Baby Boomers Still a Major Force in Hudson Valley

John Jordan | August 29, 2015

Dr. Paul Harrington of Drexel University addressed a packed room of more than 200 at SUNY New Paltz for HVEDC’s second annual State of the Hudson Valley Economy on June 25.
Dr. Paul Harrington of Drexel University addressed a packed room of more than 200 at SUNY New Paltz for HVEDC’s second annual State of the Hudson Valley Economy on June 25.

NEW PALTZ— Labor expert Dr. Paul Harrington of Drexel University contends that the major economic driver of the Hudson Valley is still the Baby Boomers and not the Millennial generation as many economists and business experts would have you believe.

Dr. Harington, the keynote speaker at the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp.’s second State of the Hudson Valley Economy: Full STEaM Aheadevent, told a gathering of more than 200 at SUNY New Paltz that business may be marketing to the wrong age group. The program was held on June 25th and was part of HVEDC’s Thought Leader Master Series.

“Recently there has been a lot of focus on the Millennial generation in the Hudson Valley region both with respect to their income and purchasing power, as well as an emerging source of labor supply in the region,” said Harrington, the Director of Drexel University’s Center of Labor Market and Policy. “Our findings suggest Baby Boomers remain the economic powerhouse of the region.”

Dr. Harrington reported that Baby Boomers have a 47% share of aggregate household income, compared with 33% for Generation Xers and 5% for Millennials.

“There is a lot of confusion about STEM careers (individuals with a background in science, technology, engineering or math),” said HVEDC President and CEP Laurence P. Gottlieb. “Business and government leaders hear a lot about the value of building a STEM-skilled workforce but do not have a clear roadmap describing the specific skill sets needed or the industries seeking those STEM workers.”

Harrington said that while incomes in STEM careers remain high, these jobs at present do not have a large market share in the Hudson Valley economy, accounting for 5%-7% of employment in the region. Salaries from STEM occupations in the Hudson Valley are on the high end of the scale:

Computer Science and Mathematical Science, $84,773;

Architecture and Engineering, $85,072;

Life Science Occupations, $98,756;

Physical Science Occupations, $92,958;

Technical Occupations, $51,592;

The average for all employed positions in the Hudson Valley is  $53,520.

Dr. Harrington said that the overall labor market for college graduates has improved over the past four years, particularly in the health care, engineering, business financial occupations, computer and mathematical occupations, and architecture and engineering.

He said that technological advances had increased productivity, but have decreased employment in some sectors, particularly among manufacturers. However, it is not all bad news for manufacturing businesses. While technological improvements have led to decreases in blue collar manufacturing jobs, demand has risen in that sector for college graduates with professional-technical and managerial college degrees, he said.

“The days of these broad-backed jobs, physical jobs (in production and manufacturing) are probably quietly coming to an end,” Dr. Harrington theorized. “The role of technology now as a substitute for labor and production is really becoming foremost in the American economy.

The Economic Benefits Of STEaM

“By infusing the arts into a STEM background, think of the impact these well-rounded workers could have on the economy if more effort was devoted to creating them,” HVEDC’s Gottlieb said. “HVEDC sees a clear process to integrating STEaM into the Hudson Valley’s economy by elevating STEaM education across secondary and college-level academic institutions and keeping those educated here in the Hudson Valley workforce. This will in-turn allow us to attract high-paying tech companies to the region and therefore create jobs to be filled by our own, STEaM-educated workforce.”

A panel discussion at the event focused on STEaM education by providing different perspectives representing academia, the technology community and manufacturing companies.

“The inclusion of the arts in STEM means turning knowledge into power,” said Paul Kassel, interim dean of SUNY New Paltz’s School of Fine & Performing Arts. “We see more evidence every day that the arts and sciences are allies and that the creative class – those well-versed in both design and engineering, math and music, technology and theater—is the workforce of this century.”

“Without a pipeline of talented people educated in STEaM fields, Hudson Valley manufacturers will not be able to compete in today’s global economy,” said Harold King, executive vice president of Council of Industry. “Manufacturing is an exciting and resurgent sector and we need smart and creative people to work in it.”

Both Kassel and King participated in the STEaM discussion as panelists at the event. Other panel participants included Dan Freedman Ph.D., Dean of the School of Science and Engineering and Director of the Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center at SUNY New Paltz; and Kale Kaposhlinm principal of Evolving Media Network and co-founder of the Hudson Valley Tech Meetup. HVEDC’s Gottlieb moderated the program.

Business Sentiment Lower

HVEDC also released its second annual HVEDC-JLL Business Climate Survey at the event. The survey, conducted by commercial office brokerage firm JLL, gauged the perceptions of 290 respondents on the state of the Hudson Valley economy.

One of the major takeaways from the report is that overall sentiment is lower as survey respondents were growing more negative about economic conditions than a year ago.

A total of 44% of respondents believe the Hudson Valley business climate is in neutral territory and 29% see it as positive, compared with 50% and 34% a year ago. Only 42% of respondents expect to increase hiring next year, compared with 50% a year ago who were projecting adding staff this year.

Meanwhile, 60% of those respondents also said that they are projecting revenue to rise in the coming year, compared with 66% who indicated that last year. More business executives have moved into stable revenue projections (31%, compared with 22% a year ago).

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth