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Report Suggests "Let Upstate Be Upstate"

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – A new analysis prepared by a state "think" tank says the upstate economy has been lagging for years behind the nation's growth rate. The solution, say researchers, is to "let upstate be upstate."

From 1990 to 2003, total job growth in upstate's six metropolitan areas was only two-point-three percent. The nation as a whole grew jobs eight times as fast during that period. Even other "rust belt" states had a growth rate that was four times better. In an interview with the "Legislative Gazette" produced by public station WAMC, Niagara U-S-A Chamber President Bob Newman says inequities exist within New York itself when it comes to economic development.

"Unfortunately, whether it's perception or not, upstate often suffers from decisions being made by downstate power brokers," Newman said. "Downstate politicians have a very big influence in Albany. Upstate is not represented very well in the big picture as far as Albany goes."

According to the report prepared by the Albany-based Public Policy Institute, part of the solution is to let "upstate be upstate" -- that is, allowing communities more flexibility to deal with state mandates on matters such as Medicaid, prevailing-wage rules, and other cost drivers.

First Albany Chief Economist Hugh Johnson suggests that the problems facing upstate are beyond the ability of state leaders to resolve.

"There are some very substantial global economic issues that are causing significant problems for this part of the country," Johnson said.

The report on the upstate economy did praise efforts to capitalize on the research and technology strengths of the state's higher education system by creating such initiatives as the Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics in Buffalo.