Too Good to be True? Too Good to Last?

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerPessimism about the economy comes easily to most of us. We’ve been told that it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. Nonsense. Pessimism is our natural state.

And when the Rochester economy outperforms the state consistently over a three-year period, we suspect either mischief or incompetence: Someone at the Department of Labor made a mistake that will soon be discovered. Yet while the rest of the state has been shedding jobs since September 2008, we’ve pretty much held our own here in Rochester. Read more »

Higher Ed: Central to Our Economy’s Future

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerGovernor Cuomo set November 14 as the deadline for the state’s ten regions to submit economic development strategies. Led by Wegmans CEO Danny Wegman and University of Rochester President Joel Seligman, many in our community are working furiously to articulate plans, goals and measurable objectives.

While we hope to be one of the winning regions—earning a promised $40 million in state support—the process itself has already been valuable. In my 20 years here, I cannot recall a time when leaders of business and government from the Finger Lakes’ nine counties have gathered to talk about what makes our economy successful and what might make it better. The process would have been even more valuable had it been less of a fire drill—a February deadline would have been better, although still ambitious—but we can be proud of the diligent efforts of the Council members and participants in eleven workgroups. The plans they have developed are a testimony to the vitality of particular economic clusters and the many vital economic institutions in the region.
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Cuomo Translates Campaign Poetry to Energetic Prose with Regional Councils

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerIt was Governor Cuomo’s father, Mario, who famously declared that you “campaign in poetry, but govern in prose.” Part of the poetry of the campaign was the usual rhetoric around job creation—Candidate Cuomo pledged to focus the resources and energy of the State of New York on the economy, particularly Upstate.

The Regional Economic Development Councils is the vehicle by which Governor Cuomo is translating that bit of campaign poetry into energetic prose. The concept comes partly from Cuomo’s tenure at HUD, partly from a similar venture launched by the first Governor Cuomo in the late 1980s. The concept has merit—by appointing key leaders to ten councils across NYS, he is engaging the state’s leadership in a manner that is largely unprecedented. With Lt Governor Bob Duffy as the chair of every council, he has assured both that council members participate and that the state agency representatives show up and provide support.
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The Economist’s Favorite Tax

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent Gardner

Economists love taxes. At least, we love the right kind of taxes, those that discourage bad actions and encourage good ones. Tobacco taxes, for example, make smoking a habit that hurts your pocketbook as well as your lungs. Evidence suggests that teens smoke less just because it has become so darned expensive. Hear, hear!

A “carbon tax” is one of the good taxes. If you accept any one of the following propositions – a)human activity has precipitated global warming, b)human activity hasn’t done so in the past, but it might in the future and this would be a bad thing, OR c) fossil fuel imports put money in the pockets of unstable nations and the world would be a safer place if we used less – then you should support a carbon tax. (If you don’t accept any of the above conditions, it is time to turn the page.)

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我们是第一 (We’re number one)

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerRemember “mutual assured destruction?”  MAD was the dominant principle of the Cold War:  The Soviet Union would not attack us as long as we retained the ability to retaliate.  They might surprise us and obliterate New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, but our nuclear subs and hardened silo-based missiles would respond in kind, turning Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Vladivostok into historical footnotes (if mankind survived to write any more history).

A kind of financial “MAD” became our consolation in the 1990s as China continued to accumulate foreign exchange, the vast majority of which was in dollars (or financial assets like bonds that were priced in dollars).  At present, China’s holdings of dollar assets top $1.5 trillion, says the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

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Something’s Gotta Give: New York in Crisis

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerI’ve been in a funk since the 2009-10 state budget passed. The state’s elected leaders entered the budget negotiations confronting a potential $20 billion deficit, up from the $14 billion estimated when the Governor released his original budget proposal. That is, the state would have run a $20 billion deficit in 2009-10 if spending and revenue continued without changing anything structural (like tax rates or spending formulae). The faltering economy could no longer satisfy the state’s addiction to ever-greater spending.

Given such a dire forecast, we all wondered how the state would manage to find the money to avoid a major reduction in spending. Imagine our surprise when the Legislature and Governor pulled a rabbit out of the budgetary hat and increased budgeted spending by $12 billion, nearly 9% more than in 2008-09.

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In the future, Rochester NY is a community where “we’re on our own”

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester City Newspaper.

Kent GardnerThe Rochester community confronts problems that will test the mettle of our leaders in coming decades. Our core challenges persist and others will emerge, yet help from external sources will become scarce. We are thrust back on our own devices, thus on the ability of our leaders to forge community solutions to community problems.

The City of Rochester will continue to struggle with its central economic problem: too many school dropouts and too many graduates who are ill-prepared for further schooling or a career. There is no challenge more difficult or more important.

  • Students who leave school without the tools to earn a living for themselves and their families face a lifetime of struggle.
  • The economy trades a contributor for a dependent.
  • The city’s economic vitality will be limited by an ill-trained workforce and a crime rate that is fueled by desperation, resentment, and disillusionment.

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Making Sense of Health Savings Accounts

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Originally published in Rochester Business Journal
1/9/2009, 1/16/2009, 1/23/2009

Kent GardnerPart One

Early signals from our health insurer led us to expect another double-digit increase in our insurance premiums—perhaps a 15% hit. Frankly, I thought that we were just being softened up for something lower—If I were led to expect 15%, then a mere 11% bump should make me (relatively) happy. I was stunned when the final price of the most popular of our plans would go up 21% in 2009.

The big increase in price led us to explore cheaper plans, particularly a policy that includes a “Health Savings Account” (HSA). The discussion below refers to the specific plans we were offered by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

CAUTION: The remainder of this column discusses insurance premiums, deductibles, out-of-pocket maxima and other arcane health insurance jargon. Readers looking for lighter fare might prefer IRS Publication 17 or, perhaps, a William Faulkner novel.

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Unlock possibilities – new uses for buildings that parishes no longer need

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Albany parishes should find other uses for buildings after churches close

Bethany WelchRestructuring. Consolidation. Mergers. And now, layoffs. Those words have been used to describe the current state of affairs in the area’s Roman Catholic churches. Last week Bishop Howard Hubbard previewed the pain to come. He said that about 20 percent of the 190 worship sites will close or be reorganized across the 14 counties that make up the Diocese of Albany. Some of the lay staff who work at the parishes involved might lose their jobs. The decision on which churches will close is expected this weekend, but it is likely that urban parishes will suffer the most.

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Let’s Nurture Rochester’s Gazelles

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerWhen it comes to economic forecasts, I tend to be a “glass-half-full” kind of guy. Yes, there is some probability that gas will rise to $20 per gallon and we’ll start riding horses again. I think it more likely that gas prices will fall back to $3 per gallon and there will again (sadly) be a market for the Hummer.

My natural optimism was dealt a blow by a new assessment of fast-growing firms from the Small Business Adminstration (SBA). The study is an adaptation of the work of David Birch of Cognetics from the 1980s and 1990s. Firms with rapid revenue growth were dubbed “gazelles” by Birch. He found that these firms were responsible for most of the nation’s employment growth.

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