Business leaders gathered in Glens Falls Wednesday morning to hear an economic outlook for 2014 that looks promising for Warren County.
At the Queensbury hotel, business owners and representatives gathered for the Economic Development Corporation of Warren County’s 2014 Economic Outlook breakfast.
Hugh Johnson, an Albany economist who has served on NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s Management Review Commission and was appointed to the Investment Advisory Committee to the New York State Common Retirement Fund, walked the audience through a complex slideshow of facts and figures relating the current economy with past cycles and predictions for the future.
Through his data, Johnson said the Glens Falls region has one of the strongest economic outlooks in New York.
“And it looks to me that this area – this metropolitan statistical, general area – Glens Falls, and you’d have to include a little bit of upper Saratoga and some of the other counties in this area looks like prospects for both labor force growth, as well as employment growth for 2014-2015 are very promising,” said Johnson.
Johnson said that regional industrial development is beginning to gather momentum, and is pushing the Saratoga and Glens Falls area ahead of the pack.
“For example I take a look at some places like Rochester, Syracuse, Utica Bighampton, they’re not nearly as promising,” said Johnson. “So clearly the activity that’s going on in Saratoga, Luther Forest, GlobalFoundries, but all the other sort of ancillary businesses that are being built in this area are starting to have a spillover affect on Glens Falls.
EDC Warren County Board Chair Chuck Barton said he also anticipates a spillover effect from GlobalFoundries to benefit the Glens Falls area as new workers are brought to the area. But Barton also said that cohesion among the private and public sectors in the region is a benefit to the local economy.
“There’s a cohesion that happens to be on the private investment between our public elected officials to work on cultivating an atmosphere where businesses can grow and be successful, so it’s all coming together for this region,” said Barton. “As Hugh Johnson said, it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time but the momentum is building.”
Barton mentioned the relocation of the Hacker Boat Co. production facility from Ticonderoga to the Queensbury Business Park as an example of groundwork laid long ago, now coming to fruition.
“We have a lot of work in front of us, we have a lot of prospects in front of us, we’re going to keep plugging away, and hopefully five years from now we can look back and be pleased with the growth in the region,” said Barton.
However, Johnson did warn employers about the problem of discouraged workers, with many middle class jobs disappearing due to advances in technology. And while unemployment numbers may be dropping, Johnson attributed it largely to workers aged 20 to 30 dropping out of the workforce.
“That’s really a problem, and it’s not going to be easy, but the one secret that we’ve learned in history is that you’ve got to become re-educated and mobile,” said Johnson. “The way the world is set up now is we’ve moved to a very knowledge-driven economy. It’s not a labor-driven economy. And all of those middle class jobs are gone and they’re gone for good. It’s not because they’ve been outsourced to China and Mexico – that’s the point I’m making – it’s because technology and we can do more with fewer.”
Next September, GE is expected to close its Fort Edward capacitor manufacturing facility, and move operations to a new plant in Clearwater, Florida. Nearly 200 jobs will be eliminated from the Glens Falls area.
Johnson, however, also predicted that the area’s community colleges, including SUNY Adirondack and Hudson Valley Community College, will play a larger role in the future in reeducating and retraining workers.