Why are people leaving upstate New York?
Some complain that taxes in New York are too high. Others, like Grotheus, say there are better job opportunities elsewhere. State and local officials have had mixed success in luring high-tech companies and other new businesses to make up for jobs lost when large employers like Eastman Kodak Co. and Carrier Corp. scaled back or shifted operations elsewhere.
“Part of it is probably due to job loss in the major metropolitan areas like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Binghamton. They all had large employers that had to lay off a lot of people,” said Jan Vink of Cornell University’s Program on Applied Demographics.
Others blame the weather in upstate New York, where winters can be a trying mix of heavy snow and little sun.
Kyle Songer moved to Tampa from the Saratoga Springs area in early 2013, becoming yet another New Yorker to leave behind cold and snow for sun and sand. The 45-year-old instructional designer says moving south was his goal since he fell in love with the beach and surfing while growing up and being a life guard on Long Island.
“I needed to get out to a more relaxing environment and sunshine almost every day,” said Songer, who now lives in Clearwater, Fla. “And that’s what it’s been. It’s wonderful.”
In recent years, Florida has been the No. 1 destination for people aged 45 and up leaving upstate New York. The top destination for people aged 20 to 44 is New York City and the surrounding downstate region, according to researchers at Cornell who looked at census data from 2006 through 2010. The loss of young college graduates — like Grothues and Steele — is especially worrisome to local politicians because it can contribute to a so-called brain drain. The fear is that the loss of educated workers in an area can make it less attractive to new businesses, creating a cycle of decline.