Barry Warren, SUNY Oneonta’s Director of Campaign Planning and Special Projects is also its resident expert on Economic and Community Development.
He graciously spent time with Sweet RESULTS – Careers and provided his insight and opinion on a number of topics related to the labor trends of the area. [His interview can be heard in its entirety by advancing to the end of this article and clicking the link.]
When asked if he envisioned a change in the educational and health care infrastructure’s prime role in propelling the local economy, Warren offered, “No I don’t. If you look at Otsego County in particular and the other counties adjacent to it which have educational institutions, they’re really part of systems that feed a constituency that’s more state-wide than regional.”
“From the standpoint of the health care system, that’s evolved as health care has evolved and the population has become older and more attentive to the needs for medical services. Bassett Healthcare has been wise to create what I would call a regional market and has been able to develop satellite clinics. Fox, of course, is more of a resident hospital, but the combination of those two has still enabled them to be somewhat like the retail sector and have a ready-made regional population to serve.”
“The problem with looking into the future for the success of those institutions – unlike the educational sector – is that the medical system is driven by two forces right now. One is government regulation; [the other is] an evolving competitiveness that’s due to the high cost of care… That puts enormous stresses on those institutions.”
We asked Warren for his take on local labor trends as we head into the second half of the decade.
“While I’m not an expert on that, but just observing what’s occurred within our own county, it seems to me that business (and retail) services are going to continue to expand. But there’s some concern about the labor trends. We run the risk in a region like this, of not so much having a high unemployment rate, but an underemployment rate.”
“It’s really been hard for economists and others to get a full handle on how to measure that. But, it’s my own intuitive thought that many people who are attracted to this area, after having an education, do struggle to find positions that challenge them. That means that we don’t have the growth in incomes and discretionary incomes that allow us to have that synergy of consumer activity and employment, which generates companion industries that blossom from the basic industries that we have.”
As examples, Warren cited pairings of hospital systems with pharmaceutical research, and educational institutions with high-tech businesses and software companies.
These would be logical companion industries that would raise the type and quality of jobs, which would challenge people and draw graduates of institutions from this region and others.
Warren is generally optimistic about the future of the local economy and labor trends, touting the relative affordability of housing, the excellent medical and educational services, and exceptional quality of life. However, he cautions, “If your expectation is that you’re going to utilize those resources to attract business and industry, then I think a lot of things would have to change in both the regional and the state economic environment.”
“This is a region that could well attract entrepreneurship, new businesses and industry, but something has to happen on the broader scale to make people look at New York State and say, “That’s a place I want to invest in. That’s a place I want to move to for a job, because there are conditions there that are very conducive to my success.'”
“If they did… then on par with other communities, I think we look pretty good.”