UTICA — Fraught with challenges, though there are some bright spots.
That is the assessment state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reached about the Mohawk Valley's economy with the release of a new financial report on the region.
DiNapoli appeared Friday at Utica College to present highlights from the report, the fifth in a series of economic snapshots completed by the New York State Comptroller's Office detailing regions across the state.
"There are challenges," DiNapoli said. "Some of them are long-standing. Some of them, perhaps, maybe more recent. But there's also many seeds that have been planted in recent years that have started to take hold and see some green shoots that are coming up. I hope this report will be helpful to, again, guide the local discussion on what needs to be done and be a helpful addition to the road map that you are all putting together for the Mohawk Valley region."
The report evaluated the six counties in defining the Mohawk Valley region: Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida and Schoharie. Oneida County, according to the report, makes up more than half of the region's population with 231,332.
Here are some of the major findings:
According to the report, the Mohawk Valley's population decreased 7.7 percent from 1970 to 2000 despite a 4 percent increase in the state's population.
The comptroller's office attributed this decline to decreases in the populations in Utica (34 percent) and Rome (30 percent). There was a slight upswing from 2000 to 2010, but the comptroller's office is seeing further declines in each county since 2010, citing Census data.
All counties in the region have median household incomes below the state median of $60,741, with the lowest median in Montgomery County at $44,455.
Likewise, the unemployment rate in each of the region's counties is higher than the statewide 4.7 percent rate. In Oneida County, the unemployment rate in 2017 was reported at 5.1 percent — the lowest of the six counties — with Herkimer County at 5.8 percent.
Montgomery, Fulton and Oneida counties each have child poverty rates higher than the statewide 22 percent. In particular, Oneida County's child poverty rate is 26.8 percent. Herkimer County's rate, meanwhile, is at 20.7 percent.
Beyond that, the comptroller's report highlighted that of the 197 municipalities and school districts in the region examined for the fiscal years ending in 2016 and 2017, three were designated "susceptible to" fiscal stress. Two were the Town of German Flatts and the New Hartford Central School District.
DiNapoli's report details some of the economic drivers in the Mohawk Valley region.
For the Oneida County area, he highlighted Utica's two major colleges — Utica College and Mohawk Valley Community College — along with the Griffiss International Airport and the Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome. The report summarizes several tourism attractions such as the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, Utica Zoo, Fort Stanwix National Monument and Turning Stone Resort Casino.
The comptroller's report further examines Utica's refugee population, noting that nearly 20 percent of the city's population is foreign-born residents that have helped grow the local economy.
DiNapoli cited the contributions of the refugee populace, downtown revitalization efforts and increases in health care and some manufacturing jobs as positives for the Mohawk Valley. The amount of health care employees throughout the region has grown 7 percent since 2010, while manufacturing jobs — after a 39 percent decline from 2000 to 2010 — have inched upward by 1.9 percent since then.
DiNapoli was joined Friday by a number of local elected officials and other dignitaries, including state Sens. Joseph Griffo and David Valesky; Assemblymen Anthony Brindisi and Brian Miller; Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri, Rome Mayor Jacqueline Izzo and Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr.
"Yes, there are challenges," Picente said during his remarks. "I would just look at those challenges also as opportunities. It is up to us to make and to continue to grow this economy the best we can. The comptroller, in this report, touches on so many areas — from manufacturing and retail and tourism — that are so important, so essential. Those are the pieces that help us grow the economy."
Contact reporter Greg Mason at 315-792-5074 or follow him on Twitter (@OD_Mason).