Yates County and tFinger Lakes region appear to be doing most things right when it comes to focusing economic attention on agriculture and tourism, according to a report presented Aug. 30 by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
But, poverty-stricken pockets throughout the nine-county region persist and young people are continuing to leave the state, which will continue to pose challenges for government and business leaders.
That’s the gist of a special economic profile of the Finger Lakes region, which DiNapoli unveiled at a luncheon hosted by the Yates County Chamber of Commerce and Finger Lakes Economic Development Center.
Before coming to Yates County, DiNapoli presented the report at the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua.
Among the positives he noted in his presentations: competitive values of housing in the region, colleges and universities that produce skilled workers in high-demand areas, and food manufacturing.
The report notes 21 percent of the state’s farmland is in the Finger Lakes region.
“Food manufacturing is a growth area,” DiNapoli said. “Certainly this being a center and knowing the importance of the wine industry, breweries and distilleries, it certainly validates and makes sense to build on that as a regional strength,” he said in Canandaigua.
The report says Yates County, at $25.19 per $1,000 full value, has the lowest effective property tax rate of the region. Yates County’s rate is the only one of the region that is lower than the outside New York City statewide rate of $28.84. The effective property tax rate is measured as the amount that the average homeowner pays annually. The median tax bill in Yates County was also the lowest at $3,129 compared to the statewide median of $8,173.
Yates County’s housing prices grew the fastest in the region, rising 52 percent to $149,900 in 2016, owing in part to sales of high-priced lakefront homes, according to the report. But housing remains affordable with only 22 to 30 percent of homeowners spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, compared to 38 percent statewide.
Yates and Ontario County had the lowest unemployment rates in 2016 at 4.4 and 4.3 percent respectively. The statewide rate is 4.8 percent.
On the downside, DiNapoli also noted the region is faced with challenges, including poverty.
Median household income in each of the nine counties that make up the Finger Lakes region is lower than the state average, and has slowed in recent years, according to the report.
Yates County had the lowest in the region at $49,510 while neighboring Ontario County had the highest, at $57,416 in 2015. That compares to $52,553 in Monroe County, $50,798 in Wayne County and $51,734 in Livingston County while the state average is $59,269.
DiNapoli added the region has several pockets of urban and rural poverty. For instance, the city of Geneva has one of the highest child poverty rates at 33.3 percent, according to the report. The state rate is 22.2 percent.
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, said the report serves as a blueprint for where the region is today, but also where it needs to go tomorrow.
Certainly, a focus needs to be on creating better economic opportunities, Kolb said.
The report is the third one DiNapoli has presented to the Economic Development Regions in the state.
DiNapoli’s office examined the nine counties making up the Finger Lakes region – Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates. The area is home to more than 1.2 million people, mostly concentrated in the city of Rochester and its suburbs. In the 6 years since 2010, the region’s population has dropped slightly (0.4 percent) compared to 1.8 percent growth statewide.
The region was awarded $500 million under the state’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative in 2015. The money will be directed to three industry sectors: photonics, agriculture, and clean manufacturing and technology.
Find the report at www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/economicprofile/fingerlakesregion.pdf.
Includes reporting by Mike Murphy and Gwen Chamberlain