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Report finds New York State both helped and hurt by global economy

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The report finds that an increasingly globalized economy has been good news for the city, and bad news for much of upstate.

A new report out this week highlights how New York State is faring in an increasingly global economy, and it paints a picture of a familiar divide: upstate and downstate.

The report, called New York in the World, was commissioned by the SUNY Levin Institute in Manhattan.

Researchers spent 14 months analyzing data and conducting interviews with people around the state.

They found that globalization has provided a net gain to New York, but its benefits, not surprisingly, have gone primarily to New York City, while upstate areas have lost out, mainly in manufacturing.

Not a "black and white picture"

Garrick Utley heads the Levin Institute. He says the report is aimed at sparking a discussion about how best to revitalize New York's economy.

"The study, in general, confirms what many of us know intuitively," says Utley, "that much of upstate has suffered because of loss of traditional manufacturing industries ... and that the downstate, particularly  New York City, [its] service industries have been able to take advantage of the global marketplace, [and they] are doing very well."

Although manufacturing workers in New York often can't compete with low wage laborers overseas, Utley says they need better education and training so they can take advantage of higher-skilled jobs that are emerging.

"Even the person earning an hourly wage today has to be trained in a totally new way and at a level of skill development that we haven't had to face before, and he or she hasn't had to face before," he says.

The report singles out the Albany and Rochester regions as bright spots in the upstate economy, citing their clusters of higher education institutions, tech companies, and intellectual capital.

"It is not simply a black and white picture of poor upstate and booming downstate," says Utley,  "There are mixed signals coming from each. And they key to it, we feel, in this study, is how do we better connect upstate and downstate?... That's not going to be easy, because of reasons of culture and history, and tradition,  but it's something that has to be done."

Immigration as an economic driver

The report also highlights the upstate/downstate contrast in immigrant populations, and cites it as an economic driver. Researchers found that 37 percent of New York City residents were born in another country, and Utley says the upstate could benefit from increased immigration.

"In some areas, we understand, there is a certain resistance to that. People don't look at the immigration factor as being that key their economic success. But we have found that it is key, because it is talent, it is energy, and that's what the state needs," he says.

The report's recommendations include encouraging immigration-friendly policies, upgrading the state's infrastructure, promoting entrepreneurship, and investing in education, particularly community colleges.

"There is no silver bullet," says Utley, "It is about education, K-12, higher education, and of course, re-training professionals who have lost their jobs because their sectors have downsized ... or in some cases totally disappeared."

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