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Our Communities & New York State “Health”

July 14, 2011 - Ernest Hohmeyer
So how does New York State rank when it comes to “healthy?”

Just as we have talked about in the last several weeks concerning the very different definitions of a “healthy community,” they are a multitude of indicators, as well as numerous sources.

There are several that discuss how states rank for business.

Right on cue, one source is CNBC, who released their annual special report “America’s Top States for Business.”

Different Perspectives

As we have discussed, there are many perspectives related to the definition of the word “community.” Further, depending on what they are looking for they are prioritizing different values and criteria on what a healthy community is.

According to “State Economic Development Strategies: Perspectives of a Site Selector” by J. Michael Mullis, he points to several key criteria a business looks for in a community including workforce, education, transportation, permitting, incentives, image and quality of life among others.

In Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resources in working with that state talks about a different kind of “community.” In their “value determination” of a site, “ecosystem diversity” is important and they use the term “uniqueness of natural communities”

These are all a part of a discussion of the health of a “community.”

“America’s Top State’s For Doing Business”

In the annual CNBC special report “America’s Top State’s For Business,” their criteria for business includes an interesting weighted system that determines the “top states.” Their fifth annual study ranks them based on "how frequently the states use them as selling points to attract business. That way, we hold the states to their own standards before telling tell you how they measure up.”

That's an interesting way to come up with a set of criteria of a “healthy” business “state.”

This year their criteria and weightings include: • Cost of doing business (350 points) • Workforce (350 points) • Quality of life (350 points) • Infrastructure and transportation (325 points) • Economy (300 points) • Education (225 points) • Technology and innovation (225 points) • Business friendliness (200 points) • Access to capital (100 points) • Cost of living (50 points)

Quality of Life For us in the Adirondacks who often cannot compete in scale with larger urban areas on the periphery of the Park in terms of infrastructure and transportation among others, it is interesting to note that quality of life is a substantial indicator.

According to the CNBC Special Report, Virginia and Texas have been fighting over the number one spot over the last several years.

What About New York State? So what makes Virginia so “business healthy”? The report cites “strategic location, friendly business climate and diverse economy.” The state also made “marked improvements in a couple of key areas” including the tax burden in the “all-important "cost of doing business" area.

How does New York State fair in the “America's Top States for Business” report?

Surprise, surprise, up until this year New York State has ranked dead last in the “cost of business” category. This year the state improved to 48th place.

Troubling to me and what was surprising was the state’s last place or next-to-last place ranking under the “workforce” category over the last several years.

It is also important to point out the positives. According to this annual report, New York State has ranked first or second in “education” and in the top three in terms of “technology and innovation.” Overall the state ranks 26th and again of interest, quality of life dipped to 23.

The good news is that based on the signals from Albany, they understand that the state needs to work on the high cost of doing business.

Thankful & Resilient Just as we have discussed about the many layers that need to work together to make a healthy community from environmental issues to healthy economies, we need to consider a broad based plan.

Should this include state and local government tax relief and creation of a true Park that includes an integrated community and environmental plan?

Should we also consider a new way of thinking that moves beyond the old jargon of “balance” this and “compromise” that? Can we create a culture that congratulates and cheers public and nonprofit leadership who exclaim “we have been so successful we have outlived our usefulness?”

There is much to celebrate in our local communities. There is a great deal of activity and summer is upon us. It is also a great time to remember that for many of our businesses, our health is dependent upon a larger sense of community and that we must be resilient in working on the long-term health of our region.

We are facing many changes and they are happening at a faster and faster rate. Just as the telephone replaced the telegraph and how communication, technology and transportation have changed the nature of “local community” should we start with the basic question “what are the needs we have today?” Are all the current services and the manner in which they exist, a help or hindrance to a “healthy community”? Can real change effectively occur within the walls of our municipal boundaries? Do we need to provide more encouragement for our local organizations and leaders to cross lines and think community?

Innovation and change often comes from business. Perhaps following the summer, a “community” of businesses needs to come together?

For now, let’s revel in summer and activity around us!


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