12:51pm

Fri April 13, 2012
The Upstate Economy

NY Fed president: keeping young people upstate is key

The education and healthcare sectors - or "eds and meds" - provide potential for upstate New York's economy - as long as the region can translate research activity into job creation.

That was the message from William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Dudley was in Syracuse Thursday for a series of speeches. He also sat down with the Innovation Trail.

"The educational establishment is world-class," Dudley said. "And the amount of innovation that those institutions are driving is substantial. But not much of that innovation actually leads to jobs in the region."

The "brain drain" of well-educated young people leaving upstate New York to work elsewhere must be reversed, Dudley says. He says the recipe for creating opportunities for the region's college grads is partnering research institutions with local companies.

That's something Gov. Andrew Cuomo has tried to do with his SUNY 2020 Challenge Grants.

"A slow process"

Economists, including Dudley, say central New York has weathered the recession fairly well, largely because it saw neither boom nor bust in the housing market.

"It's good news, bad news," said Dudley.

What drove the housing booms in other parts of the country was rising populations, Dudley says. But upstate's population has been stagnant or declining.

"This region is probably not going to be as vibrant as some other regions," Dudley said.

Still, upstate is doing better than other parts of the county in moving away from its manufacturing roots, according to Dudley.

The next challenge: building momentum behind investments in nano- and clean-tech ideas emerging from upstate's research centers.

"It's a slow process," Dudley said. "One of the challenges, I think, is actually getting the venture capitalist firms willing to invest."

Dudley points to examples in Buffalo and the Capital Region where state investment is starting to pay off with private-sector growth.

Opportunities

Dudley says it's important to develop a reason for young people coming to the region for higher education to stay here after graduation.

"That's the critical thing, I think, for the health of the region," said Dudley. "If you can keep a reasonable proportion of those people here, then I think the region can do very, very well in the future."

The key ingredient to that success, says Dudley, is jobs.

"We have plenty of well-educated people coming out of the universities here in upstate New York. The question now is, are there going to be good opportunities for them to stay here?"