WDI is excited to announce the approaching launch of our redesigned website! The updated site will include a new section called News & Views, a compilation of WDI in the news, what we’re working on, what we see, as well as viewpoints on a variety of workforce-related topics.
Below is a preview of our first News & Views post, written by WDI Policy Analyst Eliot Cresswell, which discusses the connections between Upstate New York and Downstate New York in terms of impact to the workforce. In our regional and statewide work, we see profound interconnections that make for one integrated state where Upstate and Downstate rely heavily on one another. A few areas are mentioned where we’ve been working lately, and where these interdependencies run quite deep. Take a read – and look for the announcement of our new site – coming soon!
Upstate / Downstate
When people meet New Yorkers for the first time, there is an inevitable moment of clarification. "Oh, you're from New York," they'll say. "The city or the state?" The remainder of the conversation often depends on the answer to this question. This is born of the widely-held assumption that New York City and its surroundings are fundamentally different and detached from so-called “Upstate New York.” People from Upstate, goes the thinking, can’t relate to life in New York City and vice versa. The hustle-and-bustle lifestyle among the city’s skyscrapers seems a world apart from the slower, quainter pace in New York’s small towns and rural areas. Concrete high-rises give way to cows in pastures outside the greater metro area. We are separated by our pizza preferences, our accents, the sports teams we support, the way we make a living, the way we look, and how we view the world. Some go so far as to say that Downstate and Upstate might as well be two separate states altogether. From afar, it’s easy to see how this viewpoint takes hold.
As a statewide organization, WDI’s staff set foot in every county and borough of New York State. We meet first hand with labor unions, business owners, community organizations, educators, students, and others. We listen to their stories, their worries, their plans for the future, and their workforce challenges. Whenever possible, we work with them to find practical, innovative ways to help them grow and hire, retain, promote, or place workers in quality, good paying jobs. This ground-level, regional approach is our bread and butter and we’ve been doing it for years. We have great partners in every corner of the state and we use every opportunity to learn from them. One of the most compelling lessons we’ve learned is that, while there are important differences between our state’s regions, New York State functions as a single, interdependent, interconnected system. Upstate and Downstate operate on a complementary basis in ways that define our identity and move our economy.
Transit Manufacturing’s Supply Chain
New York City is home to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the country’s largest public transit system. The New York City subway and bus systems alone carry over seven million riders on an average weekday.1 The MTA system is a downstate system; it does not serve beyond the New York’s Lower Hudson Valley. However, the busses, rail cars, and subway cars that New York City residents rely on are manufactured by their fellow New Yorkers, often well outside the MTA’s service map. In recent years, WDI has focused on learning more about New York’s transportation manufacturing sector and its workforce dynamics. In addition to the well-established and well-known original equipment manufacturers (OEM) such as Kawasaki, New Flyer, and Nova Bus, we have identified 200 companies and counting in every region that contribute to the MTA supply chain.2 Each of these large OEMs relies on a network of small- and medium-sized specialty manufacturers all across New York State to supply electrical assemblies, brake parts, hoses, sensors, seating, lighting, safety and communication systems, windows, and dozens of other components. Together, these supply chain companies employ tens of thousands of New Yorkers in jobs like engineer, technician, sales representative, manager, assembler, welder, designer, and quality assurance officer. This transit manufacturing supply chain is driven in large part by the MTA’s multi-billion dollar Capital Program budget, which is a mix of federal, state, city, and MTA funding.2 Contracts sourced from the MTA’s Capital Program create a lasting economic and workforce ripple effect well beyond the downstate area served by the MTA’s busses, rail cars, and subways. In addition to the MTA, New York State’s transit manufacturing companies do business with other transit systems such as BART (San Francisco), AMTRAK, and SEPTA (Philadelphia), further extending the economic and workforce ripple effect.
City busses and subway cars are not the only examples of the robust commerce that happens between Upstate and Downstate New York. New York is home to some of the most productive and coveted forests in the United States. Each year, logging companies responsibly harvest species such as birch, maple, ash, fir, hemlock, and pine and deliver them all over New York State. Once out of the forest, these trees are transformed by New York’s so-called “secondary wood-using” companies into an impressive array of products: lumber, musical instruments, fine furniture, wood pellets, boats, firewood, veneers, building materials, and millwork to name a few. Secondary wood-using companies employ New Yorkers in every region of the state including all five boroughs of New York City.
There is scant published comprehensive data on the exact geographic origins of New York City’s entire food supply. However, we know that an estimated 28 million tons of food moves into and around New York City and its surrounding counties each year, roughly 48% of which originated in the Northeast United States.3 At Hunts Point in the Bronx, the country’s largest produce market, an estimated 4% of food comes from New York State producers. This equates to roughly $100 million in annual business from a single – albeit large – food hub.4 While it is difficult to pinpoint the amount outside of Hunts Point that originates from within New York State, suffice it to say that a significant portion of New York City’s food supply comes from Upstate New York. Conversely, out of New York City and into Upstate flow myriad food products that are processed, packaged, and shipped from the five boroughs using ingredients and expertise of all kinds. Upstate helps feed Downstate; Downstate helps feed Upstate. And thousands of New Yorkers in a variety of occupations make this interchange happen every day.
Movement of People
The movement of people is perhaps the most compelling and complicated aspect of the connection between Upstate and Downstate and one to which many of us can relate. According to US Census data, between 2012 and 2016, close to 900,000 people either moved to New York State from outside or moved to a different county or borough within New York State. Breaking down this data, we find that greater than 50 percent of these moves were by people relocating within New York State.5 This data reflects hundreds of thousands of individual stories, each of them the result of a variety of forces, some measurable, some not. Perhaps more often than we can notice, Downstaters become Upstaters and vice versa. They may move to New York City for a job or to attend a university. Others leave the five boroughs of New York City to raise a family or be closer to family. This exchange is in constant motion, like threads in a loom. Each New Yorker, whatever their zip code or background, belongs equally to our vibrant, diverse statewide tapestry.
WDI continues to explore workforce and economic aspects of the connections between Upstate and Downstate. We invite you to join us in these discussions.
For more information on the topics in this article, consult the resources below:
MTA Capital Program Data
Built in New York, MTA (2011)
Passenger Rail & Transit Rail Manufacturing in the U.S., Blue Green Alliance (2015)
New Yorkers for Better Public Transit
Fuzehub article on Transit Manufacturing in New York State
Empire State Forest Products Association
New York State Wood Products Development Council
New York State Logging & Forest Economy: Workforce Development Programs Report
New York City Food Policy Center, Hunter College
UNDERSTANDING NEW YORK CITY’S FOOD SUPPLY