Folks Flee Upstate USDA Exec Learns

Folks Flee Upstate,

USDA Exec Learns

Fewer Students For Hartwick College,

Jobs Available But Unfilled, Hazlett Told

U.S. Rep. John Faso welcomes attendees to today’s rural development forum at Hartwick’s Shineman Chapel. He is flanked by the guest of honor, Assistant USDA Secretary Anne Hazlett, left, and College President Margaret L. Drugovich, the host.  At right are Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky and Kinderhook Bank VP Anne Finnegan.  (Jim Kevlin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

New York has fewer people than Florida and double the state budget. That says it all, Country Club Auto’s Tom Armao, left, says. Also on today’s panel was Brooks B-B-Q’s Ryan Brooks, right.

ONEONTA – Not only did the USDA assistant secretary for Rural Development learn about Upstate declining population at her visit to Hartwick College this morning, she got a sense of the impacts.

In her opening remarks, Hartwick President Margaret L. Drugovich reported a 17 percent decline in high school graduates between 2009 and 2017, and some predictions of “another 4-8 percent in the next 15 years,” a challenge for Upstate liberal arts colleges.

“These are the kind of things on my mind when we think about economic development,” said Drugovich, economic development being one of the topic when Anne Hazlett, the USDA official charged with rural development, convened a two-hour forum of a dozen community leaders in Shineman Chapel.

U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, who accompanied Hazlett, expanded on the data, noting 50 of 57 Upstate counties are losing population.  The exceptions include Jefferson, home to Fort Drum, and Saratoga, a tourism magnet and home to the Global Crossing chipmaker at Malta.

That trend informed much of the subsequent commentary:

  • Tom Armao, Otsego Now board member and Country Club Automotive proprietor: “Florida has more population than we (New York State) do, and our budget is twice the size.”
  • Sidney Mayor Andy Matviak, noting Amphenol and Acco have 1,800 jobs there: “We don’t have a problem with jobs. We have a problem filling jobs.”
  • President Drugovich reported on the college’s efforts to promoted entrepreneurship, singling out the Center for Craft Food & Beverage as a “virtuous circle,” promoting the growth of micro-breweries, which in turn create jobs for graduates.
  • Brooks B-B-Q President Ryan Brooks reported losing “long-long-term employees to The South,” the Carolinas, Texas and elsewhere.
Since 7,000 of the city’s 14,000 residents are students, Oneonta should fall under the 10,000-resident unit for USDA aid, Mayor Herzig argued this morning. Other at the table are, from right, Hazlett, MidTel’s Jason Becker, Mark Schneider of Delaware County Electric Coop, Margaretville Tel’s Glenn Faulkner, Red Hook Mayor Ed Blundel and Sidney Mayor Andy Matviak.  Not visible is Otsego Electric President Tim Cook.

Near the end of the session, Armao interjected:  NYSEG has failed the region, as there is insufficient natural gas or electricity to serve any significant new customers.

He mentioned a recent company looking for a site for a 300-job plant that couldn’t be accommodated.  “It’s also 300 families whose lives (would have) improved.”

Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky picked up on that in his comments on how the two colleges, Fox Hospital and other major institutions are subjected to “interruptible power.”

“NYSEG can call in November and say, ‘We have to shut you off for a week.’ That’s unheard of,” said Zakrevsky, who with Armao, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, and others are due for a follow-up meeting on this issue May 5 with NYSEG President Carl Taylor.

Comment on broadband was also solicited by Hazlett, with Otsego Electric Coop President Tim Cook being the most bullish.  It is stringing broadband wire along its 750 miles of existing poles in western Otsego County.

“We saw huge pent-up demand,” he said.

After the Hartwick session, Congressman Faso and aide Ryan McAllister met with LEAF Director Julie Dostal and other heroin-fighting advocates at 189 Main on what federal money might be available. Hazlett joined him there.

Hazlett was there to assess the needs of Otsego and Delaware counties, and to funnel her finds to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.

In addition to direct aid – Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig pointed out 7,000 college students push the city’s population to 14,000, above the 10,000 eligibility ceiling for USDA – Kinderhook Bank Vice President Ann Finnegan underscored the important of loan guarantees.


3 thoughts on “Folks Flee Upstate USDA Exec Learns

  1. Nora Manon

    I think it is no longer cheaper to live in Upstate NY in fact I would say it’s more expensive. Rent and Utilities have sky rocketed, transportation needs have also risen dramatically, food prices are more expensive and not as fresh as downstate. Anyway you look at it, Upstate NY has been hit very hard and with a Democratic Governor who panders to the Downstate people many times we are left out in the cold.

  2. monika costello

    Nobody’s life improves with the wages and lack of hours and benefits companies around here offer..unless your living in your parents basement or a flea on a dogs back..Stop pretending and do something real!!

  3. RG Kirn

    Being an interruptible customer provides for a lower electrical service cost structure and is, in the overall electrical supply cost profile, ultimately beneficial to all customers. By having a portion of electrical load be interruptible, less power supply capability that will be rarely, if ever, actually used, needs to be constructed or reserved. A similar savings may be attributable for excess transmission capability. The interruption is short term, has a notification requirement and reflects a portion of electrical load that can either be managed by the customer or for which the customer has on-site generation. Given the critical nature of energy supply for economic development, the absence of knowledge by individuals who are supposed to be leading economic development is alarming.

    There are multiple factors that influence economic development. Energy supply, while critical, is only one but is also one that is relatively easy to rectify almost anywhere other than NY – one reason why NY competes so poorly with other states. More difficult to remedy are tax structure, oppressive regulation, high cost of living, transportation infrastructure, and an available work force willing to work; a cultural dilemma stemming from generational entitlement indoctrination.

    NYS, as is most of New England, has been increasingly “closed for business” since the 1960s. No new power transmission lines. No natural gas lines. No natural gas development. A steadily increasing cost of government levied upon a steadily decreasing tax base was business and people flee that state. Hidden taxes stacked upon hidden taxes. An education system over-burdened with huge administrative costs and state mandates based upon political genre rather than a pragmatic curriculum. Economic councils designed for public face time rather while carefully avoiding true root cause.

    A definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same say and expecting a different result. Such is the prognosis for economic development in upstate New York.

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