Yates County report card draws concerns

John Christensen
The Yates County Community Report Card prepared by ACT Rochester. The complete report is available at https://www.actrochester.org/

PART I: Yates County is not accurately represented, says FLEDC chief Griffin

ACT Rochester, an initiative of the Rochester Area Community Foundation, recently released their “Community Report Card” on the Greater Rochester region and on each of its nine-counties: Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates.

“Since 2013, ACT Rochester reports using Census data have driven community action to address poverty as well as racial and ethnic inequities,” says Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of Rochester Area Community Foundation. “Good data also drives resources to our community from the state and federal governments.” The Community Report Card is an aggregation of data from more than 100 community indicators; measures that help describe economic, environmental, social, or cultural conditions over time.

ACT states that overall, the Report Card shows the region is performing as well or better than New York State in two of eight areas: Community Vitality and Housing; slightly worse than the state in Children and Youth, Economic Security and Public Safety; and trails the state by 10% or more include the Economy, Education, and Health. Long-term trends are improving in Education for all nine counties, and improving or unchanged for Children and Youth. 

Data for indicators in the Report Card are from different years, ranging from 2016 to 2019.

ACT expects the regional indicators could change significantly in ACT Rochester’s 2021 Report Cards as a result of the coronavirus, federal, state, and local elections, and/or the 2020 U.S. Census.

Steve Griffin, CEO of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center (Yates County’s sole industrial/economic development agency) has been critical of these report cards in the past. “Namely, because I do not believe they paint an accurate portrayal of the ‘health’ of Yates County,” he says. “Overall, I’m simply frustrated that their report pays little attention to the amazing growth Yates County has been experiencing.”

Griffin continues to be concerned over the lack of accounting our substantial Mennonite population has on many of their data sets, such as early prenatal care, education levels, uninsured individuals, disengaged youth, etc. “I realize the report cards and data are stated in such a way to help draw attention to some serious challenges the region and Yates County have, and I understand the report cards can’t be all things to all people,” says Griffin. “However, I remain very concerned that the report on Yates County is not an accurate picture of our County’s true health.  Prior to the recent COVID-19 outbreak, our unemployment figures were remarkably low; as few as 13 people were receiving unemployment benefits toward the end of 2019. Attracting employees is the biggest challenge our employers have. Our employers are probably not helped in their attempts to recruit prospective employees contemplating making to the move to Yates County if they came across this report.  That is why I am concerned that this report needs to be accurate given the large publicity the release of it receives.” 

Local leaders and ACT Rochester urge residents to complete their U.S. Census. Local representation, financial aid and services, as well as data for ACT Rochester indicators, are sourced from the Census.

Read more from Steve Griffin, Yates County Legislative Chairman Douglas Paddock, and Yates County Administrator Nonie Flynn in next week’s Chronicle-Express.