Decades after the decline of the local steel industry and other manufacturing industries in upstate New York, a renaissance is changing the face of this once downtrodden region. The Economist reports:
[In Buffalo] long-abandoned buildings and unused grain elevators stand along Lake Erie’s shore. General Mills is one of the few companies that still use it—the smell of Cheerios, a breakfast cereal, permeates the air. But newer life is springing up, too. Part of the harbour, near the centre of city, has been redeveloped as a 6.5-acre (2.6-hectare) spread of parks and monuments. Twenty-one more acres of harbour land will become shops and residential space with more development to come. Main Street, most of which was closed to traffic for three decades, is being opened up and will eventually connect the centre of town to the river. One of the newest additions to the city skyline, which is known for architectural gems, is the $300m ten-storey Gates Vascular Institute/Clinical and Translational Research Centre.
Much of this boom is driven by growth in the fields of advanced manufacturing, technology, and low-carbon industries.
Virtually all of the workforce is employed by companies of 100 employees or fewer, according to the Greater Rochester Enterprise, a public-private outfit which markets the city to businesses. The city leads the state in job growth since the end of the recession, recovering 98% of the jobs it lost then. Indeed, there are roughly 100,000 more jobs now than there were three decades ago.
Higher education is one of the crucial elements that helps fuel this growth:
The University of Rochester is the biggest [employer], with an economic impact of $143m in sales tax, income tax and property taxes. Five of the top ten private-sector employers in the Finger Lakes region, where Rochester lies, are in higher education and health care.Higher education is also a big employer in Buffalo; the University at Buffalo is the second-biggest employer. It has been moving its medical centre downtown, and changing a whole neighbourhood as it does so. . . The Centre for Urban Studies at the University at Buffalo and the city’s housing authority are combining to help a neighbourhood in need. Collaboration is essential, says Byron Brown, Buffalo’s mayor. “Right people! Right place! Right time!”
Via Meadia has been following the struggles of New York City’s big backyard, the region that once ignited the engine of America’s economy. Decades of economic stagnation is steadily being replaced by a more flexible, efficient system that takes advantage of a highly educated population.