The Upstate Economy

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

Mike Mozart

With spring approaching, gas prices are on the rise across the country and in central New York.  And the increase may be a little more dramatic at pumps in the Syracuse area.

According to the AAA Western and Central New York, this region watched  the price at the pump jump an average of 22 cents a gallon last month. And that’s pretty typical for this time of year, as oil companies make the expensive switch from winter to summer blend fuels, and take some refineries offline for maintenance.  

Chris Caya / WBFO News

Buffalo's status as the "Queen City" of the Great Lakes started slipping with the St. Lawrence Seaway's opening in 1954. But after a recent meeting downtown with Seaway Administrator Betty Sutton, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state is resetting the relationship.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO file photo

There’s a big chunk of state funding on the table for investment in upstate New York’s communities and not surprising, there are a lot of opinions for what the funds should be spent on.

Rob Simpson is in charge of CenterState CEO. His organization represents 2,000 regional businesses. In the role, he’s close with both New York’s governor and local leaders.

ephesuslighting.com

This weekend’s Super Bowl won’t only be showcasing the NFL’s top football teams. It will also show off a new stadium lighting system that was created in Syracuse.  

  Ephesus Lighting founder Joe Casper is amazed at the publicity his company’s high-performance LED lights have been getting in the run-up to the Super Bowl. There’s been mention of the semi-conductor based technology in Forbes magazine, USA Today and the Washington Post.  And the enhanced lighting fixtures have even made their way into deflate-gate conversations.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

In last week's State of the State Address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.50 per hour across the state and $11.50 in New York City by the end of 2016. The increase isn't a done deal though.

State business leaders criticize the measure they say would force them to slow hiring and cut hours.

Sharon Stiller, a Rochester-based employment law expert, says any change will affect state businesses.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO file photo

There will be another competition for state economic development dollars, if the state legislature approves spending $1.5 billion for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed Upstate New York Economic Revitalization Competition. At least one Central New York Economic development official is ready for the challenge.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives his budget address next Wednesday, the state will begin the year with a $5 billion surplus -- a big change after years of budget deficits.

When Cuomo first came into office, the state was facing a $10 billion budget gap. Now, in 2015, the state has a $5 billion surplus, the largest since the 1940s.  The money is a one time windfall from various bank settlements over charges of improprieties during the financial crisis.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO file photo

Going in to 2015, there is more confidence in central New York’s economy to be found in an annual business survey.

Last year, there was only limited optimism among economists and business leaders for economic growth in the region. But CenterState CEO president Rob Simpson says he has much more confidence for 2015.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to invest $1.5 billion to help the struggling upstate economy, but there’s a catch -- regions will have to compete for the money.

Cuomo says his budget plan will include an upstate revitalization fund, but it won’t be distributed to all of the state’s economically depressed regions. Instead, the seven regions will be competing for a share of the funds. The rules are: only three will receive grants of $500 million each.

“Why the competition?” Cuomo asked rhetorically. “Because I believe in competition.”

Corey Seeman / Flickr

Over the past several years, Sen. Charles Schumer has been able to secure federal money to help with upgrading facilities, including the improvement of rail lines and even dredging the Port of Oswego. He calls the upgrade of the port one of his "pet projects."

Schumer has been advocating modernizing the port for several years and says when all is said and done, he expects the job impact to be in the thousands.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

New York’s new Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will be the point person in the Cuomo administration when it comes to economic development upstate.

"Upstate continues to be one of the highest priorities of Governor Cuomo's administration. And when he selected me as an upstater, as someone who'd been educated here in Syracuse, I know this area, I represented seven upstate counties in Congress," Hochul said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

With the shake-up of the New York Jets coaching staff and management, it's unclear if the football team will continue to hold its training camp at SUNY Cortland. Sen. Charles Schumer is already lobbying to keep the football teams summer home in central New York.

Roy Saplin

A nonprofit behind a development on the site of the old Lyons Falls Paper Mill in Lewis County will receive a $1 million grant from the state.

The Lewis County Development Corporation is in the first phase of demolishing the abandoned paper mill. They've slowly removed hazardous materials and obtained building permits. The non-profit plans to build a modern industrial park on the 9-acre site.

Doug Kerr / Flickr

The holidays are a time for people to travel home to be with family. A community group that works to promote Syracuse to young adults is hoping to take advantage of that.

The organization 40 Below figures most people in their 20s and 30s who are home for the holidays will be going out for drinks this weekend anyway. They want to use that to convince people to move back to central New York.

Julia Botero / WRVO

If you drive into downtown Watertown now, the first thing you won't see is Mercy Hospital.

“It look like a bomb went off. Ground zero," says Watertown resident Sean Johnson. He was walking by the debris that used to be Mercy Hospital. Developers plan to turn the site into a mixed use building with apartments on top and retail and commercial space below.

“That's great. Reuse the property to something like that. It will help Watertown get back on track and get business downtown," said Johnson.

 

Finger Lakes town of Tyre awarded 1 of 3 casino sites

Dec 17, 2014
Matt Martin / WSKG file photo

The state Gaming Facility Location Board has selected three proposals for casinos in in economically distressed communities in upstate New York in Sullivan, Schenectady and Seneca Counties.

The Seneca County site selected was the proposal by Wilmorite Corporation to build Lago Resort and Casino off the New York State Thruway in the small town of Tyre.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The Hotel Syracuse is receiving a multi-million dollar state grant through New York’s competitive economic development funding program. The project is part of $80.2 million in funding central New York won.

Central New York’s regional economic development has been named a "top performer" for the third time in four years in the state’s flashy economic development funding program. It competes against other regions of the state for aid. The state gave out $709 million in all.

Mike Mozart

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) is blaming what he calls the state's weak gas zone pricing laws for the Mohawk Valley's higher-than-average gas prices.

According to a recent report by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, gas in the Utica-Rome area was selling for an average of $3.24 a gallon, which was the third highest price in the state. By contrast, gas in the Syracuse area was going for twenty cents less.

Brindisi says higher gas prices effect the area's economy.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Most New Yorkers earning the minimum wage are seeing their pay increase slightly, but that doesn't go for those in the service industry who receive tips.

The state's minimum wage will be $9 an hour at the end of next year. It will stay flat for servers and other tipped workers at $5 an hour, plus those tips.

Now the state labor department is considering raising the tipped minimum wage, but restaurant owners are worried it will have a negative ripple effect.

Shipping on St. Lawrence Seaway up

Sep 10, 2014
Susan Novak

Shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway is up three percent from last year.  That's a big comeback after last year's long winter  delayed the season.

When the seaway opened in March, the shipping lanes were still clogged with ice. Freighter traffic didn't pick up until late May.  Much of the cargo was leftover grain from Canada. And then, shipping really picked up.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

As New York state continues to boost the craft brewery and distillery business, brews and spirits pushed into the wine court at the New York State Fair.

David Tadros has been collecting brews and spirits from Clayton to Brooklyn to sell at his stand on the edge of the wine court. State Fair Showstopper Ale, a brew concocted only for the run of the fair, by Empire Brewery, is sold here, along with other New York state beers. And for the first time distilled spirits are available outside, opening them up to a bigger audience.

Overall, sales tax revenue in New York increased for the first half of this year, but revenues were mixed across the state.

Across the board, New York saw sales tax revenue grow $177 million over the first half of this year, according to numbers tallied by the state comptroller's office. That's a 2.5 percent jump, but it's been an uneven increase, with some counties seeing big gains, while others decreased.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is using a project in Madison County to highlight a new federal program that’s meant to promote infrastructure upgrades in rural parts of the country. The idea is to connect small communities with private money, in an effort to revitalize rural America.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

A minority workforce training program on Syracuse’s North Side is being expanded with the help of several local agencies.

Northside UP, a community group targeting the immigrant population in the northern sections of Syracuse, has been running training programs called Green Train and Health Train. The second has placed a few dozen people on the payroll on St. Joseph’s Hospital, also located on the North Side.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A film production company that’s moved to central New York is scouting locations across the region for movies it plans on filming by the end of the year.

The Film House, which will be the first tenant in the new Central New York Hub for Emerging Nano Industries in Dewitt, plans on starting to film the sci-fi picture “The Opium Wars” in September. The company's president Ryan Johnson says right now they’re scouting for places like exterior farms, a run-down bar, and a big hangar with a "Mad Max" feel. At the same time, Johnson says they’re also working on their next movie.

Jenna Flanagan / Innovation Trail

Everything old is new again, so the saying goes. With that in mind, the Preservation League of New York State announced a plan to repurpose five vacant industrial buildings in the Capital region with the hopes of attracting young professionals and revitalizing communities.

The Industrial Heritage Reuse Project, or "trendy hipster bait," launched on Thursday in hopes of breathing new live into old buildings.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

The sight of cranes in the air, and shovels in the ground abound in central New York this summer.  That doesn’t jive though, with the latest job figures from New York state that the Syracuse area continues to lose jobs at an alarming rate.

Ellen Abbott

The Empire Brewing Company in Syracuse is planning an expansion that will let the brewpub create a new kind of farm-to-bottle brewing model.

The company is looking for $200,000 in federal funding to help with operation of a farm and construction of a bottling plant in Madison County. Sen. Charles Schumer says the funds would come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which would be a good fit.

Michael Falcone is Chairman Emeritus of the Pioneer Companies, a commercial real estate development enterprise in Upstate New York, Denver, and Phoenix.  Prior to that, he was a partner with Robert Congel in the Pyramid Companies.  In this edition of the Campbell Conversations, Grant Reeher speaks with him about malls, hotels, the development trajectory of Syracuse, the proper role of government in development, and Syracuse University's impact on the city.

Jim Day / WXXI

Many new startup companies end up running their new business out of their homes, and that's the case for Stephane Jean-Baptiste and Yve-Car Momperousse who live and work in Ithaca, New York.

Their sustaining business model relies heavily on their relationship with the land and people of Haiti.

As you’ll see, they’re aiming to be both successful and socially-responsible entrepreneurs, and help in the re-building of the island nation devastated by the 2010 earthquake.

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