LINKS
2018-04-10 / Front Page

Delaware County Population Decline Sparks Warning

By Lillian Browne


Delaware County Industrial Development Agency President Jim Thomson spoke to Hancock business leaders on April 6 about population trends which will have an effect on the economy in the future. 
Lillian Browne/The Reporter Delaware County Industrial Development Agency President Jim Thomson spoke to Hancock business leaders on April 6 about population trends which will have an effect on the economy in the future. Lillian Browne/The Reporter HANCOCK - Delaware County is among the top five counties in New York showing a population decline in the past 10 years, and that’s problematic, according to Delaware County Industrial Development (IDA) President Jim Thomson.

The Empire Center for Public Policy released a census estimate report in March which indicates Delaware County, along with Hamilton, Chenango, Tioga and Orleans counties, have suffered the biggest population losses since 2010, the result of which has placed Delaware County 61 out of New York’s 62 counties in total declines for the seven year period. Delaware County, the report states, has lost 6.2 percent, or 2,979 residents, of its overall population, accounting for births, deaths and migrations, in that time frame.

The exodus, which Thomson attributes to Albany being out of touch with New York’s upstate economy and to the New York City land acquisition program, has resulted in a two-prong problem which requires a three-prong solution.

One of the effects of people leaving the county, Thomson said, is the lack of a viable work force for manufacturing and small businesses. “There are businesses in the county that cannot fill positions,” Thomson said. “It’s not a lack of jobs. It’s a lack of employees.” The other, and more critical problem, Thomson said, is a reduction in the tax base, which means that those who have remained in the county are faced with escalating costs, without the benefit of additional services.

Part of the multi-faceted solution, Thomson said, is to identify why people are leav- ing the area while at the same time making a concerted effort to curtail municipal spending and put an end to New York City’s land acquisition program. When properties are purchased by New York City, development of any kind is prohibited, which means no homes or businesses can be built.

A continued population decline, Thomson said, will cause problems in the future, including congressional representation which is controlled by population. The same holds true for weighted voting at the county level. Likewise, Thomson said, state aid, for the most part, is governed by population.

“Now is the time for spending restraint on the part of all of our local governments, school, village, town and county,” Thomson said. “We have problems brewing in our economy. We cannot continue to ignore them.”

Government officials should be budgeting according to population trends and that is not happening, Thomson said.

Though second homeowners contribute to county property tax, Thomson said, they really amount to part-time residents that don’t add anything to the local economy nor are they counted in Delaware County’s demographic.

To address some of the symptoms of Delaware County’s economic illness, the IDA has spearheaded an effort to connect businesses with resources such as employee training dollars sourced through a grant made available through CDO Workforce, partnership with the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce for annual job and resource fairs, and by giving local businesses access to and helping them obtain grants and loans and tax incentives.

A critical component missing from the bigger picture, Thomson said, is tapping into and retaining high school and college graduates as part of the county’s workforce.

The census estimate report can be viewed online at empirecenter.org.

Return to top