The Upstate Economy

Business and economic developments affecting the central and northern regions of upstate New York.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Novelis, the aluminum manufacturing plant in Oswego County, unveiled a new $120 million addition to its operation Monday. The "automotive finishing line" takes strips of aluminum through furnaces, coolers and chemicals to strengthen the metal. It was designed specifically for the 2017 Ford Super Duty truck.

Kevin Schutt, the Novelis plant manager in Oswego, said with more aluminum, trucks can increase their payload and towing capacity. It's part of an industry-wide shift toward more lightweight vehicles for superior fuel efficiency. 

Julia Botero / WRVO news

The Hounsfield Town Planning Board voted unanimously last night to allow Dollar General to build a store on Route 3, near the village of Sackets Harbor. Residents who both oppose and support the development came to the meeting to voice their opinions Tuesday evening. After a heated exchange of viewpoints, many residents walked out. Others stayed and interrupted the board’s review of the Dollar General's site plans.

Catherine Loper / WRVO News

The Jefferson County town of Hounsfield, near Sackets Harbor, may allow a Dollar General store to move in later this year, despite opposition. The town's planning board will meet Tuesday to consider a proposal to build the store at the intersection of Route 3 and County Route 75.

More than 100 residents have signed an online petition to stop the development.

Julia Botero / WRVO news

Two weeks ago, more than 150 workers at the Climax Packaging plant in Lowville were told not to come to work the next day. The plant was closing immediately and everyone would lose their jobs. Thursday, a job fair in Watertown attracted many former Climax workers looking to get back on their feet.

It was hard to find a place to park outside the Bruce Wright Memorial Conference Center. Inside, people milled around a room sometimes stopping to introduce themselves to a local employer looking to hire.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Now that a higher minimum wage is coming for workers in New York state, nonprofits plan to begin lobbying the state for more funding, in order to keep their agencies afloat.

At Access-CNY in Syracuse, the biggest number of employees are direct support professionals. Hundreds of these workers provide hands-on support for more than 3,000 central New Yorkers with developmental disabilities, acquired brain injuries and mental illnesses. They make $10-dollars and 25 cents an hour.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is introducing a new Hunger Games-style competition, this time aimed at downtown revitalization. Struggling communities in regions across the state will compete for their share of $100 million. Watertown’s mayor thinks his city has what it takes to compete.

A shrinking population? Check. A struggling economy? Check.

But Watertown’s' downtown development hasn't been all doom and gloom. Quite the opposite. The old Woolworth building was renovated into apartments. Mercy Hospital was torn down and a mixed-use building is going up in its place.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), sporting protective ear plugs to block out the whirling of machines, shakes hands with workers on the factory floor of New York Air Brake in Watertown. It's the senator's first visit to the company, which has made brake systems for the railroad industry for over a century.

As Schumer pauses to study the heavy metal contraptions that make trains stop and slow down, company officials explain what he’s seeing. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The New York State Farm Bureau is among the most vocal groups a proposed $15 dollar minimum wage in the state. They’re asking New Yorkers to put the pressure on state lawmakers who will decide whether to include the increase in the state budget.

 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Included in central New York’s upstate revitalization plan is $40 million to develop an inland port that will process international freight containers coming from the Port of New York and New Jersey. The proposed location of the inland port is just outside of Syracuse in Jamesville, but another competing plan in a different location has been under consideration for years.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The wraps are off the early design for a new Perseverance Park in downtown Syracuse. The idea is to create a park with public art that draws people to the area on South Salina Street between Armory and Clinton Squares..

Jerry Van Eyck, of the New York design firm !melk, has been pondering Perseverance Park on South Salina Street for months now.

“It’s a space that’s the epicenter of downtown that is very underwhelmed and underwhelming, and we intend to change that,” said Van Eyck

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The debate over increasing New York’s minimum wage to $15 an hour is hitting the streets in one small upstate New York community. Businesses in Seneca County are actively fighting the proposal.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Some state lawmakers want to try out a new job training program for small and medium sized manufacturers in central New York. The state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) wants to spend $500,000 to create a way to train a new pool of workers at a time when a large number of these workers are reaching retirement age.

The average age of an employee in manufacturing today is 56. That’s why Randy Wolken, president and CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York, says a crisis is brewing when it comes time for companies to replace those workers.

Maple Weekend Facebook Page

New York is the second largest maple producing state in the country, producing more than 600,000 gallons of syrup last year, worth about $33 million.

But things are getting sticky regarding products that claim to be maple but do not actually have any maple ingredients in them. Organizations representing 14 maple-producing states are asking the Food and Drug Administration to review products they say are falsely labeled as maple.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Last month, the state comptroller’s office released the results of an audit of the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency with a list of recommendations to improve how it operates. Agency members are disputing some of those recommendations.

Who’s got your back? This housekeeping robot does

Jan 16, 2016
Sasha-Ann Simons / WXXI News

A small company in Ithaca, led by a 19-year-old entrepreneur, has a robot they say can clean floors and will make beds. The robot is still in prototype stage, but the team behind Maidbot is hoping to bring the “Rosie” from The Jetsons-type machine onto the market within the next year.

Centerstate CEO

Central New York’s economy continues to lag behind other Upstate New York communities according to an assessment of last year’s regional economic trends from last year. Economic forecasters predict continued slow growth.  But business leaders are hoping that a recent state investment into the central New York region can turn that around.

M & T Bank regional economist Gary Keith says the economic numbers from last year weren't horrible, but didn’t show a lot of growth either.

tales of a wandering youkai / Flickr

Christmas may be over, but this is still a critical week for retailers.

Ted Potrikus is president of the Retail Council of New York State, and while his organization doesn't generate specific numbers on what the state's retailers saw for holiday sales, he would not be surprised to see them come out with numbers similar to some national surveys, predicting about a four or five percent increase over last year.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

About 2,700 families came to the Christmas Bureau distribution in downtown Syracuse on Wednesday. It was one of their biggest years and largest operations as some of Syracuse’s most needing families received toys and food baskets.

Hospitality students eye future jobs at casinos

Dec 23, 2015

On Monday, New York State's gaming commission awarded three full casino licenses to the sites that got a recommendation last year, including the Lago Resort in the Finger Lakes town of Tyre.  But Southern Tier residents will have to hold out a bit longer, as Tioga Downs in Nichols, which was recommended for a license in the fall, waits for the official word.

Ithaca keeping local currency home for the holidays

Dec 21, 2015
Sasha-Ann Simons / WXXI News

Ithaca is a small town, but sometimes it has big ideas -- like a digital, community currency called Ithaca Dollars. The bottom line of this concept is to keep the region's money at home.

 

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the $500 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative award to central New York signals a turning of the tide for the area. The region's economic development plan was one of three big winners in Cuomo's competition to invest $1.5 billion in upstate. At a ceremony in Syracuse Sunday to commemorate the region's success, Cuomo said this investment in upstate rights a wrong.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Construction has started on a project that’s hoping to transform downtown Syracuse and the arts in central New York. 

The former Sibley’s department store in the 400 block of South Salina Street in Syracuse, will be the new home to the Redhouse Arts Center by this time next year. Executive artistic director Stephen Svoboda says beyond construction of theaters and rehearsal space, the arts can breathe life into an area that needs it.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

The Salvation Army is expecting to help hundreds of low-income families this holiday season with the annual Christmas Bureau. Sign-ups have already started.

Salvation Army executive director Linda Wright expects about the same number of people to register for the giveaway this year as last. The program that offers food, books and toys for low income families can be a harbinger of the economy. And even though the unemployment rate in Onondaga County has been dropping, Wright there’s still a need.

Roxanne Mourhess says the milk trucks roll by her antique store every day. The store is a 150-year-old former church on the main drag in Campbell, New York, a small town near Corning. The store is just down the street from the weathered, light blue grocery store. In the other direction, a Kraft plant puffs out steam by the railroad tracks. Mourhess couldn’t believe it when she heard that the plant was slated for closure. 

“Your immediate reaction is, ‘Oh my gosh, another manufacturing industry in our town, and thus our country, is not going to be here,’” she says.

Video games spark 'gamification' craze

Dec 5, 2015
Sasha-Ann Simons / WXXI News

Creating a video game is a daunting, yet rewarding task. Along with countless hours of research, design and testing, teams can spend a great deal of time putting the pieces together. And being able to walk into a place and get instant feedback on your prototype can only enhance the experience.

“I wanted to find something where I could fit in and belong and I found them online, showed up one day and never stopped coming again,” says Joe Wilson, a video game designer.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Friday is Plaid Friday, the independent, local business alternative to Black Friday, the major chains’ big sales day for consumers. The buy local movement continues its push in Syracuse.

The nonprofit SyracuseFirst launched the holiday giving season by organizing the Buy Local Bash in Syracuse. The event, which is in its sixth year, hosts venders from local businesses that give out samples, sell goods and educate the public about their companies.

According to recent statistics, 2.1 million New Yorkers are cheated out of $3.2 billion in wages and benefits. Activists are trying to get the word out that this wage theft is happening here in central New York.

Rebecca Fuentes is an organizer with the Workers’ Center of Central New York. She says wage theft happens when employers underpay workers, don’t pay overtime, or classify them in the wrong job description. And it makes it harder for a working family to get by.
 

Brit Hanson / NCPR

There was a deep sigh of relief in Massena Tuesday, if only a temporary one. After announcing massive layoffs three weeks ago, aluminum manufacturer Alcoa reversed course. The company said it will keep its smelter in Massena open and guarantee 600 jobs for 3 1/2 years. In exchange, New York state will give the aluminum giant almost $70 million in cheap power and cash for capital and operating expenses.

Downtown Committee of Syracuse

The “Elf on the Shelf” is coming to downtown Syracuse.  The holiday icon is part of an attempt to get more visibility for downtown shops during the holiday season.

The Downtown Committee of Syracuse is calling him “Dash.”  The elf will be turning up in shops, restaurants and museums throughout downtown Syracuse during the holiday season. Alice Maggiore of the Downtown Committee says it’s all part of a push to get people thinking downtown when they think about holiday spending.
 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Google’s program “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map” came to Syracuse last week. The Internet giant has a goal of encouraging more small and medium sized businesses to take advantage of the web.

Dozens of owners of small- and medium-sized businesses sat along long tables, with laptops glowing, at SKY Armory last week, getting first-hand tips about how to use tools in the Google stable to spur business.  They ranged from the novice, to people who work with computers every day.

Pages