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CNY economic outlook is bright despite significant challenges

Central New York’s economy appears poised to grow in the coming year. That’s based on data reviewed by M&T Bank Vice President Peter Kneis who delivered the keynote address at Centerstate CEO’s annual economic forecast Wednesday.

"We see a very vibrant economy on its way back from where it was 1 to 2 years ago."

But Kneis says business leaders don’t have an easy path to get there.

"Everything basically costs more. Whether it's because of the labor shortage and wage costs driving up the end product, supply chain issues, or the overall demand."

He says labor issues are especially acute here in Central New York.

"Overall private employment is down. Unemployment is very low, and the workforce has not necessarily recovered to where it was. But think about the aging population of upstate New York, when that group decides not to enter the workforce, that really hurts economies like ours in terms of filling roles and filling jobs."

Kneis says those 55 and older who filled a vital role in the economy have simply decided not to go back to work. The leisure and hospitality, healthcare and education, and retail sectors seem to face some negative employment trends. Kneis says you know it’s not good when Wegmans is having trouble hiring.

"Wegmans, obviously one of the best employers in the country, nationally recognized continuously by Forbes as one of the best places to work, is struggling to find employees, looking at job fairs. That's just commonplace everywhere. When you see that, you realize how much of an issue this has become."

Meanwhile, the business services, transportation and warehouse, and manufacturing sectors have brighter outlooks. Centerstate CEO president Rob Simpson says look no further than the 50 million dollar JMA wireless facility opening soon just south of downtown.

"This is the first major manufacturing facility built in the city in decades, and marks an important chapter in the resurgence of the neighborhood...which is arguably, one of the most historically marginalized and underinvested neighborhoods in the city. This is a project that demonstrates leadership and intentionality, and is reminiscent of early actions by business leaders in downtown Syracuse to develop vacant and underutilized buildings."

As for the economic outlook, fully 75 percent of Centerstate members project overall sales or revenue growth. Eighteen percent expect no change, and just seven percent project a decline.

This story was produced with help from WAER's John Smith.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at