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June 16, 2006

New York Times uses Public Policy Institute data to chronicle Upstate woes

Two recently published stories in the New York Times chronicling the demise of the Upstate economy and the region’s startling population loss rely heavily on data from The Business Council and its research affiliate, the Public Policy Institute.

A June 11 article by Times reporter Sam Roberts noted “When Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, likened upstate New York to Appalachia earlier this year, some Republicans accused him of city-centric elitism. But it was business leaders who complained, in a Public Policy Institute report two years ago, about high taxes and asked, during the third term of Gov. George E. Pataki, a Republican: ‘Is upstate New York going the way of Appalachia?’

That report, Could New York Just let Upstate BE Upstate?, said the 2000 Census showed that Upstate’s population growth in the 1990s had been lower than every state except North Dakota and West Virginia.

“The institute concluded that upstate 'has few of the advantages that New York City gets from its international role. It has to compete with regular places like Ohio and Virginia,” the Times story said. “In that competition, costs do matter.”

The paper also quoted a 2004 report by the Institute. In New York State's economy in 2004; Which way out? the Institute pointed out that in the first half of Governor Pataki’s tenure in office, New York caught up with the national growth rate. “But the recession that hit in March of 2001 took the wind out of those sails,” the report adds.

In a June 13 Times story about New York’s population loss, reporter Sam Roberts again used Public Policy Institute data to help chronicle Upstate’s brain drain.

“From 1990 to 2004, the number of 25-to-34-year-old residents in the 52 counties north of Rockland and Putnam declined by more than 25 percent,” the Times reported. “In 13 counties that include cities like Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton, the population of young adults fell by more than 30 percent. In Tioga County, part of Appalachia in New York's Southern Tier, 42 percent fewer young adults were counted in 2004 than in 1990.”

“David Shaffer, president of the Public Policy Institute, which is affiliated with the Business Council of New York State, described the hemorrhaging of young adults as ‘the worst kind of loss,” the story said.

“You don't just magically make it up with new births,” Shaffer told the Times “These are the people who are starting careers, starting families, buying homes.”

The June 13 story also profiled a former Business Council employee. Melissa O’Brien, the Council’s former manager of communications, moved to South Carolina in 1996 with her husband Matthew, who had taken a new job there.

The differences between New York and South Carolina were "eye-opening," Melissa told The Business Council in a phone interview.

“In New York, we couldn’t have afforded half the house we bought in South Carolina,” Melissa said. “The housing prices were so much less, we could afford a house and I could stay home with our children”

The O’Briens later relocated to Florida where Matthew works as the Florida business manager in charge of sales and marketing for a manufacturer of industrial packing materials. Melissa freelances for a local newspaper.

“I love Upstate New York,” Melissa said. “Would we go back? No."

"New York is driving itself out of business," she added. "[Lawmakers] have consistently increased taxes and overregulated the state to the point where it makes it difficult for young entrepreneurs and families to live there."