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Upstate NY CEO survey shows pessimism for the year ahead

A bridge and a city overlooking a murky river.
Max Schulte
A skyline view of downtown Rochester, NY.

A recent survey by Siena College shows a big drop in the confidence of CEO’s of companies in upstate New York when it comes to the economy.

The survey shows the business leaders are much more pessimistic about where business conditions are headed this year compared to a year ago.

Don Levy is director of the Siena College Research Institute. He said that the CEOs interviewed in this annual survey are much more concerned about the state’s economic future than they have been in quite some time.

“The CEOs feel, by and large, about half of them say that things have gotten worse and they expect things to continue to get worse. Only about one out of five CEOs across upstate say that they think that the future is going to be economically more vibrant than we are right now.”

Levy said among the pressures the CEOs say they are feeling include the impact of inflation and also the ongoing difficulty they have finding people to fill job openings at their companies.

“So it’s inflation, it’s the rising cost of doing business,” said Levy. “You add into that the other big problem that they’ve been telling us over and over again, that they have open positions. One-third of CEOs say, I’ve got positions I want to fill, but three-quarters of them are saying I’m having trouble finding people to come in and fill those positions.”

Levy says generally those business leaders are not too thrilled with the direction of state government in this annual survey, but he says that feeling has intensified with only 11% of those surveyed feeling that New York is doing either an excellent or good job of creating a business climate that will help companies like theirs succeed.

The Siena poll was conducted from November 2022 to February 2023 and included interviews with 530 business leaders from across upstate NY.

During an interview on CNN last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul responded to the contention that New York is “uninvestable,” a claim made by television personality and entrepreneur Kevin O’Leary.

Speaking on CNN last Friday Hochul said New York is emerging from a dark time brought on by the pandemic, and that major investors and business leaders she’s talked with are very optimistic about the future.

She pointed to Micron’s investment to bring 50,000 to the state as evidence of that optimism.

This week, M & T Bank and Wilmington Trust, which is a financial services company owned by the regional bank, will be releasing their 2023 capital markets forecast.

Chief Economist for Wilmington Trust, Luke Tilly, will be talking about global trends and the impact on regional economies.

And in terms of the current economic climate in our region, M &T Rochester Regional President Dan Burns said there is uncertainty in the business community, but he also said that doesn’t mean business owners are planning on layoffs right now.

Burns is among those who says business owners are grappling with the need to find workers to fill available positions.

Randy Gorbman
Randy Gorbman is WXXI's Director of News and Public Affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.