President made valid point about upstate

It is no surprise that some New Yorkers are upset with the way President Donald Trump spoke about New York state recently. They may be even more upset when they realize the state’s population trends prove Trump’s message was on point.

Last week, Wisconsin beat out Oneida County in New York for Foxconn Technology Group’s $10 billion liquid crystal display factory. Foxconn is an Apple supplier that expects to initially hire 3,000 people to work in the Wisconsin plant, with total employment possibly reaching 13,000 jobs over time. Oneida County had pitched a 400-acre location outside of Utica for the plant.

In a Wall Street Journal interview, Trump said upstate New Yorkers should pick up and move to states like Wisconsin, which have better job prospects.

“You’re going to need people to work in these massive plants,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “I’m going to start explaining to people, when you have an area that just isn’t working like upper New York state, where people are getting very badly hurt, and then you’ll have another area 500 miles away where you can’t get people, I’m going to explain, you can leave. It’s OK. Don’t worry about your house.”

Some have suggested the Republican president prefers Foxconn in Wisconsin because it’s a political swing state and New York is solidly Democratic. We take his comments with that grain of salt.

But to be clear, he didn’t tell people to leave upstate New York; he said they can leave, which is true. Workers willing to relocate are always more likely to get jobs.

We don’t pretend to see Trump’s comments as smart or helpful. He’s just stating the obvious, but — as is his way — in a way he knows will goad people.

The uproar over the president’s remarks is funny, when one thinks about it, because rural New Yorkers have been following the president’s advice for decades. The latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates show New York state losing 59,648 residents from 2010 to 2016. Franklin and Essex counties have lost 1,259 and 1,197 residents, respectively.

We’re not slagging New York here. We love it dearly, and objectively, it’s a wonderful state in many ways, with high quality of life even in corners where the economy is weakest. As the factories that once powered the upstate economy closed, locally owned rural businesses such as farms, dairies and beverage makers have made a huge comeback. Adirondack tourism is thriving.

But it is not the easiest state in which to open a business. Tax incentive programs can help those on whom the state’s favor shines, but they do nothing about regulations that make commerce more difficult in New York than in other states. Being business friendly is about more than taxes. Trump can’t change that, but there are things the state elected leaders can do to help. Until then, the state’s rural population exodus will likely continue.

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