in Saratoga County. But problems with infrastructure at the tech park where the site will go put the entire deal at risk, as do property tax rates, reports the Times Union.
Utility investigation

The look into spending at power company National Grid continues, following revelations that workers used company funds to send their children to private school and ship wine collections across the Atlantic. The allegations arose just as the utility was seeking a rate hike - so that doesn't look good. Now the state's Public Service Commission has finally moved to hire an auditor, reports the Post-Standard:

The PSC announced in September that it would undertake the audit in response to concerns raised by its staff members as they examined National Grid’s request for a $361 million electric rate increase. The PSC staff members said they found several instances where customers of the former Niagara Mohawk were paying expenses that should be borne by National Grid subsidiaries in New England or Downstate.

One catch - the audit won't wrap up until the PSC has already weighed in on the rate hike. A ruling on that is deal in early 2011.
Tree update

And finally, we return to the story of the blue spruce. You may recall that a Binghamton-area woman chained herself to a tree earlier in the month, to prevent it from being cut down by the power company (who claimed it endangered power lines). The Press & Sun-Bulletin reports that the tree got a reprieve while owner Ildiko Mitchell awaited a meeting with the company but now its fate is sealed - November 29 is its last day standing. Now Mitchell is planning a rally for the tree this Sunday.
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